Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Glenmorangie 12 Year Old Lasanta

Following the revival of Super Single Malts with the look at the cask strength Talisker 57° North, today’s sampling takes a look at the rather more mainstream Glenmorangie Lasanta (or La Santa / LaSanta depending on how you like it written), which is much more accessible to purchase. I picked up my 35cl bottle in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket.

The Lasanta, whilst sounding enigmatically foreign is actually Gaelic for warmth and passion. The whisky is matured in ex-Bourbon casks of American white oak for 10 years, before being transferred to finishing casks for two years. The casks chosen to finish the Lasanta are Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. It is presented non chill-filtered at an ABV of 46%.

Chill-filtering is a process used by distilleries before bottling the final whisky.
Most whiskies are initially filtered to remove the sediment, particularly particles of wood from the burnt insides of the ex-Bourbons casks, from the liquid as this is off-putting to consumers. However, chill-filtering is a method which goes one step further to ensure a visually stable product that will not go cloudy if water or ice is added to it. It involves lowering the temperature of the whisky down to around freezing point, 0°c, whereby proteins and oils which cause the cloudiness clump together and then can be removed through passing through a fine adsorption filter. However, this process extracts components of the whisky which affect the nose and taste.

In presenting the Glenmorangie Lasanta as non chill-filtered, the full impact of the sherry cask finishing can be appreciated.

Glenmorangie is globally one of the bestselling whisky brands, along with Glenfiddich and Glenlivet following a strong focus on marketing during the 1990’s. Part of the Mo√ęt Hennessey stable, the distillery has actively pursued the idea of finishing the Glenmorangie Original 10 year old in a variety of different casks to produce different expressions. Alongside the Lasanta with a sherry finish are the Nectar D’or which is finished in Sauternes (a sweet French wine) casks and Quinta Ruban which is finished in Port casks. These expressions are finished for 2 years, resulting in a 12 year old bottling.

Glenmorangie is classified as a Highland whisky with the distillery located in the North West Highlands just outside Tain. Water is sourced from the Tarlogie Springs which is the product of rain which has forced its way through layers of limestone and sandstone. These natural minerals give it a hard water quality unique to Glenmorangie amongst Highland distilleries.

On removing the Lasanta from its outer box, you can immediately see the influence of the sherry casks on the final product. Through the bottle, the whisky has a golden amber appearance with reddish hues present. It is an inviting and appealing colour.

First on the nose is the sweet scent of honey and oak, reminiscent of Church pews. Rolling it in the glass opens up sultanas and raisins mixed with candied peel. There is a slight hint of pastry, perhaps culminating in a raisin danish drizzled with icing.

On the palate the Lasanta is not perhaps as sweet as the nose would suggest, on the tongue it is fairly liquid and loose. Whilst honey is evident, the woody oak is the more dominant factor translating from nose to palate. The sultana, raisin and candied peel combine with the finishing of sherry to give a hint of Christmas cake. In the background is the essence of almond and the slight warming of pepper, not a strong black peppercorn but a milder, softer white peppercorn.

The finish of the Lasanta is warming with a spike of the pepper present. It is medium in length.

To summarise, the Lasanta is a perfectly drinkable sherry finished single malt. The nose is pleasant and the palate throws up no surprises from the initial senses. It is a refined finish with no sharp burn of alcohol, but a warming presence in the finish. It would be interesting to take a look at the Quita Ruban and Nector D’or to see how these finishes compare.

On reflection, having sampled the Glenfiddich 12 year old and Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve and 18 year old expressions, I would say that thus far this Glenmorangie 12 year old Lasanta is preferable. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Talisker 57° North

So, I said Super Single Malts would be back in the New Year and here we are with the first sampling of 2012. 

Many years ago, at a village fete, I received a small piece of paper from a representative of the local Church of England church after making a donation. On this piece of paper were the words, “Life is what happens when you plan something else.”

This is apparently not an endearing quote from the Christian Bible, but is attributed to the Beatle, John Lennon, but may well have been quoted before. The source is irrelevant, but the words run true. All too often in life, plans are made, but then, well life comes along and just changes them.

When I first began writing the Super Single Malts blog, I needed something to preoccupy my time, give me a sense of purpose and to share my thoughts on whisky to similarly like-minded people. Life then came along and changed all that, so the blog remained on the original 6 postings, with the 3 whisky samplings. I deliberated deleting the original posts and reposting them under 2012 and to continue the blog from there, but that would be cheating the evolution and life of the blog. So a new year has dawned and a new start for the Super Single Malts blog.

It is amazing that all that time has passed since the last posting on the 14th April 2010 and now. The World has changed, people have changed, even the taste of whiskies has changed, but through all that, people, the World over have still come and visited the blog. It astonishes me that people in the USA, India, Brazil and afar have all come across this little old place on their search for information and I hope I have duly provided them with the information they have sought. The blog has been limited to Glenlivet and Glenfiddich thus far, with searches for Glenlivet, namely the 15 year old French Oak being the most popular. The samplings have also been commented on within other reviews around the internet, it is good to feel that my opinion is valued.

The blog will be expanded through 2012 and beyond, starting now with a look at Talisker’s 57° North bottling.

I have long been a fan of Talisker whisky and along with Highland Park, form my favourite brand of whiskies. My tasting of Talisker thus far had only taken in the 10 year old which is very accessible due in part to it being a brand of the drinks conglomerate Diego. Therefore, I decided that for my Christmas whisky, I would further explore what Talisker has to offer. Talisker can often be found behind a bar and so on many evenings out enjoying a beautiful meal, a Talisker 10 year old has been my accompaniment.

The distillery of Talisker is based on the Isle of Skye and is located between Loch Harport and the open Sea of the Hebrides. The distillery is sited at the foot of the imposing Cuillin Hills and is fed by the spring Cnoc nan Speireag (Hawk Hill) which flows over beds of peat which impart their flavour in to the whisky. Talisker whiskies have a reputation for being fiery, peppery, smoky and brooding. The Talisker core range comprises of a 10 year old, 18 year old and 25 year old, Distiller’s Edition and 57° North.

The 57° North’s name is a reference to the distillery’s high latitude on the Isle of Skye, and the whisky rather appropriately measures in at 57% vol, cask strength, original and unadulterated.

I picked up the 57° North from The Whisky Exchange, which was an excellent way to source the whisky. It was a simple case of choosing my whisky, placing the order and waiting for the parcel to arrive. Hassle free and at £38.95, a 25% off special offer including a free Talisker glass, an excellent price.

So the parcel arrived in advance of Christmas, the whisky ready and waiting for its star appearance. The parcel was well packaged with Styrofoam pieces meaning everything arrived in one piece. I un-wrapped the box as if it was already Christmas, but then, it was my Christmas present to myself! I opened the Talisker’s box and was greeted with a beautiful rich golden coloured liquid. Could I wait until Christmas to open it?

It was a struggle and by Christmas Eve, I had to give in and open the bottle. I had finished work for the festive period, so what better way to celebrate the season than to open a beautiful bottle of Talisker.

As you pour out the 57° North, the beautiful rich golden liquid flows with a light, oily consistency. The excitement continues as you swirl it in the glass and it gingerly clings to the glasses edge before sinking back to the base of the glass.

On the nose, the Talisker transports you back to its spiritual home, the Isle of Skye. Mental images of the rugged Scottish coastline are instantly conjured up with the scent of air on a cold day and salty sea water breaking against the rocks. You can only imagine that a day out here is finished with a whisky by an open fire, the scent of smouldering, burning, smoky oak filling the remaining aromas.

As the rich golden liquid, sweet, syrupy and oily to the tongue, first touches the palate, the most present feature is the hot and peppery spice qualities of this cask strength whisky. Bursts of peat, salt and the subtle hint of lemon zest can be found. Subtle flavours of the American oak casks that this whisky matures in are also noticeable. The 57° North has a long, warming finish that feels entirely appropriate for consumption in the depths of winter.

This is my first experience of a cask strength whisky and it has not failed to live up to expectation. It is powerful, big bodied and unmistakably Talisker. This reaffirmed my appreciation of Talisker and I now hope to be able to sample others including their award winning 18 year old.

If you are feeling cold this winter and find yourself by an open fire, definitely ensure that a glass of 57° North is firmly in your hand. It is a drink to be enjoyed and is thoroughly recommended. You might note from the photograph just how much I have enjoyed the 57° North, this whisky suffered for the Christmas period and is now fast approaching an empty bottle.

One final note, it is good to be back!

More information on Talisker can be found here - Talisker

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Year......

A New Year, a new start. With the closure of 2011 and the dawn of 2012, Super Single Malts will be back soon!
To remind everyone what Super Single Malts is about, I leave you with a caption of the very first posting.
"So why now, do I have the focus on writing about my experiences with single malts. I enjoy some nice things in life, primarily fine food and travel, which are my two guilty pleasures. In addition has been the odd bottle of whisky here and there. I am the average Joe, Mr Middle of the Road and so, I want to approach my thoughts and taste of a whisky just like that. In the past, short of the Highland Park 18 year old, I have otherwise purchased whisky from the supermarket due to a special offer or an attractive box. I want to appeal to the average person, so I will present the whisky how I see it, as the average taster. Help them make an informed choice, be it buying on the high street or by mail order.

The taste of whisky is extremely subjective. Some people like the taste of peat, others oak and others fruit, so I will bear this in mind."