It’s always a bit of a risk allowing someone else to shape the future of things, just look what happens to the X Factor when it goes to public voting! You just never know the outcome.
I recently attended The Deck at the National Theatre to hear about the launch of this ever so ambitious idea. Dr Bill Lumsden, who oversees the whisky for both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg talked us through three differently finished Glenmorangie whiskies and explained that with the use of the internet, social media and tasting events the public can lodge a vote as to which whisky shall make it to the eventual commercial bottling. But it does not just end there. Not only will the liquid be chosen by the public, but also the bottle, the label, the name and event the market in which to first launch the new release. Brave indeed.
Over the next 18 months, you too can help shape the future of this dram by logging onto www.glenmorangie.com/caskmasters. The final whisky will be released towards the latter part of 2014.
Dr Bill Lumsden explained:
“This is a very bold move for us – for years we have listened to fans of the brand and their views and reactions to the whiskies we have introduced.
“Now it’s their turn to become truly involved and I hope as many whisky aficionados as possible around the world will be able to join in and enjoy each stage of this exciting 18 month journey.
“We have crafted three rare whiskies for fans to choose from and those participating will be able to follow the process and interact online.”
With a few tasting notes already up on the website to help guide along those who may be new to the world of whisky, I thought I would add my own. The three chosen casks we tried at the event are not yet finished, but are close enough to give you an idea of the final character- It was clear that the good Dr had a favourite amongst the three, coughing behind clenched fist a barley audible “C” but the final decision is now out of his hands altogether. Over to us.
A 15 year old Glenmorangie at 46% ABV rested for 10 years in American ex-Bourbon cask to be transferred to an ex Grand Cru Burgundy cask for the last 5 years and without giving too much away, Dr Lumsden mentioned Cotes de Nuit to help narrow down the general area.
Appearance: Pale gold with warm orange
Nose: fruity to start with a dry-ish mineral note and floral element before turning into what is normally associated with a well aged Point Noir- that typical farmyard smell, mushroom, truffle oil and earthy tones. The nose is lifted with the appearance of orange oil before turning deeper into Kirsh.
Palate: Creamy and rich with spices of mace, vanilla and orange polish on old wood. An autumnal taste helps link it back to the elements found on the nose.
Again, this sample is around 15 years old, 46% ABV and for its first 9 years, American ex-bourbon cask was its home before being decanted for a further 6 years into an ex Bordeaux cask. This time we were given a bigger hint as to its previous contents- Chateau Montrose no less!
Appearance: Russet apple and bronze.
Nose: Another fruity start but this time it remains. Red fruits and deep citrus, Pencil shavings, Plums and apricot all in attendance with a lighter floral note that seems to drift between honeysuckle and eucalyptus leaf.
Palate: Soft grassy, floral elements and spiced wood, the delicate balance of this whisky tips between the two sides with ease drawing in on the classic Glenmorangie DNA and the borrowed character of a deep mature claret. Dry spice of white pepper comes towards the finish but is accompanied with stone fruits and light cedar wood.
An increase in age over the previous samples, this 18 year old 46% ABV example has been finished in an ex-Manzanilla cask. We were not given the exact timings with this one.
Appearance: Mid gold with copper.
Nose: Struck match, butter and honeysuckle right at the fore developing a salty olive note as one might expect from the cask. Linseed oil, toffee and orange peel develop later but its all about that light sherry influenced base.
Palate: Immediately sweet, then dries with brine and olive leaf. New-buck leather and suede over cherry wood and walnuts. Its a rather strangely welcoming taste, umami if you like. switching all the time between fruity floral and salt wood. Complex and interesting, a departure from the Glenmorangie style it certainly is and I can see why it has become a stand out for Bill.
Summary: Three outstandingly “unnecessarily well made” whiskies each with something very different to say. For me, sample C was just a little bit too far and I was drawn more toward B with its perfect fruit and floral notes. I liked A also, but not sure if I could settle down each time and not question it over and over again. Of course, my vote will only be one of many and this will certainly keep the interest high as we see this develop over the next 18 months. Just for the record, I voted for B, I did not ever vote for Rylan.