If you've ever attended any Whisky tastings, you know that there's usually 4-6 samples in glasses in front of you, on a tasting mat with the brand's logo and each place labelled with the whisky you'll be tasting. There's also a presenter who leads you through the whiskies imparting his/her knowledge of the product and the various styles being sampled. Some discussion might ensue, and then you're deciding what to spend your money on.
The Glenmorangie tasting night at Q cigar Room in Edmonton on Tuesday was decidedly different.
Yes, we had a tasting mat in front of us with 5 samples poured. Yes there was a presenter who led us through the tasting. But that's where it was way different from standard tastings I've attended.
When you research Glenmorangie online, you learn that it started as a small family business in the 1840's in the Highlands, by a farmer and his wife who were most definitely visionaries. "Glenmorangie" means "Valley of Tranquility" in Gaelic. The article goes on to tell us techincal achievements over the years and why this whisky is so revered.
Our "presenter" that night, was none other than The Brand Ambassador himself, Bryan Simpson. Bryan Simpson has been a part of the Scotch Whisky community for over a decade, both in his native Scotland and his new home of Canada. Born in Glasgow, but now living in Toronto, he has ignited thousands of Canadians’ passion for Single Malt before being appointed Canadian Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie.
Back in Scotland, Bryan combined his love for the Highlands with his whisky tasting zeal and formed a whisky club that experienced Scotch in the heart of Scotland’s wilds. His well-honed palate was developed pairing whisky drinkers with their perfect dram where he gained a reputation of hosting engaging presentations to both those new to Scotch and experienced malt enthusiasts.
Bryan’s obsession with Ardbeg and Glenmorangie is not just what’s in the glass, but the history of both brands and how it ties to Scotch Whisky as a whole. His interest in the scientific aspects of Scotch making is clear, but just as important to him is the social world that exists around his favourite drink and how it brings people together.
At the beginning of his talk, he proposed that it's "people who make whisky, not things". He introduced us to The Creation Team, a group of unusual guys who work together to create their magic at the distillery. Dr Bill Lumsden, known as the "Willie Wonka of Scotch", is regarded by the malt whisky industry as the pioneer of wood management, producing whiskies that have truly changed the single malt market. Dr Lumsden holds a PhD in biochemistry and joined Glenmorangie in 1995 as distillery manager. Gillian Macdonald is the head of analytics and whisky creation. She was previously the distiller at Pendyrn, the only Welsh whisky company, where she worked from 2004 until 2012, after completing a degree in chemistry from Cardiff University & travelling the world for a year. Then Lauren Milligan, a rare "Super Taster" who apparently doesn't really like whisky, left the water industry to move into a role she could only dream existed. Combining her love of sensory ("I live to eat and loved to learn about the organoleptic properties of wine in my spare time") with all of her skills gained in a UKAS accredited laboratory, from instrumentation to organisation. This team thrives on creativity and experimentation, true "mad scientists"!
As we tasted through the 5 whiskies, beginning with Glenmorangie The Original 10 year old, then La Santa 12 year old, Nectar D'or, Quinta Ruban 14 year old , ending with The Signet, Bryan explained how the team uses their unique long neck copper stills to create the signature fruity and floral signature that is Glenmorangie. The 12 year old La Santa, using Spanish sherry casks 'tastes like a sunset" Nectar D'or is the taste of "entering a French pastry shop", creamy baked treats, from aging in American Bourbon casks and French sweet Sauterne casks to create " a silky dessert-filled daydream of white chocolate swirled with lemon cream, crème caramel, almond croissants... all balanced by a soft drumbeat of spice. Each sip is like sending your senses on holiday to a French patisserie." Wow!
Quinta Ruban is aged 14 years in bourbon casks and Portuguese Port casks. "The finished whisky is a thicket of voluptuous flavour combinations. Walnut and black pepper. Mandarin orange and melted marshmallow. Dark chocolate bar and peppermint. Like stepping into a chocolate-minty-orange unknown, the journey is as delicious as the destination."
The inspiration for the coveted Signet whisky, was born of a concept, not just flavour. Dr Bill was sipping his favourite Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee when inspiration hit him. It took years to develop this unique sipper. Signet begins with their precious chocolate malt spirit, made just once a year in the giraffe-high stills. (This closes down the entire distillery during this process!) Its espresso-like intensity fills the Distillery with aromas more familiar in an Italian coffee bar. Over the years, it is tempered with rare and treasured casks; Bourbon for creaminess, Sherry for sweetness and the spice of virgin charred oak. All balanced by some of the oldest whisky they own.The result? A velvet explosion of flavour. Bursts of bitter mocha, sizzling spice and waves of dark chocolate, mellowed by smooth butterscotch. It's stunning.
Glenmorangie is more than about it's water and terroir in the Highlands. It's about the clever, quirky folk who dare to experiement and try out new combinations of casking, aging and bringing forth added complexities in the fruity floral whisky that the unique long neck copper stills create.
As we were at a Cigar Lounge for this tasting, the question was also asked about pairing cigars with the whiskies. As Glenmorangie has no smoke or peatiness in it's whiskies, their range makes them the perfect drams to pair with your favourite cigars. Probably the Nectar D'or which is made from The Original, removed from barrel and cask aged in French Sauterne Barrels and bourbon casks which imparts the smooth, sweet "dessert whisky" profile, is perfect for any cigar.
As I enjoyed the stories and swirled the various elixirs in my mouth, I overheard a fellow say how he was really enjoying this Scotch tasting. He'd never been to one before as had never really tried much Scotch. "I've learned so much, and love hearing all the stories about the whisky, makes me want to try more".
Slainte to that!
To purchase any Glenmorangie products please contact the store 780 483-1083 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy an evening out at Q Cigar Room in Edmonton located near Enoch Cree Resort. Cigars, full bar and restaurant. Check website for hours. https://www.qcigarroom.com