Glenmorangie, Spios

Last week featured three malts from highland distilleries, all of which were extremely fruity (from Tomatin, Ardmore and Ben Nevis). I’ll stay in the highlands again this week but take up a brief residency at another distillery: Glenmorangie. And I’ll be reviewing the three most recent annual releases in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition series, all with Gaelic names of one kind or the other—I guess the owners go goofy with Ardbeg’s annual releases and play up Gaelic roots with Glenmorangie. Well, there’s not been much that’s been very Gaelic about these releases which have included a number of wine cask finishes. Such, for example, was the very first release, the Sonnalta (PX finish), the Artein (Sassicaia finish) and the Companta (mix of wine cask finishes). On the other hand, the Ealanta—yes, as I joked many years ago on Twitter, it’s hard to tell the names of Glenmorangie’s special releases apart from those of South Korean sedans—had no wine involvement at all, having been matured in virgin oak casks. The Spios—the 2018 release—also has no wine cask involvement. Instead it’s been matured full-term in rye whiskey casks. This is an experiment that some whisky geeks have been calling for for many years. I remember discussion of it on the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forums more than a decade ago—a good thing someone finally paid attention. Of course, if Glenmorangie wanted to really impress us they’d also tell us what kind of rye casks these were—MGP? A higher barely rye mashbill from someone else? Well, we can’t expect so much information when the distillery won’t even tell us how old the whisky is. Yes, this is a NAS release. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.

Glenmorangie, Spios (46%; matured in rye whiskey casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, rye casks indeed: mint, dill and yes, rye, float off the top; below them is some lemon, some honey and a slight grassy note. All of this works very well together, I must say. After it sits for a while it gets sweeter and richer, starting out with hard orange candy and then adding some butterscotch. Creamier and mellower with a few drops of water but also less interesting.

Palate: Comes in spicy here but it’s thinner on the whole, both in terms of flavour and texture. As I swallow the acid expands. More of the same with each sip but the texture fills out a bit. With more time still there’s more oaky bite as well. Okay, let’s add water. Hmm maybe I added too much but it mostly washes everything together into an indistinctly spicy whole.

Finish: Medium-long. Nothing new here, just the spicy notes slowly petering out. Picks up menthol as it goes. Nothing of interest here either with water.

Comments: I really liked the nose on this: everything I like about ryes melded together perfectly with the base Glenmorangie character. The palate was less interesting but still quite pleasurable and drinkable. There are no off-notes here at all—though I didn’t particularly care for it with water. I don’t always enjoy Glenmorangie’s high concept experiments but this one works—perhaps because it’s not in fact so far away from regular bourbon cask maturation. Glenmorangie’s mild profile allows the rye to come through. I wonder what would happen with a slightly more assertive spirit like bourbon cask Aberlour or a weightier one like Cragganmore.or Craigellachie. Anyway: I wouldn’t get a bottle at the price being asked for it (it’s still available in Minnesota) but I’d never turn down a pour.

Rating: 85 points.



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