Records show that alcohol of some kind was being produced on the Morangie Farm as early as 1703. By 1730, a brewery had been established on the premises, using fresh water sourced from the Tarlogie Spring. When William Matheson bought the Farm in 1843 however, he converted the Morangie brewery into a distillery using two second hand gin stills. These unusually long-necked pot stills allowed him to produce a uniquely light and fruity new make spirit which was soon making a name for itself in the villages that surrounded the distillery.
Like so many of Scotland’s distilleries, the 1930’s proved difficult for Glenmorangie. The coming of Prohibition in the US, followed by the Great Depression, saw distillers robbed of their biggest export market and many, Glenmorangie included, were forced to close. Placed in mothballs between 1931 and 1936, the distillery reopened only to meet with barley and fuel shortages thanks to wartime rationing. Silence fell upon the site once more between 1941 and 1944 but by 1948, the distillery was back at full production, and thus it has remained ever since.
Now housing twelve of the tallest stills in Scotland, Glenmorangie is the best selling single malt in it’s home country, though in truth, it’s immense popularity covers the entirety of the whisky-drinking world. This popularity attracted the interest of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, who purchased the company in 2004, along with sister distillery Ardbeg in Islay.
Glenmorangie was one of the first distilleries to experiment with cask finishing techniques and has long been known to foster a creative approach to the production of whisky. For the past decade, this adventurous spirit has been celebrated through the annual release of the ‘Private Editions’, a series of experimental single malt bottlings which have included the likes of Milsean, a whisky aged in re-charred Portuguese red wine casks and Spios, aged in ex-American rye whiskey casks.
For the 10th edition however, head whisky maker Dr. Bill Lumsden ran with an idea born out of a conversation with the late, great whisky writer Michael Jackson. Jackson had uncovered records of a unique yeast strain which had once been kept by Glenmorangie. Lumsden was inspired and spent hours walking through the barley fields surrounding the distillery, looking for any sign of yeast living on the husks of the grain.
After finding what he was looking for, Dr Bill brought samples back to his lab and was able to isolate a completely new strain of wild yeast called Saccharomyces Diaemath which he then paired with the barley crop upon which it lived in order to produce a completely unique new make spirit. That spirit was then matured in ex-bourbon barrels, with a high percentage of second fill used, so as not to overpower the fruity flavours in the new make.
The Glenmorangie Allta is bottled at 51.2% and retails in the UK for around £70 a bottle.
Smell: A little unusual on the nose with a definite Yeasty quality – like walking among frothing washbacks at the distillery itself. There’s an Earthy quality – Mushrooms! – and a ripe Tomato note unlike anything I’ve come across before. Vanilla also, with Barley Sugar, Citrus Orange, Shortbread and a little Pepper.
Taste: Tomato Puree, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Orange, Flour, Malty Biscuits and Butter… Arrives in a burst of flavour but mellows over time on the palate.
Value for Money: Not cheap at £70 but your money will buy you a fascinating and unique spin on the Glenmorangie spirit. It also benefits from a higher bottling strength of 51.2% – uncommon for this distillery.
Glenmorangie is a malt that I often overlook. Their core range is undoubtedly of high quality but perhaps not entirely to my taste. It is a joy however, to see them push off in new directions and experiment with their raw ingredients, rather than focusing purely on the maturation end of the process. Allta is an intriguingly complex and rewarding single malt and I really hope to see more like it in the future.
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