I've always respected Glenmorangie's Private Editions as genuine departures from the core Glenmorangie range. They often involve significant foresight and planning far beyond simply giving the whisky a 'finish' for a few months.
Last year's Spios, for example, was wholly aged in ex-Rye casks for some 10 years, whilst 2015's Tùsail involved the use of a unique strain of barley.
For the 2019 Private Edition the focus shifts to yeast rather than maturation, barley or finishing.
It's a focus which took root 20 years ago, when a discussion between Glenmorangie’s long-time whisky-maker Dr Bill Lumsden (below) and late whisky writer Michael Jackson about a since-forgotten "house" yeast strain which Glenmorangie used to possess.
Lumsden began thinking more about yeast – he is, after all, a yeast physiologist with a PhD in Microbial Physiology and Fermentation – and specifically how, in his words, "yeast’s influence on taste has been overlooked for years."
That led to Lumsden to discover a new species of wild yeast growing on the distillery's Cadboll barley, which was subsequently cultivated and brought together with the barley itself to distill a unique, brand new Glenmorangie spirit.
That spirit was then matured in a mixture of refill and second fill ex-Bourbon barrels - allowing the spirit to do the talking, rather than the oak – and after more than ten years, bottled at 51.2% (a departure from the usual 46% of recent Private Editions) and non chill-filtered... all of which makes for a very interesting whisky.
Glenmorangie Allta 10th Private Edition 2019 Release
Colour: Deep orange gold.
Nose: Cereal-like at first – think porridge with vanilla essence – and Arnott's cream biscuits (orange cream especially). There's some barley sugar, too – the type your parents would buy you from the chemist when you were sick – and with water, significantly more perfumed, floral notes.
Palate: The biscuit notes continue, with some strawberry and peach fruitiness, with an unmistakeable earthiness underlying the whole thing and a robust viscosity throughout. Yet you wouldn't necessarily pick it as 51%+ dram, as the alcohol content never feels harsh. With a few drops of water, the aforementioned fruity notes are brought to the fore even more.
Finish: Long, with some grapefruit (flesh rather than peel), underlying but never-dominant oak and a slight earthy peppermint note to finish.
Rating: 90/100. A delicious dram and more importantly, a unique and interesting departure from the core Glenmorangie range, which still clearly a Glenmo.
Details: 51.2% ABV, A$150.