Monday, 28 April 2014

Maltal Combat I: The Beginning

Glenmorangie: Quarter Century vs Signet

A battle for the ages
With all the recent back and forth on the topic of NAS whisky, I found myself wondering if I could put such a bottling up against an aged whisky of a similar style and let them slug it out. They'd have to be of comparable ABV, similar peating levels and ideally from the same distillery. A dive into the Stumblevault, one broken cork and a bruised head later, an idea was born.

Glenmorangie is a Highland heavyweight and very close to my heart. Some of my earliest dramming memories involve a bottle of the Port Wood, a heavy based tumbler and a period of fragility the following morning. Whilst my method of consumption may have changed, and my tumbler replaced by a nosing glass, I still try to keep a bottle of  'morangie tucked safely away. How fortunate then, for the purposes of this experiment, I kept two.

Glenmorangie Quarter Century - 43% (25yo)

In a word, chocolate! Beautiful cocoa underscored by red fruits and a hint of tangerine. Gentle oak appears after a while with wisps of marzipan and lady fingers. This is a real sweetie.

Clear red wine influence at the beginning with berries and cherries all over the shop. Oak tannins take hold as the taste develops. Velvety mouthfeel with gentle warming spices. Honeycomb and orange peel linger as it nears the finish.

Long but gentle. Coats the tongue with a warm oiliness with lingering black pepper and oak. Wonderfully balanced.

Well engineered, rich, balanced and tasty. Yet, somehow, this is not blowing me away. It's the whisky equivalent of a Rolls Royce; beautiful, serene, luxurious. It's just lacking the entertainment you'd get in less refined methods of travel.

Grade: B
Don't get me wrong, it's a high B. A very high B. Stupendously high. It's just too civilised to seriously float my boat.

Glenmorangie Signet - 46% (NAS)

Incredibly rich with bags of sherry. Walnuts, cigar boxes and tiramisu. Black cherries and a hearty blob of Dijon mustard. This has real pedigree.

Again, rich. Malty, chocolately with a dash of coffee. This is more full-on than its older brother. Madagascan vanilla ice-cream dusted with dark chocolate and a spritz of orange zest. Spicy with a great oily mouthfeel.

Warm and lingering. Nowhere near as elegant as the Quarter Century but by no means inferior. Pepper and Christmas spices with a mocha finale.

Rich, dark and full of flavour. An absolutely superb whisky. This may lack the refined quality demonstrated by the Quarter Century but it is more than a match in the flavour stakes. Puts the elder statesman in its place.

Grade: A
This is a very good whisky and shows that not all NAS bottlings are inferior, immature tripe destined for the Travel Retail sector. Bravo.

Dark Horse
Glenmorangie Signet (Split Decision)
Maybe it's the extra ABV, maybe it's the richness of flavour, maybe it's because my tastebuds lack the refinement to truly appreciate the quality of the 25. Whatever the reason, the young upstart gives the old man a bit of a lesson in the end.

However, before we get too carried away, the difference in quality was marginal. I'd wager that if I did it all over again, depending on the kind of day I'd had, I could easily have judged the 25 the winner..... right up until the point I compared the prices.

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