Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First taste: Glenmorangie Sonalta

Glenmorangie has always been miles ahead in terms of wood finishes compared to most other single malts. Dr. Bill Lumsden, the man in charge, even orders his barrels from a particular part of Ozark oak forests, and arranges for the wood to be aged a bit longer before it is turned into barrels.

While other Scotches are known for their rich sherried quality, that has not been the ethereal Glenmorangie's position, though sherry has made an appearance, especially in the now-gone but not forgotten Fino Sherry Finish and the currently available Lasanta, finished in oloroso casks. But Pedro Ximenez? The source of the most dense and syrupy sweet Sherries made? Surely finishing this floral and evocative single malt in PX wood would smother the better qualities, I thought, but nope. The Sonalta, the result of a recent experiment (not Lumsden's only - he's got some finished in Manzanilla casks, but samples were stuck in customs when we met recently) will soon be available in the US after only being sold in duty-free, and lucky us.

On the nose, there's almost a blackened banana quality along with raisins and prunes cooked in dark brown sugar layered onto almond shortbread - rich and lush, with a touch of pear liqueur lurking as well. It's almost unctuous in the mouth, filled with dried fruits and a rummy sweetness backed by a spicy tingle as it finishes. As usual, it's worth the time and trouble to find the latest result of a Glenmorangie wood experiment, which you'll be able to get next January for about $80. (46% alcohol by volume, imported by Moet Hennessey)

My score: 8

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