WhiskyFest Review! Glenmorangie Signet

•October 17, 2008 • 3 Comments

It seems from my blog search stats that the only Scotch anyone really wants to know about these days is the Glenmorangie Signet. So here is some new intelligence, straight from WhiskyFest in San Francisco (apologies for the delay in posting, I needed a day to recover from the event itself and then I had to make a business trip immediately after.)

After an hour tasting some very old Scotches during the VIP portion of the night, Dramfun and I approached the Glenmorangie table. They were displaying an empty bottle of Signet, affixed to a base making it look like something like a trophy. We inquired and were gently rebuffed – sorry not yet available in the U.S.

But then I mentioned Scotchtalk and miraculously the server knew about the blog, despite its short life span. Apparently Scotch distillers have nothing better to do than Google their brand names daily for any mention howsoever humble.

We hit it off, and he finally reached below the table with a conspiratorial look and “secretly” poured a generous dram for each of us. It all felt very exclusive, but it turned out to be a bit of an act, because another guy walked up behind us two minutes later and got the exact same treatment.

The real secret of the Signet is its use of so-called chocolate malt – the same stuff that’s used to make stout beer, including Guinness.

I will state right now, for the record, that Glenmorangie master distiller and Signet creator Bill Lumsden  is a genius. Glenmorangie has been taking lots of risks lately, leading the way in experimental bottlings based on numerous wood finishes and recasting its flagship recipes to great reviews.

The first thing that you notice with the Signet is the rich, dark reddish-amber color. The nose is redolent of old leather, with some citrus tones and possibly apple. The weight and texture in the mouth was the most striking feature to me, it is quite simply to die for. Not terribly spicy, extraordinarily complex, with a long smooth finish.

We were drinking some exceptional Scotches at the WhiskyFest including a 35yo Glenfarclas and a 31yo Stronachie but the Signet was certainly a highlight even among this rarefied company, particularly at the suggested retail price of about $185 per bottle.

Glenmorangie has announced availability in October but I have yet to see it in a store – if anyone comes across a retail source please let us know in the comments.

Glenmorangie Original, Ardbeg Take Top Marks in ‘Whisky Bible 2008’

•October 10, 2008 • 2 Comments

LVMH-owned Glenmorangie has taken lots of chances lately, tinkering with its brand and recipes to great effect as it revamps its business.

The risks appear to be paying off, with rave reviews of its flagship 10 year old expression, which was rebranded as Glenmorangie Original (10 years old), as well as its Ardbeg Islay brand. Both have won top marks in the Whisky Bible 2008, Glenmorangie reports:

The Original “remains one of the great single malts: a whisky of uncompromising aesthetic beauty from the first enigmatic whiff to the last teasing and tantalizing gulp”.

Another stellar ranking awarded to The Glenmorangie Company includes naming Ardbeg 10 Years Old as the “2008 World Whisky of the Year” citing it as “the most complex malt on earth” and bestowing a score of 97 points, higher than any other Island Malt Whisky.

Glenmorangie is reportedly the most popular brand of Scotch in its native Scotland. Under master distiller Bill Lumsden, the company has been on the forefront of experiment, and has produced a wide variety of wood finishes.

Glenmorangie is reportedly really shaking things up this fall with several new bottlings from both Ardbeg and its eponymous brand. It is also moving its HQ to Edinburgh from Broxburn, and agreed to sell its Glen Moray distillery to the French firm La Martiniquaise.

The Glenmorangie Signet, made from roasted and chocolate barley, is meant to be its new flagship bottling.

It also revamped its bottles and launched a “signet” logo based on the Cadboll stone, an old Pict carving from the 8th Century found on the site of the Glenmorangie estate.

More recently, it has replaced its Artisan Cask with a new cask strength bottling dubbed Astar.

WhiskyFest Prep Notes

•October 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Malt Advocate’s WhiskyFest touches down Friday Oct. 10 in San Francisco. Dramfun – my supposed blogger in crime – and I are ready with VIP passes and charity tickets to sample some of the special bottles from The Macallan, The Glenlivet and Glenfarclas. These run $20 per ticket so we won’t get to all of them, unfortunately.

I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve been three times to Whiskies of the World in SF, and that show seemed to be getting a bit repetitive, with no-shows from some of the major distilleries. This one promises to have 200 different Scotch whiskies represented, and as VIPs we will get a chance to sample some very old ones:

Glenfarclas 35 yr.

Glen Spey 30 yr.

Strathmill 31 yr.

Stronachie 31 yr.

Among the highlights promises to be a seminar with Lincoln Henderson on Suntory’s Yamakazi whiskies. We’ll be weighing in with a show review and tasting notes as best as we can manage.

Great Scotch Whisky Bars in NYC

•October 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I came across this post of 10 best Scotch bars in New York City on a site called Meet Live Now, I have no idea who the author is so caveats about authority apply. But the writer won immediate credibility with me for including in the No. 2 slot St. Andrews – a bar I have visited frequently during trips to Manhattan at first out of convenience but ultimately due to the phenomenal Scotch menu and terrific staff.

Here’s the rundown:

1. Brandy Library – 25 N Moore St, New York, NY 10013 / (212) 226-5545

2. St. Andrews – 120 W 44th Street New York, NY 10036 / (212) 840-4450

3. Campbell Apartment – 15 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, NY 10017 / 212-953-0409

4. D.B.A. – 41 First Avenue, New York, NY, 10003-9426 / 212-475-5097

5. Hudson Bar and Books – 636 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014 / 212-229-2642

6. Lexington Bar and Books – 1020 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021 / (212) 717-3902

7. Flatiron Lounge – 37 W. 19th St., New York, NY 10011 / 212-727-7741

8. Keen’s Steakhouse – 72 W. 36th St., New York, NY 10018 / 212-594-6371

9. Angel’s Share – 8 Stuyvesant St., 2nd fl, New York, NY 10003 / 212-777-5415

10. Whiskey Park – 100 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019 / 212-307-9222

Diageo to Launch New Single Malt, The Singleton of Dufftown

•October 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Diageo is launching a new single malt, The Singleton of Dufftown. Following a test run in duty free shops, where ist sold well, the 12-year-old Speyside whisky will be sold in Great Britain with a recommended retail price of about $50.

The brand is being marketed as a smooth tasting Scotch for new whisky drinkers, with some hyperbole tossed in. Writes Talking Retail:

The 12 year old Scotch Whisky achieves its exceptional smoothness through longer fermentation, slow distillation and the use of a highly revered water of exceptional quality. The water, which comes from Highlandman John’s Well in Scotland, is so sought-after, legend has it that in the past the Dufftown distillery has had to field off rivals who have tried to steal it.

Bruichladdich Expands Special Editions with ‘First Growth’ Series

•October 9, 2008 • 1 Comment

John Hansell has posted a press release with the details:

The First Growth series comprises of  6 limited edition Cuvées – labelled A to F. Each is a 16 year old Bruichladdich, American oak matured, with an additional cask evolution in French oak casks from each of the 1855 first growth chateaux, including Sauternes. UK Retail Price: +/- £40.

The release goes on the explain the unique character of the Bordeaux casks:

The famous 1855 Classification of Bordeaux rated chateaux into 5 groups according to quality and price of their wines. The First Growths were the best.

Today these legendary estates use casks coopered from the finest French oak, 150 to 200 year old trees from the forests of Tronçais, Allier and Vosges.

Costing up to four times more than an American oak equivalent, the flavour-rich oak staves are weathered outside for 4 years for extra finesse.

Malt Whisky Year Book 2009

•October 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The fourth edition of Malt Whisky Year Book is now available for about $22.

Malt Whisky Yearbook has become an authoritative book that whisky enthusiasts worldwide look forward to each autumn. This is the fourth edition – Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009.

The Yearbook is again fully revised and packed with new and up-to-date information on whisky distilleries from all over the world. Once again, distinguished whisky profiles such as Charles MacLean, David Stirk, Gavin Smith, Ian Buxton, Dominic Roskrow and Walter Schobert contribute with initiated features penned exclusively for the Yearbook.

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009 lists hundreds of whisky shops, whisky sites and new bottlings. A comprehensive summary of the whisky year that was and all the latest statistics is also included.

A new feature for this year are nearly 200 tasting notes describing the flavour of single malts from all working distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.

Finally, with more than 500 colour photographs (most of them new since the last edition),”Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009″ is as much an essential reference guide as a book to read for pleasure.