If you want your single malt to take on a sweet Spanish dimension, you’ve got two options: mature it exclusively in old sherry casks, or just take it for a quick dip in some new ones. For their Lasanta finish, Glenmorangie piles their 10-year-olds into a minivan and drops them off at the sherry pool for another 2 years. Don’t forget your towel!
Cask finishing. Glenmorangie popularised it back in the 90s with their “wood finishes” – now pretentiously named the Lasanta (Sherry), Quinta Ruban (Port) and Nectar d’Or (Sauternes) finishes. Here’s the idea:
Step 1: Make a fantastic, cheap, bourbon-matured single malt.
Step 2: Chuck it in some flavourful, expensive new casks for a few months/years.
Step 3: Hope you haven’t ruined it.
Step 4: Scoop up the awards and hike the price!
Of course the cynic in me immediately assumes that cask finishing just allows distillers to make American/French/Spanish expressions without having to use expensive casks for the full maturation period… The other argument is of course that it allows distillers to produce single malts with a wider range of styles and flavours with more creativity and cask diversity. They get to “blend in the barrel”.
Anyway, heated debate aside let’s see what those 2 extra years have done to my beloved Glenmorangie Original:
At first, a pleasant alcohol bite and then (surprise!) sherry – loads of it. Digging deeper, a faintly off-milk sourness, slightly astringent, with vanilla fighting for recognition in the background. Some pleasant citrus (the Original shining through, no doubt) and some faint apples.
Woah this is sweet… Toffee apples, candy floss. That odd sour milk detected on the nose has worked its way in. Some toasted woodiness, and a little of its younger brother’s vanilla.
Oh and of course great steaming piles of sherry. The Original hasn’t taken a dip so much as drowned in those sherry casks.
Not sure if this is a property of cask finishing in general, but the sherry here feels somehow artificial – like they took good whisky and added some Spanish flavoured Oros. Unlike say, the GlenDronach (which has aged its full 12 years in sherry casks) you can definitely tell there’s “something extra” here – a layer on top that unfortunately isn’t particularly well integrated.
That being said, this is still a fundamentally good whisky – you can tell there’s some well aged, quality, malty goodness going on there – it’s just that it’s being forced to take a backseat.
It just gets sweeter and sweeter, and what was already feeling a tad cloying becomes excessive. That odd sour-milk taste lingers, and finally a pleasant floral taste on the tongue.
Handles water remarkably well. The nose becomes quite muted, but tastes open up nicely, revealing red fruit, cut grass, flowers and the barest hint of marzipan.
Given some high expectations (due to glowing reviews) I must admit I’m disappointed with the Glenmorangie Lasanta. Pleasant enough, but some dodgy flavors that disrupt the experience and sherry that bulldozes over everything else. For what it is, it’s also fairly expensive. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare this against sherry-matured rather than sherry-finished whiskies, but I can comfortably say it falls far short of other sherry monsters I’ve enjoyed.
I love the original 10 YO Glenmorangie. Those two extra years haven’t improved it in the Lasanta’s case. If you want a sherry monster then GlenDronach, Macallan and Glenfarclas have you covered. If you want Glenmorangie, stick to the original.