Recreating old whisky must be a tricky business. I can taste and smell things in a dram that seem to me to be the flavours and aromas it contains (or suggests). But to work the other way and engineer a whisky to capture subtle notes and undercurrents once contained by a whisky gone by takes a rare skill and depth of understanding.
Glenmorangie Finealta is a recreation of a recipe from 1903, which is matured in a specific ratio between American white oak casks and Spanish Oloroso casks. There’s also a spot of peat to this – unusual for a Glenmorangie these days, but a hundred plus years ago, they dried their barley in a peat fired kiln, so it would have been standard at the time.
Having not tasted the original myself – being only forty-something years of age, rather than a hundred and forty something – I can’t speak to the exactness with which the whisky has been recreated. But I can tell you what I think of it.
First, the nose is quite citrus. Lime and oranges and a sugary note reminiscent of lemon drops, with a touch of dried fruit and a slight note of thin woodsmoke – like burning kindling. The sweetness comes through on the palate – still citrus, but more marmalade than fresh fruit. A little water takes the sharpness away – and too much quickly deadens it – but it’s still overwhelmingly marmalade with ginger and a little allspice.
The finish is an unusual one. Instantly baking soda and sugar – sweet, but unbalanced, like a misread fudge recipe. Not altogether unpleasant, but certainly surprising after the delicate start. An overall chalky floral ending, as if you’d inhaled your grandmother’s face powder – evocative of times gone by, certainly.
This may or may not be indistinguishable from the whisky served at the American Bar of the Savoy in 1903, but the attractive art nouveau inspired bottle, the stories that will accompany it, and the unusual nature of the dram (both in terms of its peaty air and its antique elegance) will pique the curiosity of many whisky enthusiasts.
If you’re interested, you’ll pick up a bottle for around the £60 mark. 46% abv.