Thursday, October 04, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #169

Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish, 1987
Highland Single Malt Whisky
46% abv

Only 3,551 to 3,588 (conflicting info) of these babies were released around this time last year. Distillate from 1987 was filled into ex-bourbon casks and in 2004 the whisky was transfered into 10 ex-Margaux wine casks for two additional years of maturation / finishing / wood management / ACE-ing... whatever.

Everyone seems to have their own term for this process. Why? I imagine it is partly a well-intentioned attempt to clarify just what the process is, but this has not been the effect, I can assure you. I also imagine this is because distillers recognise that a certain stigma had built around the ter
m 'finish' and wanted to reclaim the process in their own terms. What has happened is a further confusion of consumers. The most common question I receive when running whisky tastings, working in whisky shops, or answering emails of friends and readers is, "What is this finish business all about?" Everyone's natural instinct is suspicion. Our natural aversion to feeling like we are being taken advantage of or that we are being subjected to a marketing 'trick' has turned many people away from whiskies that have been finished, undergone secondary maturation, been ACE-ed, etc. I have tried on several occasions on this blog, as well as at tastings and on the floor in various retail capacities, to dispel this myth as much as is realistic and/or honest.

At Bruichladdich, they call the process ACE-ing, "additional cask enhancement". At some other distilleries they simply call it secondary maturation. Glenmorangie and others have called it 'wood finishing.' I received an email from Billy Walker, a 30-year veteran in the whisky industry, former MD of Burn Stewart Distillers, and current Master Blender and MD of BenRiach Distillery Co. Ltd. He had a few things to add about his company's wood management (I tried three of their tasty new finishes HERE). He writes,

"As always, it was interesting to read your take on 'finishes': at BenRiach our preference is to call this 'wood management'.

'Finishes' will fulfill the Distiller's objective only if the malt whisky which is chosen is of the highest quality. At BenRiach we have used a number of different cask styles to determine how The BenRiach interacts with various cask styles and during the process we have audited the progress of these casks on a monthly basis. This has given us a comprehensive insight into the 'wood management' of these various styles of oak cask.

Our objective at BenRiach is to take top quality whisky (12 - 15 years)and craft bespoke expressions with an extended flavour profile landscape: our motivation is driven solely by the pursuit of excellence: and 'unlocking the secrets' to our growing fan base."

This sentiment is not uncommon. So please don't be afraid of finishes. Most distillers who have pursued the technique of finishing do so to explore the flavour possibilities in pursuit of better and better single malt whiskies.

So that is enough from me this week about "finishing", the term I will use for this process from now on for the benefit of clarity. If folks in the industry want to confuse consumers, that is their business. In my little corner of the whisky web, I hope to clarify things for consumers. The wide world of whisky can be intimidating enough without constant semantic disagreement and debate (vatted, blended, pure; ACE, wood management, secondary maturation, wood finishing, etc.)

I was lucky enough to attend the launch of this product in the UK, Spetember 20, 2006.
The original retail price for the 800 allocated bottles for the UK was £220, but this has obviously been lowered by whisky retailers as it was quickly realised that although rare, 18 years old, and of relation to a posh wine, the price tag was scaring off too many potential customers. Chateau Margaux is one of the most famous and highly regarded of all Bordeaux chateaux. Each bottle is presented in a "comtemporary display case, seated on a black plinth, hand numbered and signed by Dr Bill Lumsden." The folks at Royal Mile Whiskies, in all their wit, have written on their website, "the packaging will appeal to diamond thieves."

For more distillery info and other Glenmorangies had on the mission, click HERE.


Big snowballs of flavour, but it slowly melts into its component parts. Fruits, both real and candied, tangerines, peaches, lemons and pineapple juice. Baked goods, both from the oven and from backstage at a Rolling Stones concert, coffee cake, butter tarts, quality tobacco and damp marijuana. Lots of childhood homemade ice cream sundae supplies: hot fudge, marshmallow spread, chocolate and nuts. Wonderfully appetising.

Big impact of succulent wine notes, tobacco again, raisins and pepper. Crazy and unusual mouthfeel, effervescent, stimulating, very enjoyable. Spice and rye bread, berries and cream. Water helps unlock this beauty's secrets. Herbal-homeopathic-remedies, citrus, and dry oak through the finish. Long lingering oak.


Big (again), inspiring dram; I couldn't write fast enough. Big flavours, great depth and supple mouthfeel. Fruit, vanilla and pepper mark the Glenmorangie style and the wine, sweets, and toasty sherry-style notes from the Margaux are an outstanding accompaniment. Evidence that Margaux and light, elegant whiskies go well (Isle of Arran have since released a Margaux finish). Deep wallet? Buy one before they are gone. You can drink the bottle and put your favourite teddy bear in the container. The rest of us look forward to being invited over for a dram.

Malt Mission #166
Malt Mission #167
Malt Mission #168
Malt Mission #170

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not gonna lie, I'm a little dissappointed that you haven't covered the Madiera finish. I had the Sherry earlier this year and thought it good, but paled slightly in comparison to the Madiera which I just recently sampled. Might be a consideration for a future post. Incidently, it is the one of this line that is unavailable at the LCBO.