Glenmorangie has announced the release of its latest limited edition whisky: Glenmorangie Sonoma-Cutrer Reserve. The 25-year-old Highland single malt Scotch is finished in casks from top Sonoma Valley winery Sonoma-Cutrer, which is known for its Burgundian-style Chardonnays. Just 1,000 bottles exist.
‘Whisky is my life, but wine is my hobby,’ says Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s director of whisky creation. ‘I drink a lot of wine, I collect wine and it gives me inspiration for creating new products.’
The idea for a whisky aged in California Chardonnay barrels arose during a trip to the US, when Lumsden first tried a Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. ‘I felt it had a Burgundian style to it and a slight smokiness; and that style of wine was the starting point of the whisky we ended up with,’ he explains.
Purchasing six 225-litre barriques in 2005, he filled them with a select batch of Glenmorangie’s signature 10-year-old single malt, distilled during his very first days at the distillery in 1995. Lumsden then left the barrels to mature.
‘If I’m honest, I rather forgot about it,’ he quips. ‘We ended up with a great whisky as much by serendipity as design.’
Fruity and creamy, Glenmorangie Sonoma-Cutrer Reserve (55.7% abv) shows complexity on the nose with aromas of pineapples, pears and mandarin orange alongside vanilla, nutty, waxy and spice notes, plus fresh floral tones and a wisp of smoke. There’s a slight oiliness to the soft palate, with an attractive honeyed sweetness, buttery citrus, ripe pears, vanilla and coconut, dancing over a backbone of toasty French oak.
‘If you use French oak to finish or mature whisky, the grippiness and tannins can be overpowering; but I really like the integration here,’ notes Lumsden. ‘The pedigree of the oak is almost as important as the grape variety,’ he continues, noting that the Chardonnay contributes a particular note to the whisky: ‘a distinct creaminess – like Victoria sponge cake!’
Glenmorangie’s previous winery collaborations have included Artein, released in 2012 and finished in Sassicaia casks. The Nectar d’Or rests in Sauternes barrels before release, while other cask finishes include Sherry, Port and Madeira.
Glenmorangie Sonoma-Cutrer Reserve is set to be a limited release of just 1,000 bottles globally however; each numbered bottle personally signed by Lumsden and retailing for £1,750 (US$2,430).
‘We will never repeat this,’ he states. ‘Partly because these expressions are sold on the basis that they are a one-off, and secondly because as a scientist I’ve done this; I’ve tried it and I don’t want to repeat it.’