stats: single malt Scotch, Highlands, 46%, $69
Over the last four years my blog posts have followed a trend of becoming longer, more in-depth and more research intensive. While I enjoy the process of thoroughly exploring a subject and the unexpected conclusions that sometimes result from it, I don’t like the fact that my posts have become somewhat few and far between. I’ve decided to make an effort to add some brief, simple posts to the mix in order to consistently post at least three or four times a month, if not more.
Today I’m going to take a look at Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or. There are quite a few bottlings available from Glenmorangie but the most widely available ones are the Original (their 10 year age-stated, flagship single malt) and three different wine cask finished versions of the Original. Actually, at Glenmorangie they prefer the term Extra Matured to cask finished.
Those three are the Nectar D’Or (Sauternes casks), the Quinta Ruban (Ruby Port pipes) and the Lasanta (Oloroso and PX Sherry casks). The Original is aged for 10 years in a mix of first and second fill bourbon barrels, and is bottle at 43% abv with chill filtering. The other three start off the same way, but after 10 years they are transferred to their respective wine casks for two more years of maturation. They are then bottled without chill filtration at 46% abv and with 12 year age statements. Interestingly, until two or three years ago these Extra Matured Glenmorangie bottlings were not age-stated. Any whisk(e)y gaining an age statement these days is a fairly rare occurrence.
Wine cask finishing has become quite popular in the single malt Scotch world over the last decade. This is quite understandable as distillers try to increase market share by expanding their ranges with more diverse offerings while bourbon barrels have proliferated as the most available and affordable maturation option. When wine cask finishing is employed, the most common former content of those casks is red wine (be it fortified or traditional). Perhaps finishing single malt Scotch in white wine casks is akin to playing with fire. My only experience that I can recall with such a beast, an independently bottled Springbank finished in Hermitage Blanc casks, was somewhat disappointing.
But Sauternes seems to be the exception to that rule. A quick Google search turned up numerous examples of Sauternes finished single malts: a non-age stated Tullibardine, 8 year olds from Hazelburn and the Isle of Arran, a 12 year and a 14 year from Glendronach, and 16 year olds from BenRiach and Bruichladdich. Most of those seem to fall into the typical six month to two year finishing time frame, but the Hazelburn spent a full three years in Sauternes casks.
The iconic sweet wine of Bordeaux is made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes which have had their sugars concentrated after being partially raisined by the Botrytis cinerea fungus, also known as noble rot. These luscious wines are noted for their incredible balance and great complexity, and are characterized by notes of apricot, honey and peaches, along with a bit of nuttiness.
Surprisingly, the Nectar D’Or is almost identical in color to the Sherry cask finished Lasanta. They each have a golden amber hue, while the Original 10 year has a distinctly lighter pale-straw color. Sauternes is a wine that darkens considerably as it ages in the bottle over several decades. Unlike most white wines, it ferments in casks for up to a year and then sees another two to three years of aging in oak casks. At that point it is bottled, usually with a rich golden color. I’m still a little mystified by the fact that the Lasanta isn’t darker than the Nectar D’Or though.
My tasting notes for the Glenmorngie’s flagship Original can be found in this post comparing it to Glenmorangie Finealta. Fortunately, I still have some on hand to compare to the Nectar D’Or.
The nose is rich, but has a freshness that keeps it from seeming too heavy. It displays aromas of malt and raw honey, with a hint of sweet corn. On the palate it is full bodied and full flavored. Like Sauternes itself, this whisky shows a great deal of complexity and balance. The honeyed malt character is front and center, but the complex fruit notes that exemplify the house style are still evident. A bit of vanilla contributes even more depth. As it moves into the mid-palate, a subtle nuttiness and slightly astringent perfume-like quality help to keep everything in harmony. The intensity of the flavors gracefully fades as it smoothly transitions into the moderately long but delicate finish, which is highlighted by warming spice notes.
Going back to the Original, it is lighter and more ethereal. It also seems somewhat grassy in comparison; a trait that I hadn’t really noticed before. While I find each to be quite enjoyable, the Sauternes cask finish has proven to be thoroughly transformative. I suspect that the slightly higher proof and lack of chill filtration that the Nectar D’Or enjoys helps in that respect as well.