On an especially cold afternoon in January, I was lucky enough to raise a dram of the highly coveted, very limited edition single malt scotch, Glenmorangie Ealanta, the newly crowned “Best Whisky in the World 2014,” with National Brand Ambassador, Ruaraidh MacIntyre.
I have to be honest, I’m still in the discovery stage when it comes to scotch, so I was lucky to have Ruaraidh guiding me through this tasting. His family comes from a long line of scotch makers, 100 years in fact, so I couldn’t have been in better hands.
First I got all the information I needed about Ealanta and what makes it different from any other scotch in the world. Here are some of the facts.
Glenmorangie owns a heavily shaded area of the Mark Twain forest in Missouri. The shade allows for their trees to grow slowly, giving them more time to age, adding to a richer, fuller final product. Roughly 95% of scotches are matured in old bourbon casks, this one was created in virgin white oak. The cask was lightly toasted, then air dried for 24 months. The standard age of maturity for Glenmorangie scotch is ten years, Ealanta was left for 19, making it very smooth with older, more mature flavours.
The Glenmorangie product line is created in the north-east end of Scotland, the heart of the highlands, which boasts some of the purest air in the country. While the scotch ages in the casks, the product takes on some of the characteristics and flavour of its surroundings.
For a scotch first timer, or someone who doesn’t know a great deal about the beverage, you’ll be pleased to know that the flavours in a good scotch are all tastes that people tend to savour, among them vanilla, orange and ginger. Ealanta boasts a taste that anyone will be able to enjoy. Some scotches, I was told, can be very strong, this one has no harshness to it and goes down smoothly, with a pleasant warmth.
On the nose there were a lot of tropical fruit scents which Ruaraidh informed me comes from the wood. There were also pineapple, pear, peach, orange and other classic citrus notes. Inhale a little more deeply and you’ll discover toffee and caramel notes. Drinking it pure and undisturbed, the first sips carry a nutty, almond hint on the palate.
Next, Ruaraidh has me add about a milliliter of water to the Ealanta to see how it transforms the taste. He suggests not adding a big splash of water, but to get yourself a pipette and add 1 – 2ml of water to 30ml of the scotch. The addition of the water delivers a lot more vanilla, ginger and cinnamon to this tasting.
The style of the Glenmorangie, while unmistakably scotch, does have similar characteristics of bourbon. And just as bourbon can be nice over a cube of ice, so too can this. When we added two small ice cubes, we noticed woodier flavours, zesty citrus and more caramel. The vanilla flavour wasn’t as strong, but overall it was still a touch sweeter then with the water alone. Again here, when adding ice don’t overdo it or you run the risk of diluting the purity of the scotch. Whisky rocks can be a good compromise.
Scotch I’m told, is incredibly complex, and so delicately balanced are the flavours, that when you add water and then ice, it accents the different tastes within, presenting various sides to it, changing what is most prominent on the palette. This allows you to discover the subtle nuances of the scotch. Drink it over an hour and the Ealanta will open itself up to a range of flavour experiences.
The Glenmorangie Ealanta is the fourth annual release in the company’s Private Edition range with roughly 60 thousand bottles produced. Ontario is the last place in the world to receive inventory which means we have a few hundred bottles headed our way. With the accolades that this scotch has received and due to its extremely limited supply, the Ealanta is incredibly sought after, so aficionado’s have to source it wherever they can find it throughout the world.
Anyone who appreciates flavour will enjoy the Glenmorangie Ealanta. Ruaraidh’s final thoughts were that too often people drink scotch alone. His advice is that it should be a social drink with a good group of people. Buy a bottle and over the course of the night enjoy the flavour experience together.
Ealanta ($165.95) will be available in Ontario on March 6. Whisky lovers will be able to order via call center or (for the first time ever) will be able to order and purchase online via the LCBO’s Direct sales website.