Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Highland Single Malt of the Year
Glenmorangie Pride 1981, 56.7%, $3,500/liter
Glenmorangie was one of the originators of the concept of “finishing” whisky in casks that had held other spirits and wines. Indeed, the distillery was the first to bottle its own finished single malt, namely an expression that had been additionally matured in port casks. Many more have followed, largely due to the innovative and pioneering work of Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation. Lumsden has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and so brings scientific credibility to the art of developing distinctively different single malts within the Glenmorangie family.
With Glenmorangie Pride 1981, the craft of cask finishing reaches something close to its apotheosis. To create Pride, Lumsden took exceptional quality 1981 Glenmorangie spirit that had been matured in first-fill bourbon casks for eighteen years, and transferred it into Sauternes barriques from Chateau d’Yquem. A further decade of carefully monitored aging followed before Lumsden deemed the whisky ready to be bottled, having latterly sampled it every three months.
A number of distillers have discovered that the use of casks for finishing single malts that formerly held the sweet white wine from Bordeaux is very effective in creating attractive and harmonious aromas and flavors which augment rather than overpower distillery character. Indeed, one of Glenmorangie’s core bottlings is now 15 year old Nectar d’Or, which has undergone a Sauternes finish.
What makes Glenmorangie Pride 1981 very special, however, is the overall length of maturation, and with a total of 28 years under its belt, this is the oldest whisky currently available from the distillery. The result of all that aging and scrupulous marrying of spirit with cask is a truly original and spectacular single malt, and one that defies criticism of its undoubtedly high retail price due to its sheer quality. —Gavin Smith
Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Lowlands/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year will be announced.