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Glenmorangie single malt, cheese and men

March 3, 2014

Glenmorangie tasting in DubaiCraig is a self-confessed whisky geek. He knows about the nuances of the flavours that casks impart and the symbiosis with whisky makers and other users of barrels. He is on first name terms with the movers and shakers of the Scottish whisky industry. If he was sitting in the black chair with Magnus Magnuson firing specialist subject questions at him he’d be a single malt Mastermind.

I’m in an oak panelled room with a group of whisky nerds hanging off his every word. Craig peppers his sentences with the famous names of single malt as though everyone in the room has memorised a map of the distilleries of Scotland. He asks “has anyone not heard of the solera system?”*. He’s so excited about the whole topic that he moves rapidly from one side of the room to the other as he talks, turning his head like a bearded crane. Sipping from various drams and watching him is like drinking single malt while watching Wimbledon so I look down and concentrate on the aromas and flavours.

This is miles away from wine tasting – my usual descriptive lexicon is in the bin and it seems as though different parts of my tongue and taste buds are involved. Nuts, vanilla, sandalwood – the malt whisky tasting notes make wine ones seem positively austere. I take a wine nosing sharp sniff and the alcohol strength knocks me out. I have to hold the glass at a tilt and much farther away to sense the aromas which are delicate, like the scent of flowers on a summer breeze.

And why does this amber liquid attract such nerdiness and obsession by men? Outlet Manager Jovana, Glenmorangie account manager Remé, whisky-lover Ekta and myself are the only women in the room at Grape Escape (Hilton Jumeirah).  Craig’s enthusiasm is infectious and while there are enough funny stories and anecdotes to keep everyone’s interest I start to drift during some of the detailed questions from the floor and the warmth of the whisky. Although it’s billed as a whisky and cheese tasting, there is no formality and we are encouraged to taste our way through the cheeses and pile of charcuterie so I nibble my way through the board trying a bit of this and a bit of that. The sweetness of the Comte (I’m guessing as nothing is labelled) goes brilliantly with the Glenmorangie The Nectar D’or (12 years old), a pear and Roquefort starter only goes with the Glenmorangie Original and the blue cheese is a quite nasty match with everything else. Surprisingly a soft rinded cheese (Camembert?) is great with them all. A bite-sized slab of Argentinian beef cooked rare is best with The Quinta Ruban.

Do I like the flavours of Glenmorangie? At the start I struggle, and this says as much about me as the whisky. There was a moment during a recent Kilchoman tasting when I was transported into the countryside. I was standing under pale blue skies, in a salty maritime breeze, watching the waving golden barley. The Glenmorangie is smooth and sophisticated; it lacks a sense of place for me. And then they pour the 18-year-old which is like being wrapped in a soft golden blanket.

For whisky nerds, this is what we tasted (and my inexpert tasting impressions):

  • Original – 10 year old: strongly mandarin oranges on the nose, with a freshness that was minty, overwhelmingly silky vanilla taste (perhaps just too smooth for my tastes).
  • Nectar D’Or – 12 year old: Orange peel, ginger and nutmeg aromas with a creaminess on the palate and burnt orange flavours. The tasting notes said lime but I didn’t detect any of that kind of freshness but nutmeg came through in the finish. Paired extremely well with a dried apricot from the cheese plate.
  • Quita Ruban – 12 year old: Agreed wholeheartedly with the tasting notes about chocolate, Christmas pudding and sandalwood aromas. I would add caramel to that list. Chocolate smoothness and candied orange peel flavours predominate.
  • Lasanta – 12 year old: Caramel toffee on the nose with rum and a touch of citrus (tangerine?), orangey and buttery flavours with all the nuances that you’d expect from maturation in Oloroso sherry casks. There was a sweet nuttiness on the finish.
  • Glenmorangie 18 years old: The tasting notes read “appeals to the luxury spirits drinker who appreciates serious quality” – that’ll be me then as I preferred this way and above all the rest! Honey aromas captivate and the geranium mentioned on the notes was really alluring. Creamy honey tastes with caramelised grapefruit and a coffee finish.   Not sure how much this retails for in the UAE but it’s £85.00 in the UK. so I probably won’t be tasting this very often.
  • We also tasted something which was extremely rare and from my photos (see below) seems like it was 100% 57.2% proof. I have no recollection of what it was like except that I enjoyed it!

Will I return to the Single Malt Society? Oh yes indeed – met some lovely men people over some delicious cheeses and charcuterie. I’ve learned a huge amount about malt whisky courtesy of engaging and entertaining malt whisky expert Craig. It’s exceptionally good value – 275 AED for (at least) 5 drams with cheese and charcuterie (and more) on this occasion. The events are varied too – the next one is hosted by a bourbon distiller who is flying in from Heaven Hills in Kentucky, at a Cajun restaurant with food cooked by a chef from Louisiana. Sounds good? See you there…

To join the MMI Single Malt Society register here and Craig will send you news of up and coming events. There’s a Facebook page and you can also follow him on Twitter.

* The solera system is complex system of barrel aging (usually sherry or port) and a method of fractional blending in which old wine is constantly refreshed with younger wine.

I left my camera at home so all images are taken on an iphone – sorry.

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  1. sarahhedonista permalink
    March 3, 2014 8:58 am

    Great post. Women should drink more whiskey – it’s sexy. (To a point, anyway!)
    A pity I missed this one, I’m quite a fan of Glenmorangie (I like the more subtle styles) – I’ll have to sign myself up!

    • March 3, 2014 9:07 am

      Come to the Bourbon tasting…. By the way, do Australians favour the ‘e’ (like the US and Ireland)?

  2. March 3, 2014 10:27 am

    I couldn’t get back from Abu Dhabi in time for this but thanks for making me want to kick myself even more for not doing so. 🙂

    Fantastic write up on the evening too.

    • March 3, 2014 11:12 am

      Thanks – it was a great opportunity to taste and compare some pretty special single malts.

  3. Claire Townsend permalink
    March 3, 2014 11:04 am

    Crikey…….sounds fab! I love whiskey ( with or without the e) my favourite is either Blackbush (Irish) or Edradour in Perthshire, which is the smallest distillery in UK. But have been known not to be too fussy….a dram with 2 cubes of ice is how I start my evening……ice is often forgotten as the evening progresses…….

  4. March 3, 2014 12:12 pm

    Sally, sounds like such an informative gathering! The Chef is a whiskey lover so I will inform him of the Whiskey Society. It’s been ages since I got to do the rounds and I wanted to come over and spread some love. You’ve been rather busy so I have lots of reading to catch up on!

    • March 6, 2014 7:24 am

      Good to hear from you. Do let Chef know about this – it’s an excellent way to taste various whiskies and learn about them. Love to all.

  5. March 3, 2014 12:38 pm

    A fantastic evening and wonderful write-up!



  6. March 3, 2014 11:25 pm

    Although I have lived in Scotland for over 25 years I have never grown to like whisky, I’m afraid. But your descriptions and the quite surprising food pairings make me wish I did like it. And no need to ever apologise for your pictures – iPhone or DSLR they are always great

    • March 6, 2014 7:25 am

      What a vote of confidence Kellie – thanks so much. Always hyper-aware of the deficiencies of my pics.

  7. glamorous glutton permalink
    March 4, 2014 1:25 am

    I’m a massive whiskey fan, but it really only like peaty flavoured whiskies like Talisker. GG

    • March 6, 2014 7:26 am

      Yes – beginning to realise that it’s the peaty ones like the Islay whiskies that I like best too.

  8. andreamynard permalink
    March 4, 2014 2:42 am

    Love your description of tasting whisky Sally. I’m definitely a fan, of bourbon in particular at the moment.

    • March 6, 2014 7:27 am

      The vanilla flavours of Bourbon are lovely for drinking or for using in cooking. KP goes to an annual Jack Daniels golf day so we always have a variety of different bourbons in the house.

  9. March 5, 2014 3:23 am

    Interesting. I don’t like whisky but I am going to a whisky & chocolate tasting in a few weeks (mainly for the chocolate).
    This gives me hope I may enjoy the whisky side of things too, your descriptions sound delicious.

    • March 5, 2014 9:39 am

      I think whisky and chocolate will go really well together. Will look out for your post.

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