Glenmorangie single malt, cheese and men
Craig 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…
* 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.