Thursday, December 26, 2013

Scotch in New Charred Oak: Glenmorangie Ealanta

Glenmorangie Ealanta, the fourth release from Glenmorangie's private edition series, is a fairly unique Scotch. While many Scotch whiskies are aged in old bourbon casks, this 2013 release is aged in new, charred American oak, just like a bourbon.

Glenmorangie Ealanta, Distilled 1993, Bottled 2012, 46% abv ($130)

The nose is pleasant and malty.  The palate is very straight forward and malty.  There is a slight oak note at midpalate along with citrus, honey, vanilla and sweet wine notes, and it has a sweet, chewy finish. 

This is a good, solid malt, but it tastes fairly similar to any other good bourbon cask Scotch and is firmly within the general Glenmorangie profile.  I was surprised that the new charred oak didn't have more influence.  I had always assumed that the impact of new charred oak would be substantial.  Even the color was quite light, much lighter than most bourbons.  In American malt whiskeys, which are required to use new charred oak, there are often quite severe wood tannin notes that I find unpleasant.  Of course, those malts tend to be very young, often less than a year old, and this one is around 19 years old, so the aging could have mellowed some of those notes if they were there to begin with.

This was an interesting experiment and one I'm glad they did, but the result isn't much different from many other malts on the market.

UPDATE:  Even though the Ealanta label says "heavily charred," apparently it's actually "heavily toasted" according to this article quoting Glenmorangie's Bill Lumsden.  Thanks to a commenter for pointing it out.


Ethan Prater said...

Thanks for the helpful review. Was this the Glenmorangie expression that Jim Murray named "Best New Single Malt"or some such in his Whisky Bible?

I'm always confused on the American rules - and there are so few American malt whiskies, anyway - but do we require new charred oak for that designation? I thought the original Old Potrero bottlings required three years to call themselves "whiskey", but could do that even with uncharred barrels.

Whatever the requirements, are there any good American malt whiskies matured in charred barrels (other than the newer 45% expression of Old Potrero, of course)?

sku said...

Yes, this is Jim Murray's Whisky of the Year.

Under American rules, a "malt whiskey" must be aged in new charred oak. A whiskey can be made in used barrels, but then it would be a "whiskey distilled from malt (or barley) mash."

Old Potrero is a rye malt whiskey, not a barley malt, but the rules are the same. There have been Old Potrero expressions aged in new, charred oak which are called "rye whiskey" as well as those that aren't, for example, their "18th Century whiskey" is aged in new, uncharred barrels and is not labeled "rye whiskey" or "malt whiskey", just "whiskey" or "spirit".

In the US, there is no aging requirement for "whiskey" but "straight whiskey" must be aged for two years. That being said, the State of California, where Old Potrero is made, has an independent requirement that whiskey be aged for three years, which is why, I've heard, Potrero uses the "spirit" designation for some of its whiskeys for sale in California.

Anonymous said...

Bill Lumsden has stated that the casks Ealanta matured in were "heavily toasted", unlike the 2002 Glenmorangie Missouri Oak Reserve which was aged in charred casks. Seems to explain why you didn't notice charred oak influence.

sku said...

Anon, that's an odd comment from Lumsden, given that the label says "heavily charred."

Nimrodrose said...

It's an odd comment from Lumsden but I guess it's true, he also commented on that on Whisky-cast. It seems that the labelling is off..

By the way- love your blog- you are one of the few that really write what he thinks.

sku said...

Yes, I just went back and read not only the article but also the comments and that's actually clarified in the comments to the piece linked to above.

Anonymous said...

Sku, I don't know whether Lumsden's comments are accurate, or the label is accurate. I just know that Lumsden has made comments about the casks used for Ealanta (toasted) that contradict the product label info (charred).

Glenmorangie's own website:

PS Love your blog.

The Rookie said...

This sounds like some tasty stuff to me. Interesting to see it didn't get all that woody spending around 19 years in new charred oak. Some bourbons around that age don't thrill me, like Elijah Craig 18. I'm pretty sensitive to the woody character in older bourbon, even turning me off to EC 12 at times.

Perhaps the mellower Scotland climate was a factor?

I know many people give Glenmorangie a hard time but I appreciate the price on this one. $130 for a 19 year old is too bad really. I'm guessing non chill filtered on this one as well. $30-$50 cheaper and I'd be pretty excited.

I wounder if new oak barrels are cheaper than used? I wouldn't think so, but not sure?

The Rookie said...

Ment to say "$130 isn't too bad."

Funky Tape said...

$94 plus tax here while you could find it. Interesting the lack of wood is a point of contention rather than a benefit or something refreshing. Maybe that's what Murray was thinking too?