Glenmorangie was one of my first single malt scotches. Prior to trying it, my exposure had been limited to the likes of Johnnie Walker and Monkey Shoulder. In other words: the stuff many scotch-curious drinkers start with. My palate has greatly expanded since, but those first few expressions can often be the most formative when finding your footing. This is why Glenmorangie has been a scotch I tend to judge other non-Islay single malts against. Yet my scotch drinking pattern is far more occasional than my bourbon drinking pattern, so between that and finding a Glenmorangie Tasting Set at Total Wine, I figured now was the perfect time to revisit the brand.
Researching Glenmorangie for this review felt more difficult than it needed to be. I checked the brand’s website to see what claims and details they have to offer, but Glenmorangie’s site runs as smoothly as a car that hasn’t had an oil change in 100,000 miles. Simply put, it screams “fashion over function.” The baseline Glenmorangie (The Original) is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels, so a bit younger than a couple of its fellow Glens. Does it come up short in other ways? Let’s find out.
Nose: Oak and bitter fruit. Honey, lemon meringue. Funky malt. Light caramel, orange zest, raisins, and dried/fermented grapes. Thin undercurrent of cream and fruit tart. Traces of vanilla here and there.
Palate: Leads with a citric essence. White grapes, sour apple, bright and bitter oak. Has a “zing” to its maltiness, like biting into a crisp, bitter/tart fruit. Think fresh pineapple or grapefruit texture with the actual flavor of lemon zest and mango orange.
Finish: Eventually turns soft and sweet, light and pleasant. Orange and lemon cream. Honeycrisp apple with hints of light caramel and vanilla. Some oak and honey with an essence of peach.
Now that I’ve had The Original for the first time in nearly a year, I can see why I’ve found other non-Islay scotches as somewhat dull. True to the company’s marketing, this is a citrus bomb with a crisp, bitter essence that’s more akin to white wine than bourbon. And yet when it comes to the finish, this whisky is surprisingly soft and easy. The sweeter, more dessert-y notes take over and leave a final impression that’s subtle, but distinctly more enjoyable than the upfront experience. I’m not eager to return for another sip, but I do look forward to the finish more than actually sipping the whisky.
This brings us to my recommendation. I’m not one to mix scotch with anything, but when I drink Glenmorangie’s Original, I think “this would be more enjoyable in a cocktail.” The citric nature feels too rough around the edges for me, and I generally prefers high-proof pours. If a newer whiskey drinker was looking to dip their toes into single malt scotch, I’d be torn about recommending Glenmorangie’s flagship. If they enjoy white wine or a big punch of citrus, then this would likely be a decent starter. Yet if they’re looking for something smooth and easy, there are plenty of superior options available.