Glenmorangie have been one of the easiest scotch brands for me to turn to. The reason is simple: pricing. Although it’s easy to find their four-pack tasting set (consisting of The Original, Lasanta, Quinta Ruban, and Nectar d’Or), local pricing for a full bottle of each is far more approachable than many options from other brands. That’s not to say Glenmorangie lack expressions with questionable value propositions, but in the vast pool that is single malt scotch, they remain one of the easiest to turn to.
Glenmorangie also have an affinity for cask finishes. In previous reviews I mentioned a sense of fatigue from the saturation of finished products, particularly when it comes to bourbon. Scotch I’m a bit more receptive to since the base spirit tends to be more delicate, but it could also have to do with my relatively limited exposure to world whisky as a whole. In any case, Glenmorangie are no strangers to the finishing game, with 2020’s A Tale of Cake and its spiritual successor, A Tale of Winter, being among their most recent offerings.
The first of these, A Tale of Cake, takes Glenmorangie and finishes it in lesser known (to me) dessert wine casks: Tokaji, which hails from Hungary and is made from grapes affected by noble rot. Sounds similar to the Sauternes-finished Nectar d’Or. The premise behind A Tale of Cake is fairly sentimental: Bill Lumsden mused over how “some of his most joyful memories came from cake—from the pineapple upside-down cake his daughter made for his birthday to baking with his granny in her kitchen.” Thus, the whisky is meant to emulate that type of experience, one that many of us can likely relate to.
A Tale of Cake was a limited product, non-age-stated, non-chill filtered, and carried an MSRP of $99, but I got mine for half-off (more on that in a bit).
Nose: Sweet and fruity with an obvious white wine influence. An exterior of sponge cake with whipped frosting and pineapple give way to the more typical Glenmorangie characteristics, namely baked honeycrisp apple and pear. Light wood notes begin to creep in, bringing a touch of lightly roasted and glazed nuts.
Palate: Medium mouthfeel that becomes more velvety with subsequent sips. Bright Highland pear note upfront quickly followed by the white wine essence. Mid-palate the maturation and finishing casks seem to hit a nice, brief equilibrium with mildly toasty wood and crème brulee topping. These offset the tart fruit notes that feel more typical of the base whisky.
Finish: Medium length and strength. Honey, vanilla, white chocolate, and cream with an expected combination of apple and pear rounding out the back. Retains that tart Glenmorangie fruit character, but with an added layer of richness that avoids feeling heavy-handed.
This has been a tough whisky for me to evaluate. From an appreciation standpoint, there’s plenty to be said. Using dessert white wine casks to finish a scotch that’s a bit tart in its fruity personality sounds like a natural fit. Nectar d’Or was a good demonstration of this, though perhaps less interesting than its siblings. And although marketing is just that, it’s still easy to be won over and swayed by this whisky’s inspiration.
When it comes to ultimate enjoyment, however, I can’t help but feel A Tale of Cake misses the mark. The whisky and wine casks don’t seem to harmonize in a way that translates to a truly fulfilling dram. I will say the nose is consistently fun to return to and has even presented itself as bubblegum-like in some cases. Were I to judge strictly on that component, this whisky would likely score higher. But I find the tart fruit character and cask influences a bit abrasive for something inspired by memories involving cake. The right components seem to be there, but the experience leaves something to be desired.
Finally, there’s the consideration of price. Even at a $50 discount, I can’t exactly say my final thoughts boil down to “money well spent.” But the thought of dropping $99 on a product like this? Call me Lana Kane, because that’s a big nope. Maybe my narrative will change if I purchase a bottle of Nectar d’Or down the line for comparison. Until then? My A Tale of Cake bottle and box will probably collect more dust than the obscure spices in my kitchen cabinet.