If you’re going to make a bespoke Scotch whisky, why not mature it in a bespoke Scotch cask?
While American whiskies usually employ new oak barrels for maturing their bourbons and ryes, Scotch whisky makers have traditionally purchased used casks that have previously held bourbon, sherry, or port to give extra flavors to their maturing, peat-scented spirits. The results are usually labeled “sherry finish,” “port finish,” or the like.
Glenmorangie’s Bill Lumsden, who has the tell-all title of “Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks,” wanted to create something different for the distillery’s eighth release of its Private Edition series. Following on the success of the distillery’s 1995 Madeira wood-finish release, Lumsden says, “I became determined to revisit Madeira wood-finished whisky … [but] if I was going to do that, I wanted to call on our years of expertise in pioneering cask management.”
And what kind of Madeira? “If I think of the perfect style of Madeira cask in which to finish Glenmorangie whisky, it’s Malmsey,” Lumsden explains. “Its sweetness and its richness work best with Glenmorangie.”
But rather than wait until he found the best Malmsey barrel, he decided he would make his own — one smaller than the large 550- to 600-liter casks that are traditional — so he experimented until he found the right barrel size and the right toast. Once satisfied, he sent the barrel to Portugal to be filled with Malmsey and to bake in a sun-drenched warehouse before being emptied and brought back to Scotland. There it was refilled with spirit already partially matured in old bourbon casks.
The result is the Glenmorangie Bacalta Private Edition Highlands Single Malt ($100), weighing in at 46 percent alcohol. Bacalta is a sunny spirit, one with dried fruit, toasted nut, and honeyed caramel flavors that are full and rounded but not overly sweet and not at all treacly. The finish is slightly botanical with hints of barely dried herbs. Its burn is a smooth one, typically salty. The finish is not overly long, but it hangs around enough to induce another sip.