Since 1843, the Glenmorangie Distillery has produced some of the finest Single Malt Scotch Whiskies - but what's behind the name, and are the bottles worth finding? To answer these questions (and more), we decided to do an in-depth review of Glenmorangie and figure out what you can expect from them.
What Is Glenmorangie And What Does It Make?
Glenmorangie Distillery is a brewing company that focuses on Single Malt Scotch Whisky. If you're not familiar with the classification of drinks, this means that their beverages are distilled at a single location with a pot still process, use a mash of malted barley, and are matured for at least three years and one day within Scotland.
The company got its start in 1843 when founder William Matheson decided to create a distillery in the peaceful area of Dornoch Firth in the Scottish Highlands (the northern region of the area).
What Makes Glenmorangie's Whiskey Unique?
Several factors help to set Glenmorangie apart from other distilleries. The most notable of these is its reliance on the sixteen Men of Tain - employees who are welcomed, often at a young age, and taught to craft whiskey by making it over and over again. Unlike some of the more industrialized locations, Glenmorangie prefers to make things by hand.
The result is a selection of whiskeys that are never quite the same as any brew before - but the approach also makes it easy for the Men of Tain to experiment with the process and continuously discover new flavors and combinations. Over time, this has led to their products being split into five major categories.
Glenmorangie's Core Expressions line focuses on spirits that are first matured in ex-bourbon casks, then in ex-wine casks. This two-step process is still uncommon in the whiskey world, but it helps to create drinks that have more complicated and distinctive flavors. This is the main product line the company currently offers.
This line focuses on some of the best whiskeys that Glenmorangie has ever created, including some drinks matured in three Two is already a lot, but three is practically unheard of in this industry. As a whole, these are better than the Core Expressions, but also more expensive due to the added steps for making them.
These bottles are where Glenmorangie's line truly starts to become limited. The Private Edition line has won numerous awards, but they don't release more than one product each year for this collection. Each is a unique flavor, often involving a maturation in rare, equally-limited wine casks. Once these bottles are gone, chances are they'll never return.
Travel Retail Exclusives
These bottles are more available than the Private Editions - but only when you're traveling. As the Distiller Blog explains, travel retail bottles are sold in special areas (often just airports) as an exciting, premium product to help convert customers into fans. You can't buy them online or at your local store unless someone went out of their way - though you may be able to hire someone to buy a bottle or two for you.
These are among the rarest bottles that Glenmorangie offers to the public. Sometimes, this is because they quite literally can't make more because of the rarity of the casks used (such as the slow-grown Ozark oak casks used in the Astar). Unlike the Private Editions, these may return once they're gone.
As you may have noticed from the descriptions of the categories, Glenmorangie's focus on managing casks is an integral part of the company. They're quite proud of it - and they regularly look for new types of casks that can impart creative new flavors to their drinks. In many ways, Glenmorangie believes that mastery of casks leads to the perfection of whiskey - and the focus on wood lends a distinct personality to their drinks.
Unlike most companies, Glenmorangie only uses its casks twice (versus as many as six times at other companies). This helps to ensure the maximum amount of flavor is extracted into each drink.
Aside from their focus on casks, Glenmorangie has one other claim to fame: the tallest stills in Scotland. Each of them is 8 meters high (about 26 feet), with their copper necks going another 5.14 meters up. The goal of these is simple: ensuring only the lightest vapors rise to be formed into drinks. This part of the process is a significant driver behind the smooth taste Glenmorangie is famed for.
Pricing of Glenmorangie drinks varies widely - and prices aren't necessarily going to be matched by every store in an area. As such, the prices listed below are best understood as a range instead of a fixed price you'll be able to find.
The Original (Core Expression)
$31.99. In many ways the main product of the distillery, The Original is affordable, well-liked, and widely available. Chances are any decent whiskey retailer in your area has at least a few bottles of this, and if they don't, they know how to get them.
Signet (Prestige Expression)
$280. A significant jump in price from The Original, this bottle is easiest to find online. If it's available in-store, chances are you're at a high-end retailer. That said, it's still common enough that most stores can order it for you.
Bacalta (Private Edition)
$90. Considerably more affordable than the Signet - surprisingly enough - this product is still available online and in stores. However, quantities are distinctly more limited, so you may need to check multiple stores as the bottles are sold. The Bacalta is the 2017 entry, so it's still widely available - the older ones aren't quite so easy to get.
The Tarlogan (Travel Retail Exclusive)
$90, potentially much higher when the tax is factored in. Pricing may be lower if you can find it for sale in an airport. Part of the added cost of this bottle is the needed profit margin for companies that buy it to resell later. This bottle is one of the hardest to find, and you may need to import it from another country.
Astar 2017 (Limited Edition)
$125. This bottle is more available than any of the Travel Retail exclusives - though, like the Private Editions, supplies may be limited. You may need to special-order this, and due to the special distillation process, supplies are extremely limited.
Public Perception (Other Glenmorangie Reviews)
Glenmorangie (or, more formally, The Glenmorangie Company Limited) doesn't have many reviews as a company. When we checked on Google, we found the business itself had only three Google reviews - which, interestingly, were all 5-stars.
Their drinks have far more reviews available, so these are what we decided to use. Note that these reviews are for different drinks - they're meant to provide a broad picture of the company's products as a whole.
The Original is the most widely-purchased product, and Distiller.com gave it an average rating of 3.4/5 after more than 2,600 reviews. That's a lot of reviews - enough to weed out any strange outliers - and a surprisingly low score for such a generally reputable company.
Unfortunately, most of the reviews explained little to nothing about what buyers liked or disliked - and this was a problem for our team. We prefer to focus on reviews that provide genuinely useful information, but many of Distiller.com's reviews only had a star rating. The sheer number of reviews helps to provide context, but without more information, we found this final score hard to trust.
From the reviews that did have comments, we noticed a strong element of personal preference. Some low reviews mentioned simply not liking it that much, while higher reviews mentioned the vanilla flavors and the general smoothness of the drink.
The Whisky Exchange
had a different opinion of the 10 Year Old Original, putting it at 4.5/5 after 130 reviews. Multiple reviews cited this bottle as sweet, smooth, and balanced. We also noticed several reviews calling this drink out as the ideal choice for introducing people to whiskey - it's quite mild and unlikely to overpower people with its flavor.
The Whiskey Wash
gave a 4.5/5 rating to the Glenmorangie Spios, the 2018 entry for the Private Editions. Unlike some of the multi-cask releases, this product is matured entirely in ex-rye whiskey casks. This provides a full-bodied, savory flavor to Glenmorangie's typically smooth spirits. The reviewer was particularly struck by the hints of clove and pepper spice - and the lack of the rough character typical of rye whiskeys.
gave a score of 92.5/100 to the Glenmorangie Bacalta, the 2017 entry in the Private Editions line. This is a more complicated drink than the Spios - it was first matured in former bourbon casks, then moved to new casks that originally contained Malmsey Madeira wine.
The reviewer stated that there is nothing subtle about the drink - it's a bold, in-your-face flavor. Despite that, they felt it had a strangely endearing, gentle flow in the flavor. That's not each to achieve, and it shows Glenmorangie's mastery of the casking process. They were especially fond of the change from a rich, sweet start to a spice, zesty finish - and recommend buying it sooner instead of later if you want to try it.
(via winemag.com) gave the Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban an overall score of 93/100, or 'Excellent.' This was a briefer review than most we preferred looking at and suggested adding a little water to bring it fully into focus. The writer took particular note of the way the flavor changed from vanilla and spice to espresso and finally to dulce de leche - much like a great coffee.
These are just a few of the reviews we found. Overall, Glenmorangie gets positive marks from other people, especially for their limited products. The only part of their line that seems to be a concern is The Original - and even then, opinions typically range from 70% to 90% positive. That's not exactly a bad range for any drink to be in, though we'd still like it to be a little higher.
How It Compares
Glenmorangie compares extremely favorably to other whiskey companies, especially those focused on Single Malt Scotch. As you can see in the pricing section, their costs range from quite affordable (especially The Original) to premium-but-not-ridiculous (the Signet). Some companies sell bottles that go for thousands of dollars, and while rare Glenmorangie releases can reach those heights, most don't.
Even without pricing as a consideration, the company is reviewed quite positively and many of their drinks are reviewed in the 4-5 star range. We're not going to go as far as saying they're the best whiskey company currently in business (they're definitely more limited by sales than popular brands like Jack Daniels), but the flavors and prices of their drinks can compete with just about anyone.
What We Think
If you enjoy whiskey - and if you don't, why are you reading this? - we strongly recommend trying Glenmorangie. The reason for this is simple: They're creative and continually working to create new flavors. This is especially noticeable in any drink aged in at least one wine cask.
Whiskey preferences are a personal matter, so there's no way for us to predict exactly what you might like. The only thing you can do is experience it for yourself. Fortunately, the Core Expression line (where you should start) is priced quite competitively and available in most areas.
Coupons And Deals
Glenmorangie rarely offers direct discounts on its products. However, you may be able to score a deal on their drinks by buying from a larger retailer currently offering a discount on their products. These discounts tend to be grouped by category - so instead of looking for "Glenmorangie coupons," try something like "Scotch whiskey coupons." This is more likely to get you a discount.