Glenmorangie Allta (2019) – review & notes

The new Allta

A decade of Private Editions

2019 marks the 10th year in Glenmorangie’s Private release line of whiskies. The PR’s essentially is an opportunity for Glenmorangie’s Bill Lumsden to think out of the box and experiment with different cask finishes, different barley types, and now different yeast types- in order to create a new and different whisky every year.

A quick re-cap of the 9 previous Private editions is due, do you remember them all?

  • edition #1 – Sonnalta PX
  • edition #2 – Finealta 
  • edition #3 – Artein 
  • edition #4 – Ealanta
  • edition #5 – Companta
  • edition #6 – Tùsail
  • edition #7 – Milsean 
  • edition #8 – Bacalta 
  • edition #9 Spìos
source: @glenmorangie instagram

Why ‘Allta’?

Unlike most years where the variable is the cask type, or barley type (like it was done for the Tùsail back in 2015, this time around Dr. Lumsden has tried something new : Dr. Bill Lumsden collected barley from fields around Tain, where the distillery is located and one sample from Cadboll Estate nearby the distillery contained a wild yeast that was later isolated at the lab and allowed to multiply in and produced in quantities as to be used in the fermentation. this yeast strain is named ‘Saccharomyces Diaemath’. This is the reason they named the whisky “Allta” which means “Wild” in Gaelic.

Wild yeast in fermentation

One thing to bear in mind is that the fermentation is being done by only one strain of yeast, which differs from the regular ‘distiller’s yeast’, but was cultivated in the lab. usually when we refer to ‘wild’ fermentation a few types of yeast will participate in the process, as well as some bacteria. Here the wildness was somewhat controlled, but at any rate, it’s highly interesting to see how the different strain of yeast will affect spirit.

The original plan was to mature the spirit for 15 years in 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrels as to allow the wood to interact with the spirit, but also to let the spirit shine and not shadow it with wood, but as it happened, Allta was aged for under 10 years (7-8 , though it’s not mentioned on the label) as the wood notes were stronger than anticipated, and Lumsden did not want to loose the uniqueness of the liquid to more maturation and masking of aromas and flavors by the wood.

I was lucky enough to have tried this locally at the launch event in Tel-Aviv, which tool place a few weeks after the original international launch, hosted by Hamish Torrie of Glenmorangie.

Glenmorangie Allta, 51.2% , £78

Nose: A lovely and rich nose, with a nice combination of sweetness and funkiness : citrus fruit and vanilla (mostly orange and grapefruit), candy (candy floss, and marshmallow) alongside spices (fresh ground peppercorns, cinnamon). There’s also orchard fruit, mainly green pear and some mint as well. Some people said it smelled a bit young (some new make-ish notes), but I found it quite balanced, and the wood not over-powering. This is clearly different than your average Glenmorangie. It is funky but don’t expect too much funk, it’s wild but not too wild..

Palate: Oily and full with a fun combination of sweetness, citrus fruit, a nice maltiness, and sweet pastries alongside grapefruit , Scottish tablet, and a honeyed note which is nicely balanced by the lemony notes. There’s quite some wood indeed, but not overpowering, and i find it contributes to the balance and complexity. Fun stuff and easy sipping at 51.2% abv even without water.

Finish: Medium length, with mint, wood spices, and lemon rind.

Conclusion: A very successful experiment IMHO. While not overly ‘wild’ the Allta is highly drinkable and offers a different flavor profile than your average Glenmorangie. Among the better Private Edition of recent years. Always fun seeing such editions emerge from big whisky brands, who allow themselves to experiment with different parameters that affect the whisky.

Score: 87/100

Available online on the Master of Malt online shop , £78

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