For nearly a decade, Glenmorangie has upheld a tradition of releasing an annual, limited-edition whisky to its Private Edition line. Each one takes a unique twist from the Highlands distillery’s normal process, usually inspired and influenced by some experience of Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks, Dr. Bill Lumsden.
The tradition started in 2009 with Sonnalta PX, a 12-year-old finished for two years in Spanish Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, and it has gone on to include expressions like Tùsail (inspired by a particular and obscure malting barley) and Artein (a stone-inspired spirit finished in Tuscan red wine casks).
This year, the inspiration comes our side of the Atlantic Ocean with Glenmorangie’s Spìos, a single malt whisky aged for an unspecified amount of time in American ex-rye whiskey casks, “the long-lost taste of America’s golden whiskey era,” as Glenmorangie puts it.
As we’ve previously reported, the idea for this installment of the Private Edition series stems back to Lumsden’s sojourn in the United States in the 1990s. Reflecting on rye’s storied past in America and its descent to relative obscurity by the 90s, Lumsden was particularly struck by the remaining rye distilleries he visited during that trip – so struck that he eventually first-fill rye casks from the heart of Kentucky to the heart of the Scottish Highlands, according to a press release from the distillery.
Among the aspects that struck him was the spicy, clove- and cinnamon-like flavor of rye, leading the distillery to name this expression “spice” in Scots Gaelic (Spìos is pronounced “spee-oss,” they point out).
While Glenmorangie gives a lot of detail on Spìos’ backstory, it gives precious few details on the more practical details on how the whisky was made, other than that it was aged for some amount of time in ex-rye casks, was non-chill filtered and was bottled at 46% ABV.
As this is a limited release in a collection, I’d recommend anyone even mildly interested pick up a bottle when they come across it, as it may be harder to find in the future or sell for far more than the $99 suggested retail price.
Tasting Notes: Glenmorangie Spìos
Vital stats: Single Malt Scotch whisky fully matured in first-fill American ex-rye casks from Kentucky for an unspecified amount of time. Non-chill filtered at bottled at 46% ABV. Suggested retail price of about $99 per bottle.
Appearance: Bright gold, lighter than average but not by too much.
Nose: The first whiff carries a sweet vanilla scent into the nasal passages, given a bit of tartness from a mild pineapple and orange character. That then takes an earthier and spicier tone as the overall bouquet develops notes of hay, clove, raisins, and oak with a touch of sandalwood.
Palate: Entry onto the tongue first tastes like a creamy vanilla, a bit of an earthy, hay-like flavor but still rich and sweet. However, Spios quickly takes on a spicy character, dominated primarily by clove, pepper, and nutmeg with a touch of coffee. The intensity of the spiciness builds as it stays in the mouth, but never to an overwhelming degree. Swallowing unleashes a quick burst of those spices in the back of the mouth before reverting back to the creamy, rich vanilla from the outset – this time with a bit more of a toffee flavor – with a consistent but gentle tingle of spice in the corners of the mouth as the flavors slowly fade.
With Spìos, Glenmorangie accomplished exactly what it set out to do. While still retaining the sweet, delicate complexity that Glenmorangie does so well, the rye casks added a bit of the clove and pepper spice found in a good rye. While it lacks the rough-and-tumble harshness rye can often have, it goes about as far as you could expect from a more restrained spirit like what Glenmorangie tends to produce. I’d highly recommend Spìos as a once-in-a-while splurge if you see it at your liquor store.