Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Artein 15 Years Old

, | October 2, 2017

Glenmorangie has carved quite an industry niche with its wine finishes. My review of Nectar d’Or last summer explained how Glenmorangie Company was one of the first to legitimize the practice of finishing its whiskies in wine casks. Yes, I know that I’m starting to date myself, but I actually do remember a time (a few decades ago) when finishing whiskies in wine casks was generally thought of as “iffy” and controversial.

Today, finishing is done quite a lot by some very reputable distilleries. I think that Glenmorangie deserves credit for showing the world how it was done– not only in terms of creating some award-winning single malt Scotch whiskies– but also in demonstrating how the practice of finishing batches in wine and port casks could be profitable.

Artein was finished in Sassicaia red wine casks from Tuscany, Italy. The vatting consisted of one third 21 year-old, and two-thirds 15 year-old whiskies, both matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks. Artein was then finished for a remaining “period of time,” according to the distillery notes. Judging by the color of this lovely whisky, I would estimate that it rested in Italian wine casks for around a year’s time.

When I put my bottle of Finealta next to it, I can see that Artein is a touch darker, as well as more reddish in hue. Super Tuscans are usually very “big” wines, with rich, bold scents and flavors. These characteristics clearly made their mark on Artein, as you will see from my tasting notes.

The name “Artein” comes from the Scots Gaelic word for ‘stone.’ This relates to the rocky soil where Italian Sassicaia vines typically are planted. It’s also worth mentioning that natural Scottish spring water was used to make Artein. Such a spring tends to bubble up from rocks that exhibit mineral characteristics, as well. Hence, the name “Artein,” yet again.

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Call it a clever marketing gimmick if you like. I appreciate the Scottish word for stone, as opposed to the less interesting German word, “Stein,” which is used in Germany to describe a beer container (usually with a handle and a hinged lid) that is made of stoneware.

Glenmorangie Artein

image via Whisky Kirk/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Glenmorangie Artein

Vital Stats: 46% ABV / 92 proof; bottled in 2011; 100% malted barley; discontinued and long since sold out, yet some retailers currently offer the release at $300 and up.

Appearance: Deep amber in color with attenuated beading and nice slow legs, which reveal this whisky’s age at 15-20 years old. No surprises when it comes to the characteristics of vintage. I really like to see that sort of evidence in my glass. Not only is such a display of chemistry “in motion” reassuring to one’s sense of propriety–it’s also pretty cool to witness.

Nose: The fruits surface first, rushing in like angels, gliding along the river of life, in a William Blake painting. I’m happy to report the mouth feel is pleasantly viscous, without biting into the gums. Fruit notes are all over the place. I’m getting red fruits, stone fruits, and berries–all at once. Braeburn apples, fresh raspberry, blueberry. Stewed peaches and plums.

Now comes a hint of mint, along with creamy milk chocolate, and perhaps a little coffee brewing distantly in the kitchen. This nose is more complex than Finealta, but the farminess of the latter is dearly missed. A different presentation altogether, I know, I know. But still, I miss the faint breeze of a barn yard by the sea.

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Mouth: Honey comb; white chocolate; sultana. In time–a few seconds, really–the palate turns fruity, with stewed peaches and plumbs coming to the fore. As I chew this whisky, its wood presence comes through, rising up through my nose–head rush! Now there’s white pepper, cafe au lait, and turmeric. Oh, let’s not forget to mention chocolate orange. Yes, there’s plenty of chocolate in this whisky to go around.

The finish is medium long, with yet more chocolate orange carrying straight through. Lemon zest gathers along the edges of one’s tongue like Charlie Chaplin balancing precariously on a curb, with cane and coattails flying every which way. But alas, the little tramp’s whisky-induced balancing act must end. A final crescendo of oak esters ready one’s palate for another sip.

The Takeaway
4

Glenmorangie Artein comes in a classy box, with gold lettering over gray and red colors. At this point, it’s too expensive to buy as a gift for anyone except a collector, or a fan of whisky from years gone by. I will go on record as saying that I like Artein more than Finealta, as my ratings indicate. However, I do really appreciate the peaty influence in Finealta, as well as that barnyardy bravado, and a pinch of peat between the cheek and gums–so unexpected, and yet so glorious in a Glenmorangie.

Poking around the Internet, I can see on Wine Searcher that a few bottles of Artein are still available in North America. Would I personally fork out three hundred bucks to snag one? No, I wouldn’t…but, then again, I can remember when this whisky could be found on the shelves at a liquor store near me for a for a quarter of that price. It was certainly fun reviewing the bottle. This one is the perfect “go-to” whisky in late summer, and early fall.

In fact, just last night, I was sitting out on my front porch, cradling a glass in my hands. After the sun went down over the West Hills of Portland, a coppery sliver of moon rose up into the sky, thanks to an unhealthy amount of forest fire smoke lying over the city like an ancient Mosaic curse. Believe it or not, the color of that moon closely matched the tint of Artein in my whisky tumbler.

Thankfully, the sky didn’t rain down frogs, and the Willamette river didn’t turn to blood. I’m crossing my fingers that the air quality of Portland will return to its former glory, as soon as possible. Up goes my glass of Artein–held proudly, held high: “Long live humanity! Long live Planet Earth! To our collective health! Sláinte mhaith!”

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User Review
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Whisky Kirk

Kirk discovered the brilliance of Scottish whisky in 1987 while vacationing in Edinburgh. Over the course of three and a half decades that followed, he's built upon a knowledge of distilleries and the industry, as well as world whisky. Kirk prides himself on speaking honestly while avoiding the usual flattery...