Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Finealta - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Finealta

By Whisky Kirk / September 26, 2017

Time has a way of changing history–sometimes for the better. People tend to learn a thing or two from their mistakes, and even more from the mistakes of those in positions of authority. Yea, verily. Twenty-twenty hindsight has always been more accurate than the cross hairs of a thirty-aught-six.

Just what in the heck am I prattling on about, you ask?  Why, Scotch whisky, of course. Six or seven years ago, a vast preponderance of critics gushed praise for Glenmorangies of all kinds, even while thumbing their noses at Springbanks, calling them “rude, crude, and unpredictable.” For every barrel, a bung hole, and for every critic an opinion.

Were such as they–which once blasted out a torrent of negative press about boutique-y distilleries like Springbank–wrong? Let history be the judge. The world of ambitious whisky drinkers has literally exploded over the past seven years. Youtube is brimming with contemplative reviews.

Often such videos use adjectives like “rich,” “smooth,” and “creamy.” But don’t let the lack of sophisticated diction fool you. Quite a few home-spun critics are committed to buying interesting bottles. They’ve tasted a surprisingly wide array of bourbons, whiskeys, and single malt Scotches. And since they are constantly looking for a new thrill, they have understandably grown tired of cookie cutter-style offerings, released in enormous batches, which sacrifice the ups and downs of intriguing character, in exchange for consistency.

King of the Castle, or Dirty Rascal? 

Enter Glenmorangie Finealta Private Edition, the distillery’s effort to recreate what Glenmorangie might have tasted like in the early 1900s. It’s rustic. It’s rugged. It’s even “dirty,” but there’s also a drop or two of elegance in the mix. Yes, this one’s got a little bit of everything hiding behind the faux-filigreed label: sweet sherry, smoky peat, and a pinch of gall thrown in for good measure. It’s nowhere close to being quintessential Glenmorangie, however, at least not in terms of contemporary NAS releases.

Yes, the bottling under review is fairly old–at least in terms of my collection, which tends to start with whiskies bottled circa 2010. Because of this fact, it was difficult to open up Ye Olde Finealta, I must confess. The longer a whisky sits in my basement, gathering dust, the harder it is for me to bring myself to strip off the sealing wax, and pop the cork.

For those readers unfamiliar with Glenmorangie, suffice it to say the company is owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. The stills used to produce its whisky are reputedly some of the tallest in the industry, exposing the rising spirit to even more copper. With more time to rise, vapors tend to luxuriate and rarify themselves, creating a refined, elegant product.

All right. ‘nough said. Let’s move on to the fun part of this review. I’m certainly game to revisit my bottle of Finealta, which is down about three fingers so far, hovering just above the label.

Tasting Notes: Glenmorangie Finealta

Vital Stats: 46% ABV / 92 proof; no age statement; 100% malted barley; price varies dramatically these days, but a 750ml bottle cost between $60-70 in January of 2011. A peek online at Wine Searcher reveals (surprisingly) that bottles that can still be had out of auction. The cheapest sells for $200, whereas the highest price is triple that already excessive figure.

Appearance: Tawny in color, with nymphet-like tears. Plump young legs in my glass take their sweet time rolling down. Curious. Normally, the smaller the tears, the older the whisky, and the more slowly they descend.

Nose: Forest loam; modeling putty; orange marmalade; sea salt; lemon zest; creamery butter; a forest fire burning thousands of acres, albeit many miles away; allspice; clove.

Palate: A nice, gentle wood presence emerges in a way that evokes the same allspice that was noticeable in the nose. There’s also a floral presence here. Jasmine or lily? Tough choice. I’m going with jasmine. The sherry presence in my glass is mercurial, to be sure. Fruit flavors emerge, yielding mandarin orange, Hachiya persimmon, and sour pie cherries. In fact, the cherry note borders on Kirschwasser.

Farmy, smokey charms are never far behind: Steady-on…wow, this is so atypical for a Glenmorangie, at least in terms of the contemporary releases. Love it! There’s also a charming essence of minerality, which reminds me of TerraAlta blanco tequila in the best of ways. I keep trying to focus on a note of dark chocolate, but its sweet nothings are upstaged by the impatient bite of virgin oak. Woody resins, together a splash of young spirit, create the sensation left in one’s mouth from chewing tobacco, long after the “dip” is gone.

Finish: Medium in length with allspice, pepper corn, dark chocolate, lemon rind, and a gentle curl of peat smoke. No water is needed to fully appreciate all that this whisky has to offer.

The Takeaway

Thank you, Glenmorangie, for producing a dirty rascal with the playful naivete of a virgin. This is a winning combination in each and every sip. I only wish more Glenmorangies flirted with such an alluring combination of scents and flavors. Mmm hmm. Finealta makes the vast majority of NAS single malt Scotch whiskies these days seem predictable, and even boring, by comparison.

Now, in all honesty, is this one of the more complex single malt Scotches that I've ever tasted? Uh, no. Not by a long shot. But it's quite rewarding in the way it evokes the gracefully jaded Glenmorangies of yesteryear.

If you can find a bottle of this lovely tramp at auction, then snatch 'er up--that is, if your wallet is fat enough to withstand a donkey punch. Expect to pay at least twice what Finealta cost back when it was released in January of 2011. After you hit the "buy" icon at auction, in time, you will be treated to a taste of history. Down the hatch, upsie daisies. Not all that glitters is gold. Take your medicine, along with desert.

Once you've added the memory of this bottle to your repertoire of happily misfired brain cells, then you will command a greater sense of perspective in so far as vintage whisky is concerned. And when an equally knowledgeable drinking buddy laments the lack of happy accidents in today's whisky market, you can raise your glass with confidence: "A toast! A toast! To the good ole days...when men were steel, boats were wood, and Scotch was deliciously unpredictable."

User Rating 3.6 (5 votes)