No Room For Originals?

The price of all single malt whisky isn't constantly on the upward trajectory—just the ones you have to have, can't get, and spend your entire life lusting after. Those continue to get pricier by the minute. Basic staples, however, like Glenmorangie 10 continue to get more competitive with their marketing; to the point that I'm starting to get sticker shock from how low some of these prices are getting. Did you know that Glenmorangie 10—The Original—is now only $2 more a bottle than Glenlivet 12? That's fucking crazy! Because we all know that Glenmorangie 10 is at least twice as good as Glenlivet 12 (do we all know that? If not, I'm telling you—it's twice as good). It's not a bargain brand, Safeway-shelf, in-the-well-at-your-local-watering-hole bottle of single malt. It's a legitimate brand, for God's sake! What in the hell is going on?!

When David Blackmore was here for Whisky Week earlier this month, he stopped by the store and retasted us on the entire Glenmorangie portfolio. To his chagrin, I think I walked away most impressed with the 10 year (he wanted me to appreciate how much better the Lasanta had become). How can you not be impressed with a whisky that manages to get better in quality, yet lower in price? We're at $29.99 now (down from $35), which makes The Original a sub-$30 whisky. It now costs the same as a bottle of Eagle Rare 10. Less than a bottle of St. George gin! Less than a bottle of designer vodka!! For 100% malted barley distillate aged ten years in Bourbon barrels, you're paying less than you would for rectified neutral grain spirit diluted with tap water. Something is very wrong with that equation. Single malt whisky is the most expensive beverage by volume that we carry. How can something this good be this affordable, especially given all we've been told about supply shortages, price increases, and disappearing age statements? It doesn't add up.

It's not like Glenmorangie distillery is some giant factory; a giant metal complex pumping out steam you can see from a mile away (that's Glenfiddich). It's a small, quaint, picturesque place. When we visited the site back in 2013 I was quite taken aback by the unassuming scale. It's not like the product is cheaper to make now, or that they've removed the "10" and are now adding younger whiskies. It tastes better than it ever has, to me. I'm sipping the 10 year old right now as I write this, thinking about how the rich vanilla on the finish never thins out, and how the fruitiness of the whisky shines just as brightly as it does in more expensive expressions like Clynelish 14. I can't figure out if Glenmorangie is doing themselves a disservice by offering their whisky at this price; or if they're doing whisky drinkers a favor. In this age of $100 limited edition rarities, where people see a one bottle limit and say, "I'll take one! What is it?" is there any room for a $30 bottle of Glenmorangie? Does anyone still drink $30 single malt, even if it's an outstanding value? Who's drinking for the sake of drinking right now? Anyone? Buehler?

Part of the issue with garnering steam for something basic and to-the-point are the expectations consumers have in today's whisky market. Everything needs to be the best, or the coolest, or hard-to-get, or there needs to be a back story. Make fun of modern marketing if you want, the focus on fairy tales, but they're only reacting to what consumers are buying. We talk about the lack of value, how everything isn't as good as it used to be, but then LVMH throws Glenmorangie 10 out there at $29.99—no BS, just great booze—and whisky drinkers say, "Meh, I've already had that. What I really want is Port Ellen, but I'm not looking to break the bank." Good luck with that. The value is out there if you want it. If you want to drink great whisky for a great price, you can. I've got tons of GlenMo 10 here right now; all you want for a hot price. You can buy my bottle of Pappy 20 for $1000, if you want. I'll buy 33 bottles of Glenmorangie 10 and have a giant party with all my friends.

That's worth the money. That's drinking to drink. That's cool, to me. 

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll