Private Edition No. 9

While bold, brash, unadulterated, in-your-face flavor has dominated the market for the last five years or so with big peat, big sherry, and huge IPA-style intensity captivating our attention spans from craft beer, to Cabernet, to cask strength whisky, I have to think there's only so much further any drinks company can successfully take that direction. How much more peaty can we get than mouth-blistering Octomore? How much more sherry can you pack into a single malt than what's in the tropically-enhanced Kavalan Solist series? There's a point when hot sauce is simply too hot and begins to lose its intial purpose, which is to make my tacos taste better. Flavor is what we're supposed to be after, rather than intensity. 

Nuance, however, is still rather untapped. There's plenty of ground yet to be broken in the realm of subtle complexity. That's why I was very proud of Bill Lumsden and the team at Glenmorangie when I tasted the new Spios Private Edition last week, the ninth in the distillery's ongoing series of limited releases. Rather than change direction, cater to the populist agenda, and lose their identity, Glenmorangie went even softer on the palate with a new whisky aged entirely in ex-American rye whiskey barrels, full term. What you get is simply classic American oak aged Glenmo with just a touch of that herbaceous character we love in rye whiskey. There's a greater presence of baking spice, cinnamon and cloves, as well as loads of buttery vanilla and fruit, but the finish is peppery with that unmistakable note of rye lingering in the background ever so slightly. 

Nothing about the new Spios is bold or brash. Even the rye notes, the core selling point of the product, are more like accents rather than anything foundational. I smiled with glee after tasting this again this morning. It's nice to see a great whisky company stick to doing what it does best, in spite of what today's popular statistics might say. In the end, no one drinks Glenmorangie because it's intense. Quite the contrary. We drink Glenmorangie because it's beautiful.

Glenmorangie "Spios" Private Edition Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky $99.99 - The 9th release of the award winning "Private Edition" from Glenmorangie is a true labor of love for their Chief Whisky Creation officer, Dr Bill Lumsden. The good doctor explains that his obsession with rye whiskey (in particular the casks that had previously aged that rare American whiskey) began when famed Whisky & Beer writer Michael Jackson visited the distillery with a sample of the historical American whiskey. It was Bill's first time diving into one of the America's great spirits and at the time, sometime in the 90s, Rye whiskey was next to impossible to acquire. It took Dr. Bill a full decade to secure casks that had previously only held whiskey from Kentucky distilled with Rye as the big grain. Into he put the majestic and elegant Glenmo spirit an approximately another decade later released this special whisky. Spios, a Gaelic word meaning spiced, is as pointed with the rye casks as you might expect. Cinnamon, clove, hints of nutmeg and sweet creamy vanilla from the American oak work wonders around the fruity open Glenmo malt. For anyone who appreciates the excellent malts being released in this wonderful line of limited edition whiskies as well as single malt drinkers seeking new and exciting flavor profiles, this is a must buy.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll