Author Mack McConnell is a Paris-based contributing writer for Cocktail Enthusiast. He also runs a Whiskey of the Month Club.
In addition to its lineup of fine whiskies — Glenmorangie Signet included — The Glenmorangie Distillery’s real contribution to the whisky category is its popularizing a production technique called “finishing”. When whisky ages, the majority of it happens in traditional oak barrels. However, around 1995, Glenmorangie began to experiment with finishing a whisky’s maturation cycle by moving it into a second barrel for a brief period. This added new influences to the color and character of the nose. Most often, Glenmorangie would employ barrels that previously held port or sherry.
Shortly thereafter, Glenmorangie released these experiments to the world and we were given three “wood finishes” — a Madeira finish, a Sherry finish and a Port finish — each of which was met with great acclaim. For example, Glenmorangie’s Lasanta, which is finished in Oloroso sherry casks, has never received less than a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competitions. And we’re fans of Glenmorangie Artein, which is finished in Bordeaux-style Sassicaia (Super Tuscan) casks. With all this experimentation, they’re getting a lot right.
These days, so many distilleries are building on this finishing technique to the point where it’s downright common. Distilleries are trying new woods, longer aging periods and other methods to make their whiskies more dynamic and interesting to an increasingly curious customer base. Bruichladdich and Edradour seem to be known in particular for radical approaches to finishing. Edradour is currently marketing products that were finished in barrels of Pedro Ximénez, a white Spanish wine grape, and Sassicaia, a red Italian wine grape.
All that brings us to Glenmorangie Signet. This one is interesting for a couple reasons. First, it sticks to the theme and is aged in a variety of different woods, including new, charred oak and Spanish sherry casks. But also, it’s comprised of 30 year old malts — both regular whisky malts and chocolate malts. The latter add a rich, espresso-like quality to the whisky. Now, let’s take it for a spin.
Color: It pours dark amber in the glass.
Nose: Aromas of bourbon oak and vanilla, plus hints of coffee beans and marshmallow. In the mix you’ll even find some lemon peel and fresh mint leaves.
Taste: Right off the bat it’s milk chocolate, butter and caramel. The whisky is warm and full-bodied with prominent vanilla notes, plus malted cereal flavors and hazelnuts.
Finish: A long finish with mouth-drying oak tannins. Towards the end, there’s a gentle hint of fresh berries.
It’s another fine expression from Glenmorangie. Pair this one with a comfortable chair, a good book and a fine cigar. Or something else entirely. You can’t go wrong.
– 46% ABV
– $150 and up