1989 is long enough ago that there are people in my office younger than the whisky I’m sniffing right now. These colleagues were the result of romantic encounters their parents were perhaps yet to have; but while they were finding a pre-Tinder way to meet and pair off, the Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1989 had already been distilled and set out on a journey of refinement that would lead it inexorably to my glass. Chill filtered, 43% ABV, caramel in hue, this is one to get lost in.
The 1989 has a long and strangely bittersweet story, insofar as it was birthed by some of the last amber to come from Glenmorangie’s old still house before Scotland’s insatiable demand forced the distillery to convert a warehouse big enough to handle the volume they needed. The still house, built in 1887, was retired, but not before secreting its 1989 expressions. Glenmorangie distillery demi-god Bill Lumsden – creator of the Private Editions – saw an opportunity to do something special, and threw a precious reservoir of 1989 into Côte-Rôtie wine casks to be finished.
These elite casks imbue the vintage with fruit that is both monstrous and delicate – quite a feat – leading to a whisky with a delicious degree of exclusivity. So how does she taste? Well the nose is fresh and not at all heavy; but this is Glenmorangie, after all – we expect sweetness and light. But once we dive in, there’s a brittle smokiness in there that comes as a surprise, and the oily, peppery feel of a peatier whisky. Recognisably Glenmorangie, but with extra bass – like a subwoofer under the sofa you can’t quite place. The finish is more familiar and it’s certaintly sweet on the way out, but this is an altogether more profound Glenmorangie than the casual drinker will have come to expect.
A delight, in short. No surprise given that the 1990 Grand Vintage Malt won a clutch of awards and adorns the drinks cabinet of many a choosy boozehound. This one will fare much the same. It isn’t cheap, but something 27 years in the making is unlikely to be; and this one is worth breaking out for special occasions in any case. The only question remains: what else did they sneak out of that place?
Who knows what Bill Lumsden has been cooking up in secret…
Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989 will be available from specialist retailers and Clos 19, RSP: £550.