Whisky hidden away for 19 years is ‘world’s best’

Glenmorangie distillery in Tain. Picture: Contributed
Glenmorangie distillery in Tain. Picture: Contributed
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A SINGLE malt released earlier this year as a limited edition has been hailed as “borderline perfection” by one of the world’s leading whisky experts.

In an endorsement that will have connoisseurs lining up to try a tipple, Glenmorangie’s Ealanta has been declared the best dram in the world.

The whisky has been a closely guarded secret at the firm’s Tain distillery for close to two decades – part of an experiment using virgin American white oak casks from Missouri as part of the maturation process.

Now though, whisky aficionados will be seeking out the drink after it received handsome praise in the latest edition of the respected Whisky Bible.

Jim Murray, author of the annual publication and an internationally renowned expert on whisky, scored Ealanta 97.5 out of a possible 100 in the 2014 edition of the guide, pipping the Kentucky bourbon William Larue Weller to the coveted title of World Whisky of the Year.

Describing the single malt as having “one of the longest finishes of any Scotch this year,” Mr Murray’s entry hails Ealanta as “borderline perfection”.

Praising its distinctive aroma and taste, Mr Murray explained: “Glenmorangie Ealanta pipped others to the post because it went out and did something different; not only did it blow one away with its deftness, beauty and elegance, but it gave an aroma and taste profile completely new to me in over 30 years of tasting whisky.”

Ealanta – Scots Gaelic for “skilled and ingenious” – is fully matured in virgin American white oak casks for 19 years.

The whisky, which retails at £74.99, was released at the start of this year as the fourth annual release in Glenmorangie’s private edition range. The malt’s aroma is described by the company as a mix of toffee, butterscotch, vanilla and “a curious hint of stewed fruits”, with a taste combining “candied orange peel, sugar coated almonds, sweet vanilla and marzipan”.

Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s director of distilling and whisky creation, said the recognition was a fine achievement.

Explaining the genesis of the malt, he said: “Twenty years ago we did a series of experiments to find the perfect type of barrel for Glenmorangie. These are virgin oak, which means this is the first time they’ve been used.

“I hid the barrels in a corner of a warehouse 19 years ago so the whisky didn’t get used in a blend. I first opened [them] three or four years ago and realised I’d created something different. Then it was a question of selecting the right year when it was at its peak. That has arrived.”

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible – which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year – rates more than 4,500 whiskies every year.

In the new edition, Mr Murray renews his criticism of companies which use caramel to colour whisky, a process he says dulls taste and aroma. He said: “Ten years ago, my campaign against caramel had a huge and positive impact on many distillers and independent bottlers around the world. But it is a shame that, a decade on, some of the bigger boys continue to use it. I hope my campaign will lead at least to legal acknowledgement on labels of the presence of colouring, as is the case in Germany.”