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Archive for the ‘Gift Packs’ Category

Introduction

Gift pack box

Gift pack box

I love sample-sized whisky bottles. As a whisky enthusiast, there are a LOT of distilleries to become familiar with, and only so much money in the ‘ol bank account (and room in the cupboard). Glenmorangie offers “The Glenmorangie Collection” gift pack, which contains four 100 ml bottles:

  • The Original – Glenmorangie’s signature expression, aged 10 years and bottled at 43% for the U.S. market (and apparently 40% in the UK). It’s aged in ex-bourbon casks.
  • The Lasanta – After 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, The Lasanta is aged an additional 2 years in Oloroso Sherry casks.
  • The Quinta Ruban – Like The Lasanta, this 12 year old spends the first 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, but it’s then transferred to Ruby Port pipes for the final two years.
  • The Nectar D’or – The final “extra matured” expression. This one is finished in Sauternes wine barriques.

The 100 ml bottle size is nice, as it allows several tasting sessions in order to get a really good feel for what each expression is all about. This gift pack sells locally for $47. Obviously, this is a higher per-ml price for the whisky, but I was happy to pay the equivalent of a medium-priced whisky bottle in order to try all four of these expressions.

Packaging

The Glenmorangie Collection

The Glenmorangie Collection

The presentation for this gift pack is very impressive. They’ve recently repackaged this set with design cues taken from the ultra premium Signet packaging. In addition to the beautiful box and nice looking bottles, a fancy booklet is included that explains the maturation process for each expression, and provides tasting notes. Well done!

Tasting Notes

Four poured Glenmorangies

Four poured Glenmorangies

The Original 10 years (43%)

Light, fresh nose with citrus and floral notes standing out (like orange blossoms). Also a fair amount of vanilla, and maybe a hint of wood. The mouth stays light and fruity, and adds maltiness. The malt remains on the medium finish, along with a reminder of the orange blossoms.

The Lasanta (46%)

A definite sherry influence in the form of dried fruits. The sherry seems to do battle on the nose with the light citrus/floral notes from the original. It brought to mind musty carpet for some reason. The mouth is pretty nice, actually, with a little more body than the The Original. Then the sherry and bourbon are back to doing battle on the finish. I find it a bit disconcerting.

The Quinta Ruban (46%)

This is different. The citrus and floral notes are toned way down, and out comes a strong chocolate scent. Actually, the orange is still there, but balanced nicely with the chocolate. The mouth is pleasant and malty like The Original. On the finish…chocolate malt. What a great dessert drink.

The Nectar D’or (46%)

The least finished feeling of the three extra matured expressions. D’or is a natural extension of The Original, with the orange blossoms toned down (maturity?), and the vanilla coming through stronger and richer, with added cinnamon and nutmeg. Very seductive! The palate seems spicier than any of the others, with the finish remaining spicy and bringing out a hint of the chocolate from The Quinta Ruban. An even better dessert malt?

Conclusion

If you’re not already familiar with all four of these Glenmorangie expressions, I can highly recommend this gift pack. It looks good, has a nice booklet on the malts, and gives you a chance to try the whole line without committing big money and cupboard space.

As for my impression of the whiskies themselves, I really like the The Original. I would put it on fairly equal footing with Bunnahabhain 12 year in terms of overall enjoyment. The Glenmo Original is probably a bit more complex than the Bunna. When in the mood for a light, malty whisky, I would turn to the Bunna for cinnamon apples, and the Glenmo when in the mood for orange blossoms. Getting into the finished expressions (sorry, “extra matured“), I would put Nectar D’or at the top, Quinta Ruban right below that, and Lasanta several notches down.

I don’t like to do full ratings until I’ve had a chance to try a whisky a number of times. However, I’ll throw out some preliminary ratings of 80-ish/100 for Lasanta, 84 for The Original, 85/86 for Quinta Ruban, and 87/88 for Nectar D’or.

Other opinions

  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – Separate reviews of The Original and the Extra Matured expressions. Nectar D’or comes out on top here with a similar rating of 86. However, the other expressions are rated much lower than I felt they deserved. Serge especially differs from me when it comes to The Quinta Ruban.
  • Malt Advocate (review archives) – Wow, John Hansell really likes The Original, giving it 93 points! Nectar D’or gets a respectable 89. Lasanta doesn’t do as well, with 79 points.
  • whisky-pages – Gavin and Tom seem to like all four expressions, with The Original and The Quinta Ruban rated a little better than the other two.
  • caskstrength.net - [Added 10/6/09] I missed this review the first time around. Thanks for the heads up, Joel. A great overview of these Glenmorangies, plus the 25 year. They enjoy the original and seem equally puzzled by the Lasanta, but are a little less enthusiastic about the D’or than I am.

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I love those gift packs where you get a few (usually three) 20 cl bottles of whisky in a nice box.  The cost is usually not much more per cl than you would pay for a full size bottle, but you get to try out multiple expressions.  They’re especially great for a new whisky enthusiast.  I was browsing through The Whisky Exchange (TWE) web site Special Offers a few weeks ago, and a Diageo gift pack stood out at me because it included five 20 cl bottles instead of the usual three.

I noticed that it was an “Islay” gift pack (Islay whiskies being my new obsession), so I clicked on it.  They called it the “Islay Collection 2007″, and I couldn’t believe what I saw:  Caol Ila 12, Caol Ila 18, Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin 12 CS, and…wait for it…Port Ellen 28 year ‘7th Annual Release’!  The price was marked down from 97 GBP ($146) to 70 GBP ($105) [Actually, that's including VAT.  Outside of the UK it's 61 GBP ($90)].  They now also have the 2006 version of this same gift pack, which includes, you guessed it, the 6th Port Ellen release.

2006 Classic Islay Collection

2006 Classic Islay Collection

Are you kidding me!?  One of the Port Ellen Annual Release original distillery bottlings that I’ve been reading great things about, but was scared off by the $400+/bottle price?  I had to get my hands on this gift pack.  I couldn’t believe that they would stay in stock very long.  On the contrary, six weeks later they now have both the 2006 and 2007 versions of the gift pack available.  How is this staying on the shelves?  Let’s consider the price and value:

Spending over $100 on a liter of whisky is still a considerable purchase.  However, let’s take a moment to rationalize this for ourselves.  What would 20 cl of these five scotches go for if you calculated it based on the full bottle price?  I’m going to go with current TWE prices for reference:

  • Caol Ila 12: 70cl = 25 GBP, so 20cl = 7 GBP ($10.50)
  • Caol Ila 18: 70cl = 45 GBP, so 20cl = 13 GBP ($19.50)
  • Lagavulin 16: 70cl = 40 GBP, so 20cl = 11.5 GBP ($17.50) [This would be much more in the USA]
  • Lagavulin 12: 70cl = 49 GBP, so 20cl = 14 GBP ($21) [This is the 2008 price; might be more if you can find 2006/2007]
  • Port Ellen 6th: 70cl = 299 GBP, so 20cl = 85 GBP ($128)

“Fair Price” Total:  130 GBP ($205)

Another way to look at it is that you’re getting nearly 30% of a bottle of Port Ellen at a discount price, and they’re throwing in the other 800 ml of Islay goodness for free. Yet another view is that a fair price for the four non-Port Ellen bottles is 45.50 GBP, so this is a chance to get 20cl of the elusive Port Ellen for a mere 24.50 GBP ($36). A final consideration is the flat monetary outlay that we’re talking about here in order to taste an OB (original distillery bottling) Port Ellen:  Approximately $100 to $135 depending on tax/shipping vs. $400+.  This is a significant lowering of the barrier to entry.

So, if you’re in the UK, or someplace that allows mail order of this gift pack from TWE, what are you waiting for?  You might also still be able to find this in some specialty shops in primary whisky market areas in the United States.  This is your chance to be a part of a rapidly disappearing piece of history; a chance for us middle/working-class scotch lovers to exchange tasting notes of a rare, expensive malt with the rich and famous.  You’re also armed with convincing numbers to explain to your significant other why it would be like throwing away money NOT to buy this set.  Isn’t it great to turn the tables around now and then?

Update: I forgot to mention another tip if you’re having this shipped to the United States – They charge 32 GBP shipping for this gift pack, vs 26 GBP for a single bottle. However, you can add up to five 50ml miniatures to your order and the shipping cost will stay the same. So go ahead and try out some new malts while you’re ordering the Islay gift pack, expanding your horizons and defraying the shipping costs.

Cheers,
Jeff
Port Ellen, Lagavulin and Caol Ila from the Classic Islay Collection

Port Ellen and friends

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