Glenmorangie

The Glenmorangie distillery is probably one of the best known in Scotland alongside Glenfiddich. The name “Glenmorangie” is derived from either the Gaelic Gleann Mòr na Sìth, which translates roughly as “valley of calm”, or Gleann Mór-innse, the “valley of large meadows”. The marketing team have opted instead for “The Glen of tranquility”.

The Highland distillery in the north of the country has made a name for itself as a virtuoso in the field of barrel management. Today, Glenmorangie is one of the top international brands of Scotch whiskies and regularly inspires with innovative bottlings. If you are looking for a mild but high quality single Malt then the Glenmorangie 10 years is incredibly affordable and delicious.

Glenmorangie Distillery

The Glenmorangie Distillery is located near the town of Tain at the village of Firth. The Moray Firth is a roughly triangular inlet (or firth), the northernmost sea arm on the Scottish East Coast. The site began its life as Morangie Farm in 1703 and while small scale illicit distillation likely happened throughout that time we know for certain only that in 1730, a brewery was built on the farm, this breweery would become a distillery in 1843.

The Glenmorangie distillery is noteworthy as it has the largest stills of any distillery in Scotland. At 5.14m (16 feet and 10 inches) high their height guarantees a large amount of reflux and a particularly light and mild whisky. In addition, unlike many others, the distillery only uses its oak barrels twice to mature the whiskies, in order to always have sufficient supplies of oak barrels, oak forests were bought in the USA.

The distillery was closed twice in the 20th century. from 1931 to 1936 and from 1941 to 1944 the business was shut down. At the end of the 1980s, Glenmorangie continuously expanded its market position. Until 1959, the Glenmorangies whisky was still used for blended whisky, such as the “Highland Queen”, since 1959 it has only been available as a single malt. Glenmorangie is currently number three in the world’s best-selling single malts.

House style

The house style of the Glenmorangie distillery is described as particularly floral, light and mild due, at least in part, to the enormous hight of the copper still. Fruity notes, and cloying toffee, vanilla and nuts are also characteristic of the whiskies.

Production

How is whisky produced in the Glenmorangie distillery? The water drawn from the Tarlogie Springs is filters by the calcareous sandstone of the region, the result in water which accumulates minerals, such as zinc, calcium and magnesium. This water, one of a small number of hard water sites in Scotland, is sometimes clained to be responsible for the typical fruity flavour. The malt for the Glenmorangie whisky is unpeated.

Glenmorangie is famous for its large stills, nicknamed “Giraffes” they are the tallest stills in all of Scotland. The result of their height is incresaed copper contact as the vapourised spirit recondenses and falls back into the still (as reflux) to be redistilled. This production process with its long copper contact neutralizes the more aggressive aromas and creates particularly soft whisky of light and fine character.

Glenmorangie has excelled as a specialist in particular in terms of the barrel maturation. Taking it as given that the barrel maturation makes up about two-thirds of the flavours of the finished whisky the distillery leaves nothing to chance. To ensure constant access to oak for maturation Glenmorangie has an entire forest area in the USA in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri. This grants full control over the production of its ex-Bourbon barrels in which the bulk of their whisky matures. The barrels produced from the oak tree will initially be passed for four years to mature Jack Daniel’s and Heaven Hill. Then they are delivered to Scotland and filled with the distillery new make.

In addition to these bourbon barrels Glenmorangie also uses sherry, port, sauternes and Bordeaux barrels for the finishing of many of their exclusive whiskies. Owned by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the distillery has access to high-quality barrels of all kinds. The result is high-fine whiskies with the “special touch”, which are often only bottled in a limited quantity and are correspondingly valuable. The filled barrels are stored in 14 traditional Dunnage warehouses as well as in modern high-storage shelves on the distillery grounds.

A new stillhouse comissioned in December 2019, houses two more of Glenmorangie’s distinctive, long-necked stills, plus a new mash tun and washbacks. The new facility, designed to enable more experimental runs, brings the distillery capacity to around 7.2 million litres annually, making Glenmorangie one of Scotland’s largest single malt whisly distilleries. In the production of whisky itself, traditionally, 16 people are employed, known as the “16 Men of Tain.” The fact that a woman is now also part of it has not changed the traditional name.

House Style

The standard whisky of the distillery is the 10-year-old Glenmorangie Original, which matures exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels. It is a very balanced whisky with fine nuances of citrus fruits and vanilla. There are nutty elements that are embedded in a fruity sweetness.

The Glenmorangie whiskies “Glenmorangie Lasanta”, “Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban” and “Glenmorangie Nectar d’ Or” each received a finish in the so-called Double Cask Maturing process. Either in Oloroso barrels, portwine barrels or sauternes-barrels and are characterized by a velvy-velvous and soft taste. The character is defined by the respective Finishing barrels. They all have a complex body and a perfect balance between spicy, fruity and elegantly sweet notes.

Even more exclusivity is offered by the Glenmorangie Private Editions. Special bottlings such as “Allta”, “Astar”, “Bacalta” and “Tùsail” were created by Malt Master Dr. Bill Lumsden. They are one of the very special single malt whiskies of the distillery. In exclusivity, they are only surpassed by the Glenmorangie Signet, which is distilled from particularly intensely milled and roasted barley. It is a marriage of the basic whiskies of Glenmorangie, which are up to 35 years old.

History

Evidence of (illegal) whisky distillation in Tain dates back to around 1700, but it was only in 1843 that a legal whisky was distilled with the Glenmorangie distillery founded by the Matheson brothers. The brothers John and William Matheson bought the former Morangie brewery and began distilling alcohol in stills originally designed for gin distillation. As so often in life, money also played an important role at the time and the tall copper stills were used for whisky production.

1887 saw the distillery completely rebuilt and transferred into the ownership of the Glenmorangie Distillery Company Ltd. In 1918, Glenmorangie was acquired by the Macdonald family from Leith near Edinburgh. They had been the most important buyer of the Glenmorangie whiskies in the previous decades.

Glenmorangie was shut down in 1931 in part a victim of prohibition still prevailing in the USA, one of the main consumer countries for the distilleries whisky. Production resumed in 1936. 1976 saw the distillery expanded with the addition of two new stills and 1980 saw the distilleries own onsite maltings closed. Four additional stills were added in 1990, and in 1997 the old stillhouse was converted into a visitor centre and museum.

In 2004, Macdonald & Muir, which also owned the Islay distillery Ardbeg, was acquired by the French luxury group Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) for about 300 million pounds. LVMH potefolio also includes brands such as the Cognac Hennessy, the Champagne Moët & Chandon, Christian Dior and Louis Vitton. LVMH increased the number of stills to now 12 and established Glenmorangie as a premium brand on the international whisky market. Since the acquisition by the luxury giant the design of the bottles and labels of the Glenmorangie distillery have undergone a fundamental change. Interestingly Glenmorangies created the first single malt website in 1995 and offered the first Whisky Tasting on the Internet in the same year.

Distillery Factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Glenmorangie Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1843 - Present Malt Glenmorangie Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Bill Lumsden; David White LVMH

Glenmorangie Timeline:

1640: First reference of whisky distilling near Tain

1660s: Illicit distilling took place on Morangie Farm

1703: First written evidence of whisky distilling at GLENMORANGIE when an ’aquavitae pott with it ffleake and stand’ is mentioned in the will of George Ross, great grandson of Thomas the Abbot

1714-1817: Many citations of illicit distilling in Morangie, Tarlogie and Tain

1811: Establishment of the Morangie Farm

1818: Bought by Macdonald and Muir of Leith

1820: Establishment of a distillery at Tain

1843: Distillery established when Morangie Farm was bought by William Matheson of McKenzie & Gallie, a partner in Balblair Distillery. Due to a lack of money, Matheson bought a pair of second-hand gin stills, which were very tall

1849: Production reaches 20,000 gallons

1875: John Mathieson & Co. dissolved

1880: Records of Glenmorangie being sold throughout Britain and exported to Rome and San Francisco

1883-87: Reconstructed as Mathieson & Co. by William Mathieson (pioneering introduction of steam coils to heat the wash) and continued until 1887

1887: The Glenmorangie Distillery Co. Ltd. was formed and the distillery completely rebuilt. All the stills became steamheated

1894: Foundation of the Highland Aerated Water Co. at Tain by the directors

< WWI: Glenmorangie whisky was exported all over the world

1915-19: Cut back in production owing to the First World War. The distillery had even to close down for two years because of rationing of barley and shortage of manpower. 75% Of the local men aged between 15 and 35 signed up

1918: The distillery was sold to Macdonald & Muir, distillers and blenders of Leith and the largest single customer of the distillery, because money was needed. They converted it into a partnership

1920: Production exceeded pre-war amounts, but Prohibition was introduced. This, combined with high taxation and the General Strike of 1926, kept profits down

1929: The collapse of the American Stock Market and the following world recession became nearly fatal to the distillery

1931-36: Distillery closed owing to the effects of the Great Depression

1941-44: Production levels were very high again, but the rationing of barley during the War caused reduction of production again

1948: Pre-war levels were reached again and exceeded

1960s & 1970s: Stock rationing had to be introduced

1976-80: Demand for Glenmorangie leads to stock rationing with stock bought from blenders and brokers

1979: Rebuilt internally, when extended from two to four stills. Light-grains plant (1980 mentioned as well)

1983: Forest and catchment area surrounding the Tarlogie Springs purchased from the Duke of Westminster’s trustees

1990: Number of stills doubled again, to eight

1991: H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visits the distillery

1993: Distillery sesquicentennial anniversary

1994: Distillery shop opens and regular tours start

1997: Museum opens

1997-Jul-14: Visitor centre opened by Prince Andrew

2000: Shop enlarged