Glenmorangie Pride 1974 : The Exclusive
Discover our interview with Brendan McCarron, Glenmorangie whiskey head of maturation Whisky Stocks to discuss the new Glenmorangie Pride 1974, the third extraordinary limited edition of the “Pride Collection.”
Glenmorangie Pride 1974 : Rare and exclusive
It’s not every day that we’re lucky enough to enjoy whiskeys over 40 years old, let alone when they’re worth more than $15,000. This is what I experienced during my tasting of Glenmorangie Pride 1974 during my meeting with Brendan McCarron, responsible for the maturation of Glenmorangie whiskey stocks.
It all took place at the Bar Le Bootlegger on the boulevard Saint-Laurent, in a beautiful cozy atmosphere reminiscent of the bars of the ’30s with its replace, its leather furniture, in short the perfect setting to enjoy such a noble whiskey. I must immediately mention that it is a production of only 503 bottles, the oldest and rarest production of this edition of Glenmorangie, there are not many people on the planet who have had/have the chance to taste this real elixir.
Normand Boulanger: To begin, what was your first experience with Scotch whiskey?
Brendan McCarron: My first time was not a good one actually. I must have been 8–9 years old and my dad gave me some scotch that he drank like that for fun, I do not remember the mark, but it was probably Talisker, my dad being a big fan of Talisker. I dip my lips in the glass, and I take a sip, I put it in my mouth and it burned. So I spit the whiskey in the glass. My father was angry, do not spit the whiskey he tells me. After this horrible experience, I did not retouch whiskey for 14 or 15 years. But then I started again with Single Malts, I had to be 22–23 years old, and he’s a friend, a big fan of Scotch, he always had Single Malt in his house. And from there, I started to like that and I continued in the industry and that’s it.
NB: I guess you’re grateful to have met this friend?
BM : Yes indeed, he has trouble believing where I went and the work I do since he was the one who liked the tape between us and he introduced me to the product, it’s a beautiful history.
Glenmorangie Pride 1974 : The Development
NB: Let’s move on to these three products that we have in front of us, including Pride 1974, what is the development process?
BM : So, these are three of our most prestigious whiskeys. On the other hand, due to their aroma and their delicacy, we will taste them in a rather unusual order. The first is the Grand Vintage 1990, it’s a 25-year-old Single Malt Glenmorangie. It’s a very small lot, all of 1990. It’s a special year for us, while the barley harvest has been particularly difficult. And that’s the same year we moved into Bond House.
BM : These are huge memories that come back when we enjoy this product. Subtle and light aromas. You can find all the flavours of the distillery, even if it has been 25 years in barrels, which is very unusual for an old Scotch.
NB: Indeed, it is a rather special product, really different with great aromas. Can you tell us about Glenmorangie Pride 1974?
Yes indeed. This is the Glenmorangie Pride 1974, the quintessence of our whiskeys. It was distilled in 1974 and bottled only last year. So it’s a 41-year-old Scotch. This is the most prestigious whiskey produced by Glenmorangie since the beginning of the distillery. With 503 bottles only, that’s all. Not one more, not one less. Fortunately for you, it is rare enough that we make taste such an exclusive product. Since it’s a 41-year-old product, you lose about 2% of the content every year (called the angel’s share), after 41 years, it’s a huge loss of whiskey, and that’s why there are only 503 bottles. But we have opened one, the one we are going to taste here. We will taste it second because the Grand Vintage is cooler, lighter and it is more pronounced, rich, has more intensity and a taste of wood, and the last one we will taste is the Glenmorangie Signet.
NB: Could you tell me about The Signet, what kind of whiskey is this?
BM : The Glenmorangie Signet is part of our Prestige Collection, from which we only make 1 or 2 lots per year. We do not do much, but it is always offered year after year. We use an Irish chocolate malt, which we creak and burn to darken it and blend it with a traditional malt and barley to find that distinctive flavour of Glenmorangie spirits and it is aged in different barrels, Sherry, Bourbon and several other kinds of barrels to get a distinctive taste. We find a taste of coffee and cream.
NB: It’s very funny that you talk to me about chocolate, since a few weeks ago I was at Omnivore, a festival for epicureans and there was a restaurant, the Candide, that make their beer with chocolate malt.
BM: Yes, it’s a malt that is used quite frequently in beer, but it’s the first whiskey to actually use it. We love to innovate.
NB: It’s now time for the tasting, isn’t it? So you told me an unusual order for the three products, is that it?
Exact. Let’s start with the Grand Vintage 1990, which is aged in old Bourbon casks. Note that even if it is not an assembly, it is still very light. And all that comes from 1990. Very oral, very fruity and complex at the same time. Most whiskeys over 20 years old have a strong taste of wood, but not this one. Take a sip and you will nd tropical fruits, honey, orange blossom.
NB: So we see an orange right here, is that the only reason?
BM: No, indeed, it’s in the name, and it helps to remember the pronunciation to include the word orange. The name Glenmorangie means the creek (Glen) of tranquility. So, let’s move on to Glenmorangie Pride now. We taste Pride second, because the Signet has such a distinctive flavour, that we could not appreciate Pride at its true value.
NB: He is so different, darker, richer, but at the same time, light.
BM: This is an impression because it is 52% alcohol, but with its rich flavour we feel a sweeter flavour, but also salty. There is also a small spicy taste. It’s really rare to have a whiskey 41 years, it’s really impressive, especially since the wood has not outweighed the taste and there are so many different flavours.
NB: 41 years, it’s impressive for me who will be 40 in less than a month.
BM : For a whiskey at nearly $15,000 that only 500 people will have, it’s not a whiskey, a very hot whiskey in the mouth. Even though he is strong in alcohol, he is richer. There are also nice notes of ginger. It is important not to keep it too long in the mouth, because often whiskeys come to burn inside the palace, it is important to swallow quickly to appreciate the product. There are also nutty notes. So, what do you think?
NB: It’s crazy. It’s really, how to say: sweet on the palate, a little caramelized, a little brown sugar. So different from the Grand Vintage. We find this burning sensation at the end, but nothing unpleasant, just perfect. It is more intense on the nose, but in the mouth, it is delicate, I would say.
BMIt has a long finish, besides Glenmorangie is known for that. It’s really Sherry’s barrels that make this sweet nish linger. And how long can the taste stay in the mouth? Phew, really long actually.
NB: It is remarkable, while I was in a tasting of Louis XIII, and even when I returned home, I tasted it again. It’s still amazing.
BM : Yes, it’s similar with our whiskeys. We feel their taste as we swallow and swallow again. Even in our breathing, we feel it.
How to taste a whisky?
NB: What is the best way to taste a whiskey?
BM: For whiskey, you have to have good whiskey glasses, that’s the first thing. First, we take a look at the colour. Let’s do it for the Signet. Its colour tells us a lot, it is very dark, deeper than the first whiskey, we can see that it will be more intense, that the flavours will be more intense and longer. Then you put your nose deepest in the glass and you take a good breath. You make the aroma penetrate into your mouth by the nose. We find chocolate, orange as I said earlier. Then we take a sip. It must be kept less than one second in the mouth, then we swallow, and we try to focus on what we just put in the mouth. We find the espresso, the coffee mocha. A blend of coffee and dark chocolate. But it’s like a beautiful layer in the mouth, a layer of a delicious liquid. For some whiskeys, we recommend adding water to open the flavours, for the Signet, it’s not something I would do.
NB: Among the whiskeys that we come to taste, is there one that comes to get you more than the others, a favourite perhaps?
BM : My favourite is the original Glenmorangie. We have not tasted it today, but it’s the inspiration for everything we do. This is the best interpretation of Glenmorangie. It is so versatile, it can be taken on any occasion. And when you add water, it becomes softer, sweeter. It is perfect on ice, delicious cocktails, it’s a final barrel of Bourbon, which I prefer in a Scotch. It’s really my favourite.
Leaving on a Good Note: The Collaboration with Steinway
Also, I know there is something with Steinway (the pianos)?
BM : Yes! For Pride 1974. As it is something special, unique, we made a collaboration with Steinway, it must be said that we have been in business for almost the same number of years. We have a parallel at the level of the wood. We use the best barrels to make our Scotch and they use the best woods to make their pianos. So we established a link to find inspiration to launch the Glenmorangie Pride 1974. We went to the factory in Hamburg, Germany to taste Pride. Also, pianist Aaron Diehl made a beautiful composition (you can listen to it by following this link) that he played on a Steinway during the world launch in New York. It’s a perfect marriage between Pride 1974 and this piece. We were in Toronto two days ago, and the same piece was played by another pianist on a Steinway, I got shivers. It was beautiful really.
NB: So, of the three that we tasted, what would you recommend to someone who starts in the whiskey tasting?
BM : Whew, what a difficult question! Most of these products are made in small batches so they will leave very quickly. And also for the price, it may not be something that I would recommend as a first purchase. On the other hand, if the opportunity to taste them presents, I would tell them to jump on them, because they are incredible products. But if I have to choose one, I would say the Signet because it is available at all times despite its small batch production. And it’s possible to taste it and enjoy it again and again. Is it a product that can be made to age or is it something you advise us to drink now? In fact, when a whiskey comes out of the barrel, it does not age anymore. So, he will taste almost the same thing. There will be small changes, but it will be minimal in taste. Personally, if I buy a whiskey, it is to drink it immediately, I do not want to wait to enjoy this beautiful liquid.
NB: What will be your next creation?
BM : We have something coming soon. In fact, I work on 50–60 projects at a time, it’s huge. I can say that we will soon launch the 2017 Astar, which is aged in American oak barrels. We also launched the 19-year-old, which is only offered at airports. And we will launch our next Private Edition product in January-February 2018.
A big thank you Brendan, it was a huge pleasure and see you soon!