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Mar 18, 2018
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Drink This Weekend Edition: Glenmorangie’s newest scotch is skilled and ingenious

February 15th 03:02pm, 2013

With the unending flow of new spirits entering the marketplace, discerning between the purely awesome and the purely hyped can become just as headache-inducing as a couple of cheap drinks. This week, however, we have a gem: Glenmorangie Ealanta.

Ealanta, which is Gaelic for “skilled and ingenious,” is a 19-year single malt Scotch whisky. Glenmorangie, a pioneer when it comes to wood finishing, once again shows itself as an industry leader in this newest annual private edition release whisky.

Dr. Bill Lumsden, the company’s director of distilling, whisky creation and whisky stocks, visited St. Louis this week to celebrate the local launch of Ealanta, one of his many pet projects. The thick-accented Scot, recognized for his talent in wood management techniques, explained some of the science behind what makes Ealanta special. First, the cask. The spirit is matured in new American oak (It hails from the Ozark Mountains of our fair state.) instead of wood seasoned with bourbon as is the case with most other whiskey casks. In addition, the barrels were not charred; rather, they were heavily toasted. “Using heat rather than naked flame,” explained Lumsden, “facilitated the release of some slightly gentler flavors.”

Storage conditions played a large part in Ealanta’s ultimate expression. Since 1993, the 153 casks have been stashed away in old-fashioned dunnage warehouses. “They’ve got damp floors, thick stone walls, low ceilings, and the barrels are only stacked three layers high,” said Lumsden. “These very cool, damp conditions are fantastic for developing fragrance. Some reactions go on in the oak wood, which is called cask-driven oxidation, and it gives the whisky its floral and delicate fragrant top note. This helps to balance out the intensity of the oak.”

Lumsden’s excitement for and pure love of scotch came through as we tasted the 46-percent ABV, non-chill filtered single malt. “It has a lovely, intense, pungent aromatic character. It makes me think of butterscotch, maple syrup, vanilla, marzipan, maybe sugar cookie almonds,” Lumsden said. The mouth-feel: “It’s quite unusual. It has this rather strange effervescence. It’s almost like it’s fizzing in your mouth and then it gives way to a nice buttery, creamy, mouth-coating texture.” Finally, taste: “Lots of sweet flavors: vanilla, white chocolate, maple syrup, maybe a bit of candied orange peel in there – something that makes me think of stewed fruits; and in the aftertaste, there are some hints of spices like clove; it has this cooling minty, mentholic sensation.”

While Lumsden won’t say that there’s a right way to sip your scotch, he recommends enjoying Ealanta with “a rock of ice” or, if with water, spring water. A fan of pairing spirits with food, Lumsden sees Ealanta best matched with a dessert such as creme brulee. Another suggestion: Couple it with pecorino or Romano cheese drizzled with honey.

Looking to snag a bottle of this rare beauty? Lukas Liquor spirits manager Adam England has stocked the store with as much as the drink police will allow. Plunk down $115, and you can add it to your collection. Or, if you and your scotch-loving lover have waited until the weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day, this bottle will make quite an “I heart you” statement.

By Ligaya Figueras

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