Review: Glenmorangie Astar - Comparing New & Old
Single Malt Scotch - Highland Region, Scotland
Original Release 57.1% ABV
2017 Release 52.5% ABV
One would be very hard-pressed to try and seek out a whisky from Glenmorangie that isn’t anything short of extremely well crafted elegance. “Perfected by the sixteen men of Tain,” as their bottles read, is surely no understatement. So there was absolute no doubt or hesitation in my mind that the new 2017 re-release of their cask strength Astar would follow suit. But what about the original bottling? How would this new one stack up after being off the shelves for nearly a decade? Well, I just happened to have a wee bit left in the bottle of my original release, so when a good friend decided to drop by with his bottle of the re-release I knew we would have a great evening.
Starting with the nose we both found a bit more spice with the original having a hotter, white pepper-like quality with notes of grass while the new had sweeter aromas of fruit and bubble gum. As the new opened up a bit more the bubble gum turned more candy. Naturally the higher ABV original gave a bit more of an alcohol bite at the first sip, but the beautiful melon character that comes with Glenmorangie was right there with it followed by a bitter cocoa finish. The new brought equal parts of the sweet and bitterness, but the sweet was more of honey and less of the melon like the original. The real differences came though once we added a couple drops of water to each. The sweetness in the original immediately went up to match very closely to the new as it was right out of the bottle. But water with the new brought out an almost entirely different animal. Just those two drops gave way to mint green tea and mentholic herbal flavors and a wonderfully longer finish. A very nice slow burn!
All in all, I cannot and will not simply say that one is definitively better over the other, or say, ‘yes’ it is exactly the same Astar as before. Given the almost 5% drop in ABV we figured there was sure to be at least a little difference between the old and new, but still, this is why the whisky professionals like Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s master distiller, have the jobs and titles that they do. Whisky is a natural product from distillery to distillery and then from barrel to barrel especially at the cask strength level. So, it should be only fair to expect and appreciate those differences just the same. Dr Lumsden and Glenmorangie captured its best qualities in a cask strength as it did before again very, very well. Those who remember, or maybe even still have some of the original Astar to make their own comparison will certainly not be disappointed in the least by this year’s bottling. Though I will say that even though the new is great without water, adding it is an absolute must!