November 11, 2012

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask - A Wine Lover's Beast

Who are The Sixteen Men of Tain?

Glenmorangie is an impressive beast.  It boasts the title of the best selling single malt in Scotland for the past thirty years.  And needless to say the Scots know their scotch.  Glenmorangie is a highland scotch from - you guessed it - the town of Tain, which is in Rothshire in the Scottish Highlands.  The highlands are beautiful, think Ireland meets New Zealand with copious whisky destinations.

Glenmorangie's Stills
For generations, sixteen masters have been responsible for producing Glenmorangie.  Their tools: sixteen foot whisky stills, the tallest in Scotland.  (Something about the number Sixteen, are you seeing a pattern?)

Marketing hype?  Perhaps.  It's hard to imagine how sixteen dudes, no matter how awesome and Scottish, could produce ten million bottles per year.  But hey, the point is that they keep the process simple and avoid all the high tech innovations that would ruin the quality of the product.

Here is an awesome video that will make you want to quit your job, don a kilt, and practice your Scottish drawl.

For us, Glenmorangie is a mainstay for quality scotch.  It's not the most unique, it's the not smokiest or the most beastly.  It doesn't have the most character.  But you can't go wrong with a bottle of the 'Morange.  Everything from their standard issue 10-Year bottling all the way up to their specialized top shelf editions are worth tasting and one or another of these bottles will almost always earn a spot in our cabinet.

The Review: Quinta Ruban Port Cask - A Wine Lover's Whisky

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
The Quinta Ruban is a 12-year "extra matured" malt that is aged 10 years in traditional oak casks and then an extra two years in "specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal."

It is available at for $45.99 (Quinta Ruban at KLWines) and Astor Wines for $47.99 (Quinta Ruban at Astor Wines)

Sometimes we drink whisky that's been aged in port, sherry, rum, or all kinds of other types of casks, and it doesn't seem to really impact the taste. Not so for Quinta Ruban.  You can absolutely taste the sweet plummy flavor of port wine on this whisky.  And it's very enjoyable.  If you love rich red wines, you will absolutely love this scotch.  And even if you're not a big red wine fan, it lends a rich and interesting taste to the whisky.

The color of this beast is probably the most impressive and 
compelling quality.  The Men of Tain describe it as "the darkest and most intense" of their special matured lines, and they're not kidding.  It's a beautiful dark amber shade, not unlike a deep stained cherry wood.  You pour a glass and just want to stare at it and make little cooing noises.

In terms of smokiness, we put the whisky well below the heavily peated Islay scotches like Lagavulin and Laphroaig.  However it still boasts a superior smoke content to milder brands like Macallan or Glenlivet.  The lack of smoke however is made up for by the richness of the flavor and the outstanding balance of heat and spice.  It has a very pleasant and delicate smoothness that makes it incredibly drinkable.

This is a scotch you can drink all night.  It calls you back for more and is an absolutely perfect match for a few close friends sitting outside on the deck for many hours as daylight levels fade, alcohol levels increase, and it turns into one of those nights that you never wish to end.  The taste is enduring and the little hints of citrus and caramel increase as you get into your second (or fourth!) glass.  Whisky snobs may roll their eyes at this comment, but I tend to like my smoky beasts with a beer chaser - this whisky is so balanced and drinkable that it doesn't need a chaser at all.  It's perfect neat and all by itself.

Overall this is a seriously enjoyable whisky.  And at under $50 it is a no-brainer.  We just can't stress this enough, it is an amazing value for the money.

Comparisons to other bottlings

Glenmorangie has too many bottlings to list in detail.  We will review many of them in the coming SmokyBeast posts.  The standard variations you'll find at more stores include:

Standard - 10 Year   ~$40
Lasanta (Sherry Cask) 12 Year   ~$46
Nectar D'Or (Sauternes Cask) 12 Year   ~$65
Extremely Rare 18 Year   ~$105
Signet (Blend of various ages from 10 to 35 years)   ~$175-$195

Compared to all these options, we feel that the Quinta Ruban is an outstanding value, a great place to start in experiencing the Glenmorangie line, and one that we'll definitely plan to return to once this bottle is gone.  More detailed reviews will follow, however in a nutshell, the Quinta is absolutely worth the extra $10 on top of the standard bottle.  It's a better scotch for your money than the other 12-year "extra mature" variations - tastier than the Lasanta, and not 50% less tasty than the Nectar D'Or.  The 18 year is great, but a bit overpriced (actually we used to see it for $150 or more and it seems to be coming down - at $90 this would be a great buy).  Now the Signet - that is a conversation for another day, sufficed to say that you must one day treat yourself to a bottle of this enigmatic whisky.

Overall the Quinta Ruban gets an A for this top quality malt at under $50.  It's a win-win, you'll go through it in a heartbeat and you won't feel bad because you'll be able to afford another bottle!