Yesterday marked the global release of Glenmorangie's seventh installment in its Private Edition range, and it came with a sweet twist worthy of the approaching Valentine's Day.
Heavily toasted Portuguese wine barrels were used to finish this single malt, giving it a confectionary aspect that the distiller says is straight out of "an old-fashioned sweet shop."
You won't need a note from your dentist nor a dose of insulin to sip Glenmorangie Milsean, but it certainly packs a spectrum of sugary fruit and floral flavors that challenge the definition of what Scotch whisky can be.
The Highlands distillery is well known as the pioneer of finishing, however, this is a first even for Glenmorangie. Typically, the technique involves moving liquid matured in former Bourbon barrels to casks that had held some sort of wine. Milsean pushes the envelope with the heavy toasting that the wine casks underwent.
Toasting usually comes at the start of the cask-curing process and not after it's been used to store wine. Like the term suggests, the wood is heated near the flame without actually setting it on fire. That coaxes out sweet vanilla and honey flavors. (With Bourbon barrels, the next step is charring, which burns in heavier flavors.) With Milsean, Dr. Bill Lumsden, the director of distilling and whisky creation, tried toasting wine casks at the end of the process to release caramelized fruit flavors.
Indeed, the name itself (pronounced Meel-Shawn) is Gaelic for sweet, and the confectionary-shop connection is furthered by the packaging with its red label, candy-striping and old-timey storefront.
The Private Edition range was kicked off in 2010 with Sonnalta PX and includes such notables as Artein (2013) and Tùsail (2015). The Milsean release, which is not chill filtered, is a one-off and is limited to 1,500 cases.
Glenmorangie Milsean (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $99 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Rich Champagne color with pin-dot legs that slowly thicken and amble down the glass.
NOSE: While quite sweet with light sugars, the bouquet introduces a healthy spiciness, as well as honey, pear, apple and Meyer lemons.
PALATE: It's in the mouth that the sweetness fairly explodes to bring a full array of candy flavors. Elegant hard-candy flavors parade through with cherry, peach, plums, orange and tangerine. On the edges, butterscotch and banana are detectable. Sipping Milsean, it's difficult not to be reminded of the sugars of Bourbon and rum, but with a Cognac subtly.
FINISH: The ending, while lasting, is not the riotous affair of the initial palate. Spices return with cinnamon, ginger and licorice. The apple and pear of the nose return, and then you're ready to start again.
CIGAR PAIRING: Flores y Rodriguez 10th Anniversary Reserva Limitada Figurado (Dominican Republic; 6 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge, $12; 91 points, Nov. 17, 2015 Cigar Insider) A long figurado with a tapered head and foot. It smokes evenly and delivers woody, wheaty notes backed by creamy, almond intonations. Elegant and nuanced. We paired these two for their obvious contrasts. Each has what the other lacks. The cigar proved the big winner in the deal as it stayed in the background and reaped rewards from the whisky. The Milsean confers a wealth of sweetness and fruit that completes the figurado's base. It is especially the cherry and plum notes from the malt that widen the plain, seeking out cocoa and giving the pairing a Heath Bar effect. The cigar's contribution comes in more understated ways, bestowing some earthiness to the malts' palette of colors.