As the successor to the discontinued Private Edition line, Glenmorangie’s “Tale” series continues the tradition of experimentation and innovation for which whisky-maker, Dr. Bill Lumsden, is so well-known. That said, last year’s Marsala-finished Tale of Winter wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking single malt. For this year’s Tale of the Forest, however, Glenmorangie has brought the world something altogether unique.
In an interview with Dr. Bill over the summer, he alluded to this latest Glenmorangie release and some controversy that briefly surrounded its creation. The Scotch Whisky Association, the regulatory body for Scotch whisky, had apparently gotten nervous when Dr. Bill introduced the idea of using botanicals in this single malt, although botanicals have historically been used in Scotch whisky production. “That’s how I finally got away with it,” Bill told us. Inspired by his love of hill walking and the forests near his home, Tale of the Forest was designed to reflect the sensations of the outdoors by incorporating a portion of barley kilned with Scottish botanicals like juniper, birch bark, heather, and rowan berries. It’s unclear exactly how this woodland-inspired barley was incorporated into the final spirit, but the single malt made from it was reportedly aged in ex-bourbon casks. Let’s take a walk in the woods, shall we?
The nose is immediately unique and engaging. It’s a bit smoky, which isn’t something I’ve ever really detected in a Glenmorangie. Not a heavy, peat-fueled smoke, but a thin, sweet campfire smoke that does indeed evoke the forest. That sensation is enhanced by notes of fresh mint, sweet pine sap, and dried berries that eventually give way to more classic Glenmorangie aromas of tinned pear and honeyed malt. The palate is elegant with a subtle oiliness and soft warmth. The smoke carries through here, as well, with bit of toasted fir branch that complements sweeter, brighter notes of juniper and clove. The herbal and resinous elements threaten to turn sharp on the midpalate but instead soften to candied ginger, peppermint, and Christmas cake on a long, silky finish dusted with five spice and pipe smoke. It’s a well-built, if very unusual, whisky, ideal for exploring in the winter season. Although it might appeal more to smokeheads than Highland purists.