Glenmorangie The Lasanta 12

Glenmorangie “The Lasanta” 12-year-old (Photo courtesy of the brand)

On the southern slopes of Northeastern Scotland’s tranquil Dornoch Firth, overlooking the azure North Sea, Glenmorangie Distillery has produced superb Scotch whisky for nearly 175 years. Founded in 1848, the distillery still draws waters from the same Tarlogie Springs that once fed Glenmorangie Brewery almost a century prior, with rumors of illicit “uisge beatha” (water of life) stills dating back to the middle-ages.

Glenmorangie, Gaelic for “Little Valley of Deep Tranquility,” was the dream of Mathesen brothers John and William. Tapping earnings and experience gained working in other distilleries, the brothers purchased Glenmorangie brewery and the surrounding farm, along with two used gin “giraffe” stills. Four years later, they produced their first single-malt whisky. Their product was far superior to most whiskies produced at the time, and by the 1880s, they were exporting their “Scotch” whisky throughout Europe and into America. The family continually operated the distillery until 1918, selling to their two largest customers, MacDonald and Muir, and Durham Whisky.

Despite continued success, the distillery fell on hard times due, in part, to American Prohibition and the Great Depression. Production ceased altogether in 1931, but despite rumors of war, Glenmorangie resumed distillation operations in 1936. WWII caused financial hardships resulting from supply chain and distribution disruptions, but they hung on through the war. As the post-war world recovered, so did Glenmorangie, and despite needing twelve years to do so, they returned to full production levels. 

The ensuing decades saw exponential growth in Glenmorangie’s reputation and production volume. In 1980, they doubled their stills to four, then again ten years later. They also purchased several other distilleries, including Ardbeg, catapulting Glenmorangie into one of Scotland’s largest whisky producers. Their original malt, 10-year-old The Original, received accolades as one of Scotland’s finest whiskies, prompting the opening of a visitor center in 1994. The distillery also began experimenting with alternative wood finishing, introducing a port-barrel aged expression, plus vertical agings including 15- and 30-year bottlings.

Their meteoric success spawned intense interest from several of the world’s largest liquor conglomerates. In 2004, Scotland’s sole remaining family-owned distillery entered inta a bidding war which saw Moet Hennessey, (owned by Diageo and LVMH/Louis Vuitton), emerge triumphant. Moet ordered dramatic revamping of Glenmorangie’s brand, including offering several new library releases and expanded wood finishing experimentation. Fortunately, Glenmorangie maintained their quality despite the corporate growth.

Fast forward to The Lasanta 12, Glenmorangie’s first “sherry-bomb” whisky. Starting life as their flagship The Original which ages 10 years in ex-Bourbon casks, The Lasanta undergoes a magical transformation, courtesy of  two additional years in sherry casks. We say “magical” because the end result is not a wholly different Scotch but a glorious synergy between The Original’s elegant refinement and the power of the sherry.

Whiskies aged in sherry casks develop a range of sweet-spicy flavors, but longer aging reveals the oak’s increasing impact. This effect is evident in The Lasanta, as two years in sherry barrels is significantly longer than most, resulting in a subdued polish that mellows sherry intensity. Additionally, Glenmorangie splits the extra aging between both ex-oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenez barrels, resulting in a multi-wood profile that taps each cask’s unique attributes.

The Lasanta’s aroma is exceptionally complex. In a snifter, you’ll imagine a bakery full of just-made chocolate-raisin-spice cakes, followed by notes of dried plums, whipped cream, vanilla, hazelnuts, and a hint of leather and oak in the background.

“Lasanta,” Gaelic for “warm,” is a perfect metaphor. At 46%, it hits the tongue slightly on the hotter side, but a creamy mouthfeel and slight waxiness cool the initial heat. Generalized sweetness leads to marzipan and cherry-filled pastries, followed by waves of milk-chocolate-covered raisins, old leather, pipe tobacco, and hints of baked fruits. You can also detect hints of winter spice, pumpkin pie, and a surprisingly unexpected burst of orange taffy.

The finish is long, warm, and silky, with the sweetness fading to a slight dryness accentuating the leather and tobacco notes, followed by faint memories of baked dark fruits, cocoa powder, oak, and almonds. By the way, did I mention sherry?

Glenmorangie The Lasanta 12 is a welcomed addition to their long tradition of fine Scotch whisky. Intensely complex aromas and flavors belie its affordability, which has steadily increased in response to growing popularity. If you like brandy and other fireside-snifter drams, you’ll appreciate The Lasanta 12. Just be sure to enjoy responsibly and avoid getting too sherry-bombed!