Glenmorangie’s Elementa—delicate (almost too much so) and deep at the same. (photo courtesy of the brand)

An ongoing gathering of the exquisite, fun, and hard-to-find—for the hard-to-buy-for friend on your list.

One of the markets cratered by the pandemic last year was the travel retail market. Covid-19 stopped almost everyone traveling and those who did take to the skies had more pressing worries than checking out new scotches in the Duty Free.

Though officially released in 2019 at the Dubai airport, Glenmorangie’s Elementa was globally released in 2020, just in time to sit on airport shelves for 18 months. It is one of a trio of “exclusive core expressions” alongside The Accord, a 12-year-old scotch aged in bourbon and sherry casks, and The Tribute, a 16-year-old distilled “with a touch of smoke” in tribute to the time when Glenmorangie dried its barley in a peat-fired kiln.

Elementa is a 14-year-old, with a gold hue and an amber label. It’s initially aged in American oak bourbon casks, as is usual for Glenmorangie, but then finished in new charred oak casks. The marketing materials claim that this gives the whisky a “woody depth and intense spice.”

I picked up a bottle while leaving the United Kingdom for the first time in over two years. Since I had to leave my family, I thought I might mitigate the loss by bringing some Scottish water back to New York with me. I opened it up to celebrate Hanukkah —it seemed an appropriate libation for a festival celebrating the overcoming of supply-chain difficulties.

I was surprised, tasting it, how fragile the flavor is. Of course, the core Glenmorangie spirit is a lovely light vanilla and honey nymph, but I thought that the charred oak would give it some body and I was looking forward to some depth and spice.

There is indeed a tendril of woodiness there, but it’s a sliver in the light honey of the Elementa. Rather than providing any substantial depth to reinforce the heady sweetness of the scotch, the wood provides barely even a vein of oak in the spirit. And the promised spices are so subtle as to be effectively absent.

While I was in England, I had a dram or three of the Glenmorangie 10, “The Original” over a couple of nights. It’s a fine staple of the distillery and, at three quarters the cost of the Elementa, with three quarters of the golden hue of the spirit and label, it has 95% of the flavor. I didn’t think the Elementa did enough new above The Original to warrant its cost or label.

So, while the Elementa is a curiosity, if you do want a more distinctive tweak on the 14-year-old liquor from the men of Tain, I’d go with the Quinta Ruban 14 at a similar price point. Its port cask finish adds true elements of dark chocolate and orange that will warm your heart over the holiday period.