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December 2007


WINE & SPIRITS

The Classics Redefined
by Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

MAKERS OF TRADITIONAL WHISKEYS OFFER SEDUCTIVE NEW LINES

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Women are not supposed to be whiskey drinkers, or so goes the conventional wisdom. Of all spirits, whiskey is the one that most separates men from boys. The real macho man stands fast with his favorite brand while dismissively commanding "a white wine for the lady." Well, the conventional wisdom for me is just far too conventional.

A growing number of female whiskey drinkers, myself among them, have lately begun to embrace its more sensual side. I developed the taste last year on a trip to Scotland. On one distillery tour, at Glenmorangie on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the cellar master led us around in hushed tones, as if he had dark secrets to keep. Our band of journalists asked probing questions about the rows of barrels we seemed to bypass altogether. Now, months after that visit, that secret is finally out. The whiskey we tasted last year at the distillery is indeed yesterday's news. Glenmorangie, which dates back to 1843, has just revealed that it's relaunching globally with an entirely re-imagined whiskey line.

This fall the label's master distiller, a Scotsman named Bill Lumsden, zipped through New York with his new whiskeys in tow. Among the new bottles are three 12-year-old malts finished in different wood casks. Each has its own handsome label and evocative name with prices to match (between $130 and $150 per bottle). They are non-chill-filtered in the old-fashioned style, then aged 10 years in bourbon barrels before being finished off for the last two years in casks that once held Spanish oloroso sherry, Portuguese ruby port or French sauternes.

Lumsden led the first New York tasting with great panache. "Sniff this," he said proudly, holding up a glass of port cask-aged Quinta Ruban. "Picture yourself at a Christmas dinner. You smell mandarin oranges, mint, nutmeg, sandalwood, honey." He instructed us to add a few drops of water. "After the water new flavors emerge," he continued. "Do you taste the honeysuckle and fresh green apple?"

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