About two weeks after I met up with Hamish Torrie of Ardbeg, Paul Neep, Chief Executive at The Glenmorangie Company (of which Ardbeg is part) came into town to talk Glenmorangie.
Unfortunately we picked the Redwood Room to do so- they only carried two of Glenmo's line and discontinued the flights they had previously offered.
That was too bad because I have a hankering to try the Astar, a no-age-statement, cask-strength, non-chill-filtered whisky that's all about the wood: slow-growth, north-facing trees are air-dried for the barrels. It was an experiment in using the best barrels possible for scotch.
Neep also told me that the "designer caks" created for Astar are being used in the standard line of Glenmorangie whiskies as well. Not all of it, but a percentage.
The other new Glenmo- Signet, I've had exactly one sip of at WhiskyFest last year. It turns out I must not have been paying good attention to it (or perhaps I was distracted by its deliciousness), because I thought that the "chocolate malt" used in the bottling was actually some rare type of superbarley. Not so. It is estate-grown barley, says Neep, but the flavor difference comes from the slow-roasted, unpeated processing of it. The Signet will become a permanent part of the line.
And speaking of the line, I told Neep a story about the "additionally matured" line (the whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks, then additionally matured in another cask such as sherry, port, burgundy, or madeira). They changed the packaging a couple years ago (as well as the additional maturation length) and instead of saying, "Port Wood Finish" as it did before on the bottle, now is says "Quinta Ruban" and port is in small letters at the bottom of the label. He seemed taken aback when I told him that I spoke with a bartender who told me he refills the old bottles with the new liquid, because at least this way the bartenders and customers can figure out which whisky is which.
Anyway, happy conclusion: Neep says they'll be changing the label design soon, and I think he indicated that they'll make the font describing what's in it a bit more central.
Are there any new products on the radar, I asked. "Yes," Neep responded, and stopped there. The only other information I was able to get out of him was that said new product will be released in 2010.