Glenmorangie and the oxidised wines from the Portuguese island of Madeira are no strangers, but they've been reacquainted recently to create the Highland single malt's latest Private Edition.
The eighth in the series of annual limited editions from the distillery, Bacalta elevates Glenmorangie's previous forays into Madeira cask ageing. For its now discontinued Madeira Finish, Glenmorangie head of distilling & whisky creation Dr Bill Lumsden made use of the barrels available to him. For this latest release, he commissioned a set of bespoke casks, seasoned with Madeira made from the Malmsey variety, at his request.
'I had to discontinue the old Madeira Finish, because I simply couldn't get a consistent quality supply of wood in the quantities I was looking for, from the tiny little island of Madeira,' Lumsden told Imbibe. 'This one was bespoke, with every part of this whisky done according to the way I wanted it to be.'
A number of casks were made, mainly hogsheads, with some puncheons, made from American oak, medium to heavy toasted. 'Clearly the winemakers were going to get massive wood influence from these barrels. In many respects, the wine was sacrificial in this process, and at the end of the approximately 18-month seasoning period, the wine was unbottleable,' added Lumsden. 'They weren't unhappy, because of course I'd paid for the privilege.'
Glenmorangie Original was then finished in these casks, resulting in Bacalta. 'I was trying to capture the sun-baked goodness of the island of Madeira in a glass,' explained Lumsden. Bacalta is the Gaelic word for 'baked', after all – something that refers to the barrels, and to how Madeira was historically 'baked' in these barrels within the holds of ships, giving it its distinctive character.
In addition to the expected vinous, raisin notes in the whisky, there's some ripe, sweet tropical fruit, as well as a nutty, spicy character, with eucalyptus and a peppery note too. There's also a savoury, rancio character that Lumsden says is a direct contribution from the Madeira wine.
Approximately 4,800 9l cases were produced – on the larger side for Glenmorangie's Private Editions. Bacalta joins expressions such as Tusail, made with Maris Otter barley, and most recently, the sweet-shop inspired Milsean. Lumsden confirmed that he has at least the next five years of Private Editions already under development.
46% abv, £79, Möet Hennessy UK, 020 7808 4400