The best journeys are as much about the route taken as the destination itself, and so it is with Astar, an exciting new release from popular Highland distiller Glenmorangie. ‘Astar’ is the Gaelic word for journey and this bottling celebrates each part of the incredible voyage the whisky has taken in pursuit of perfection.
With around 60% of a malt whisky’s character coming directly from the vessel in which the liquid is matured, casks play an essential role in the whisky-making process, along with the craftsmanship and skill of the distiller. Astar highlights the impact that superior wood has on the quality of a whisky and how it directly enhances the final flavour of Glenmorangie’s delicate spirit.
The quest to source the ultimate casks begins in Missouri with slow-growth American white oak from the Ozark Mountains. This wood has an open and more porous structure for greater extraction, so the spirit can soak deep into its heart and leach out more of its silky, creamy flavours. Lignin and lactone from the tree are gradually broken down to gently impart delicious notes of vanilla, coconut, almond and marzipan.
Once these top oaks have been hand-selected and felled, the individual staves that will form the barrels are left to dry outdoors in the fresh mountain air for two years, where they gently breathe and soften. This avoids the bitterness and astringency that can result from more forced kiln drying, and will help to release more sweet and toasty vanilla notes during maturation.
When the seasoned staves have been crafted into barrels in the cooperage, they receive a gentle toasting using infra-red technology that penetrates deep into the wood to tease out more flavours without giving any harsh burnt notes, and a light char to impart the whisky with a golden hue.
But these ‘designer’ casks are still not ready to greet the Glenmorangie spirit. First, they are loaned to some good friends in Tennessee who look after them and fill them with their American
whiskey for the next four years before the journey continues from Tennessee to Tain in Scotland, the home of Glenmorangie. Once here, the whisky can finally embark on its slow and careful
maturation in the cool, dark warehouse.
‘Astar is the quintessence of Glenmorangie and an archetypal ex-bourbon cask whisky,’ says Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s master craftsman and head of distilling. Bottled at full cask strength to show the true spectrum of flavours and non-chill-filtered for extra texture, Astar is characterised by ‘a rich, silk creaminess’. The impressive end to this epic journey is yours to discover, so let your own sensorial journey begin.