The stories of their origins resonate through the ages, as unique as the whiskies they inspire. Each distilled in a single year, these rare and precious malts are celebrated in Glenmorangie’s exclusive vintage Bond House No 1 collection. The series begins with the story of Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990 – an intriguing single malt whose sublime spirit might never have existed at all…
A majestic guardian
The Bond House No 1 collection was conceived to honour the largest of Glenmorangie’s traditional 19th-century bonded warehouses, which for generations served as home to the Highland Distillery’s finest wooden casks of patiently maturing whisky. As demand for the single malt surged, Bonded Warehouse No 1 was transformed in 1990 into the beating heart of the Distillery – a towering new stillhouse – revered today as Glenmorangie’s Highland cathedral.
Ever since, this majestic building has protected Glenmorangie’s signature copper stills, renowned as the tallest in Scotland. Their height ensures that the vapours travel the long distance to the top, to create Glenmorangie’s smoother, more elegant spirit.
The most challenging harvest
Inspired by the heritage of its namesake, Bond House No 1 will, on an annual basis, share the story of a prestigious vintage malt with connoisseurs and collectors. And none is more compelling than the story of the collection’s inaugural release, Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990, as the Distillery’s acclaimed Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks explains.
“The delicious spirit which became Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990 was particularly hard won,” says Dr Bill Lumsden. “As all whisky lovers know, barley is a crucial ingredient in the creation of whisky. But in 1990, the harvest we were presented with varied widely, proving more challenging than any other in living memory. The maltsters were the first to experience difficulties: such was the variation in the grain that they were simply unable to create a malt which would ensure a smooth flow through distilleries. Spirit creation faltered many times as a result, frustrating the efforts of whisky makers across Scotland.
“Glenmorangie had to summon all the mastery and craftsmanship for which our Distillery is renowned, just to create an exceptionally small parcel of spirit. Against all the odds, the new-make spirit of 1990 tasted sublime. Even today, there are few outside our Distillery who understand how such an exquisite spirit could stem from a harvest so challenging.”
A sense of destiny
Alive to the spirit’s potential, Glenmorangie selected the finest ex-bourbon casks in which to nurture its rare delicacy to maturity, with a small parcel in former sherry casks to bring a robustness of character that would complement the more traditional notes lent by the bourbon. And so, in the Distillery’s peaceful surroundings on the banks of the beautiful Dornoch Firth, the long wait commenced, as wood and whisky began their patient marriage of flavours.
A quarter century of careful maturation later, Dr Bill Lumsden sensed that these two parcels of whisky had reached their very best. Taking his inspiration from the spirit’s origins, he united their characters to create Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990 – a whisky whose rounded, mellow character belies its maturity.
Overflowing with fruit and flowers
“From such sublime spirit comes a whisky as extraordinary as the story of its origins suggests,” he explains. “The remarkable vibrancy and finesse of this whisky, despite a quarter-century in casks, speaks of the spirit’s delicacy – and the skilful maturation which has preserved its elegant character through the years.
“Collectors will delight in the cornucopia of floral and fruity aromas which emerge on the nose, with suggestions of pear, honeysuckle, freesia, mandarin and more. The whisky’s silken, creamy textures lead to a succulent sweetness of orange syrup, honeycomb and vanilla mingling with gooseberry and menthol – and a finish of baked apples and pears, deeper notes of brown sugar and a hint of cloves.
“Through the rare and precious vintages of our Bond House No 1 collection, we seek to explore the unique character each year brings to our whisky. The individuality of Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990 represents a truly inspiring introduction.”