Bringing together whisky and good friends

Glenmorangie Finealta and Sonnalta PX Official Tasting

When it comes to competitions I’m pretty lucky, just ask my friends. The prizes I’ve won in the past include tshirts, CDs, whisky, an all-expenses-paid luxury holiday and even 6 (yes six!) Vespa scooters. Each new win is a cause for a celebration, and none more so than the call I got a couple of months back saying that I had won 2 seats at an exclusive whisky tasting hosted by Glenmorangie South Africa.

Glenmorangie tasting at the Palazzo Hotel

Glenmorangie tasting at the Palazzo Hotel

To show their appreciation to their ardent whisky fans here, Glenmorangie SA ran a Facebook competition in which the prize was a seat for you and a friend at an exclusive tasting of their Sonnalta PX and Finealta whiskies. And by exclusive, I mean, EXCLUSIVE. As the Sonnalta PX and Finealta whiskies are only available in duty-free stores around the world, and not in the retail market, the average South African Joe’s chance of getting to taste these whiskies is pretty slim. How slim you ask? Two tastings for 10 winners and their guests (one in Cape Town and the other up here in Johannesburg) meant that 40 people out of a population of roughly 45 million would get a chance to enjoy these fine whiskies. That puts me in the 0.0000008889% of Saffers that cracked the nod. Nice, hey?

Ryan also got the call, so now the entire Modderfontein Whisky Club (Ryan, Colin and myself at that stage) would be in attendance, along with my good friend Ywain (who fortunately for us, takes his video camera wherever he goes). Positioning itself as a luxury brand, Glenmorangie had to choose a fitting venue for the tasting, and that it did. The Palazzo Montecasino, situated in Fourways, is a beautiful hotel epitomizing style and luxury.

We arrived at the Palazzo early, entered the large foyer and descended the marble staircase to be met by Niel Hendriksz, the Glenmorangie SA brand ambassador, and two beautiful Glenmorangie hostesses who duly signed us in and took photos of us posing with the coveted bottles of whisky. (The temptation was there to tuck the bottles under my arms and casually stroll out the building, but I resisted!) Neil ushered us past the tasting room out to a decked area where we waited for the rest of the winners to arrive. And wait we did… After about an hour of chit chat, several glasses of water and some delectable appetizers, we were finally going to taste some whiskies!

Niel Hendriksz, Glenmoranie South Africa brand ambassador

Niel Hendriksz, Glenmoranie South Africa brand ambassador

Niel is an entertaining and informative host, and we got to hear about Glenmorangie and more. Four whiskies were to be tasted: the Glenmorangie Original, Nectar d’Or, Finealta and Sonnalta PX. I’ll skip over the Original and Nectar d’Or and jump to the two Private Edition whiskies.

Nosing the Finealta

Nosing the Finealta

With the Finealta (meaning ‘Elegance’), Glenmorangie shows us what whisky used to be like back in 1903. Here we have a whisky matured in American white oak and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks with a subtle hint of peat creeping in.

Tasting the Sonnalta PX

Tasting the Sonnalta PX

The Sonnalta PX spends the first 10 years of its life in American white oak casks before being transferred into Spanish ex-Pedro Ximenez (PX) casks for another 2 years. We’re talking about THE best sherry casks in the world, and you know what, it shows. As Neil said during the tasting, “The Sonnalta is the Lasanta’s grandfather”.

Remember I mentioned my good friend Ywain at the start of this post? Well thanks to him, we have pretty much the entire tasting session captured on video for posterity! You can experience a shade under one hour of footage. It’ll almost feel like you were there – barring actually tasting the whisky itself! Enjoy the videos below…

Video 1: Intro to evening, social responsibility, whisky production, intro to Glenmorangie.

Video 2: Whisky production continued (casks/cooperage and malt), Glenmorangie Original overview.

Video 3: Glenmorangie Original tasting, a few whisky questions (glass selection, adding water to whisky, theory about ice, climate’s influence on drinking habits), Dr Bill Lumsden + extra maturation.

Video 4: Nectar d’Or, question about age statements, whisky as a status symbol, Finealta overview.

Video 5: Sonnalta overview + tasting.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the Finealta – a lovely sublte smoky whisky that still fits in well with the rest of the Glenmorangie range. The Sonnalta I absolutely LOVED. It’s reason enough to hop on a plane heading to an overseas destination just to be able to pick up a bottle of this sublime whisky in duty-free on the way back.

Modderfontein Whisky Club in high spirits

Modderfontein Whisky Club in high spirits

A big thank you to Glenmorangie, the Palazzo Montecasino (and their chef for some divine post-tasting treats!) and Niel Hendriksz for a brilliant evening out, and to my fellow tasters around the table for the conversation and knowledge shared after the formal tasting finished. The bottle of Original that Niel had in reserve went down well with a lot of laughter and discussion about our favourite drams. Talking about whiskies in the real world, drink in hand, is what the Whisky Tasting Fellowship is all about.

Sláinte!

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