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After a week in Cannes, the body – especially the liver – craves rest. Plain fare. No alcohol. Early nights. Well, scratch THAT. The Moodie Report had barely unpacked from the Riviera before heading to the Highlands for a whisky launch, courtesy of LVMH and World Duty Free Group (WDFG). Out went the stilettos and the sunglasses; into the suitcase went the wellies and the waterproofs.
The launch in question was the travel retail exclusive Glenmorangie Dornoch. The limited-edition expression will make its debut in the channel later this month, via an exclusive two-month listing with WDFG, before rolling out to the wider travel retail sector. As its name suggests, Glenmorangie Dornoch was inspired by the area surrounding the Glenmorangie distillery, which is located on the banks of the Dornoch Firth – a vast sea estuary and worldwide Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognised globally for its vital marine habitats.
In line with Glenmorangie’s commitment to preserve the natural heritage around the distillery for future generations, for every bottle sold, a donation will be made to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to help sustain and protect the estuary.
In other words, Glenmorangie Dornoch is imbued with a genuine Sense of Place from start to finish. That was reflected in the launch event itinerary, which began with lunch and a round of golf at the Royal Dornoch Club, whose breathtakingly beautiful Championship Course was ranked 6th in the world – and number one in Scotland – by Golf Digest 2014.
Ah yes, golf. The Moodie Report has several accomplished players (step forward Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt) but this particular Mann ain’t one of them. I’ve never picked up a club in my life, and as a southpaw who bats right-handed, I wasn’t even sure which way to swing (behave at the back). Luckily, the teaching pros Sean Fay and Gary Dingwall had endless reserves of patience, and once we’d overcome the hurdle of club selection, to my amazement I found myself hitting every single ball. Some of them in the right direction, even. “You’re a natural!” declared Gary encouragingly (although he didn’t specify at what). Nonetheless, having seen my driving skills on the course, he made sure I stayed in the passenger seat in the golf buggy.
After the proper players on the trip had finished their round, we headed to the Dornoch Firth itself – the inspiration for the Glenmorangie Dornoch whisky’s taste profile. MCS Programme Manager Scotland Calum Duncan delivered an impassioned presentation on the importance of the estuary, after which the group retired to Glenmorangie House in Tain, in readiness for the evening’s events.
Reader, if you ever get the chance to stay there, jump at it with both feet flying, because it is heaven on earth. The beds alone are worth the flight, and don’t get me started on the breakfasts… Each bedroom is individually furnished and decorated in traditional Scottish style and – best of all – a decanter of Glenmorangie single malt is provided in all of the rooms. I sampled mine stretched out in a bath that was almost big enough to swim in. Bliss.
But the whisky tasting proper began a little later, at the formal, pre-dinner reveal of Glenmorangie Dornoch. Glenmorangie Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr Bill Lumsden delivered a masterclass on how to taste whisky in general, and enjoy Glenmorangie Dornoch in particular. He also educated me on the etiquette of ‘releasing the serpent’ (I say again, behave at the back). It’s a proper whisky term. Google it if you don’t believe me.
Our appetites whetted after the drams and canapés, we headed to the dining room, in preparation for piping in the haggis, which was duly served with a Glenmorangie Original cream sauce. The menu was a total triumph. If I concentrate hard enough I can still taste the dark chocolate and vanilla delice dessert, which was served with Glenmorangie Dornoch poached apples, and violet ice cream coloured the exact same shade as the new expression’s packaging. Alas, I can certainly still feel it on my waistline – but heck, it was worth it.
After dinner we retired to the fire to be further entertained, both by traditional Scottish music – and the musings of the legend that is Dr Bill. I added Glenmorangie Signet to my tasting repertoire, before weaving my way to bed at around half past midnight. At breakfast the next day it transpired that certain others kept going until “the back end of one” (Dr Bill-speak for past 2am). Much respect.
After a “bracing” (wet and windy) walk to Glenmorangie House’s private beach, day two began with a visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery, led by Distillery Manager Andy McDonald. After a fascinating tour, we were lucky enough to be treated to some tastings straight from the barrel. The cask-strength Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was so good it almost reduced me to tears. What a privilege to sample it.
The tour concluded with yet another official tasting, of Glenmorangie Original, Dornoch and Signet, followed by a lunch, to help soak up all the alcohol. The shortbread, as you’d perhaps expect, was sublime.
All too soon it was time to travel back to Inverness Airport for the flight home (and a week in the gym to compensate). Thanks so much to all the hosts for their superlative hospitality and excellent company. I raise my glass to the success of Glenmorangie Dornoch – slàinte mhath to all involved.