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Reviewing Glenmorangie's Private Edition Companta

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Dr. Bill Lumsden, the energetic and engaging head of distilling and whiskey creation at the Glenmorangie distillery, is known for his experimentations with many varieties of woods for his Highland single malt Scotch whiskies. This is the fifth release in the company's "hugely successful, award-winning Private Edition series," he said in a handwritten note to me that arrived with a laboratory sample of the new creation.

When Bill Lumsden comes up with another in a series of Glenmorangie's Private Edition single malts, the whisky world pays attention. He is sort of the benevolent mad scientist of the Scotch world, working away in his lab at the Highlands distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland, on a picturesque former piece of farmland.

There, using a variety of woods from all over and local water from the Tarlogie Springs, he continually comes up with excellent single malts known for their sophistication, deep flavors and wonderfully lingering finishes.

The first four creations in the Private Edition, most of which are very difficult to find now because they were limited releases, were Finealta (aged in used American white oak and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks); Sonnalta (matured 10 years in used American white oak casks then two years in used Pedro Ximenez PX sherry casks); Artein (aged in "super Tuscan" used casks), and Ealanta (aged 19 years in heavily toasted virgin American Oak casks)

This is the latest, Companta -- Scots Gaelic for "friendship." It is an extra-matured spirit that has been aged in vintage French wine casks -- Grand Cru casks from Clos de Tart and fortified wine casks from the Cótes du Rhòne.

Says Lumsden about the selection of woods for this creation, "As a true wine aficionado, some of my most memorable visits have been to the vineyards of Burgundy, where the dedication and attention to detail that goes into their craft never ceases to amaze me.. The smaller vineyards of the region don't seem to worry about yields, costs or timings. They work tirelessly simply to produce the very best wine. ... This shared philosophy inspired me to create Companta, the ultimate tribute to my longstanding love for French vineyards and the friends that I've had the pleasure to make throughout my travels."

Companta is a total pleasure, from the first glance at its slightly ruby color to its welcoming nose of red berries, oak and even woodsmoke. On the palate, it is like slipping into a comfortable cashmere jacket, enveloping you with its warmth and a spicy palate that offers hints of cherries, oranges, brown sugar and plums.

Companta is scheduled to go on the market in the U.S. this month. A suggested retail price has not been announced, but it no doubt will be in the same $100+ range as its Private Edition companions.

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