Highland spirit with Brendan McCarron

02 Jan 2016
3 min read
FOUR heads to the highlands to speak to Glenmorangie’s Head of Maturing Whisky Stocks, Brendan McCarron, about their new award-winning single malt, Signet and what makes this whisky so special…

Glenmorangie Signet represents the very essence of Glenmorangie.The award-winning single malt is the culmination of the Distillery’s 170-year dedication to crafting unnecessarily well-made whisky.It is informed by the mineral-rich water of Glenmorangie’s Tarlogie Springs; the local Cadboll barley, which adds a silky creaminess to the spirit; the 150-year-old oaks which make up the casks in which it is maturedand the Distillery’s ancient provenance, signified by the ancient Pictish artwork of Glenmorangie’s homeland, the Hilton of Cadboll Stone.The first whisky to be created from high-roasted “chocolate” malt, and incorporating some of Glenmorangie’s oldest stocks, Glenmorangie Signet epitomises the Distillery’s reputation for combining innovation with tradition.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a town called Coatbridge near Glasgow in West Central Scotland.My parents together with my brother and sister still live in Coatbridge so I visit often. I now live in Stirling.

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

I am named after my Uncle Brendan who is a Doctor.I think I was often told when I was younger that I was going to follow in his footsteps and become a Doctor, so that’s what I used to say.However, I really wanted to play for Barcelona from an early age, and in truth, I probably still do.

How did you find your way into the world of spirits?

I lived down on the South Coast of England, working for a pharmaceutical company, and in truth, I was very happy there.My girlfriend (now wife) was homesick and wanted to move home so I decided to look for jobs that would be suitable for my ambitions and skills in Scotland.As a result I ended up working for Diageo in a graduate scheme.My first posting was in Speyside in the Malt Distilling function and I got the whisky bug in that first year.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of Glenmorangie?

The Glenmorangie Company proudly owns two of Scotland’s great distilleries – Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.Ardbeg Distillery was founded on Islay in 1815 and this year celebrates its 200th birthday. Glenmorangie Distillery was founded in 1843 in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, in the Royal Burgh of Tain. Our company has proudly carved a reputation as pioneers, uniting traditional techniques with new innovative processes. The venture may have started small, its location remote, but our founder, William Matheson, had an extraordinary vision. By using the tallest stills in Scotland, he was laying the foundations of what would become one of the most famous single malt Scotch whiskies in the world.In 1893 Edinburgh wine & spirit merchants Macdonald & Muir began operating for the Glenmorangie Company. The Glenmorangie distillery was acquired by the company in 1918, and in 1996, Macdonald & Muir became Glenmorangie plc.In 1997, Glenmorangie plc purchased the Ardbeg Distillery on the island of Islay.In 2005, Glenmorangie plc became part of Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton (LVMH).

What makes Glenmorangie Signet so special in your opinion?

The most special thing to me about Signet is the intensity and the texture of the whisky. The mouthfeel is incredible. We use roasted malted barley – known as chocolate malt- when we make Signet, which is an innovation for the industry.As well as the chocolate malt, we also use barley grown locally at Cadboll and bespoke American white oak casks as part of the recipe. But what makes Signet special is the taste.

Can you give us a quick masterclass in whisky?

There is an awful lot to say! Single malt whisky- like Glenmorangie and Ardbeg – can only be made with three ingredients: malted barley, yeast and water.

We distil our spirit in copper pot stills twice to produce a transparent spirit at the distillery. The shape of the still influences the flavour of the spirit and Glenmorangie uses the tallest stills in Scotland to make its spirit. We then mature the whisky in casks made of oak which give new flavours and also the gold colour of whisky.Every single malt tastes different, and the best way to find out is to taste.Glenmorangie is light, gentle and has a huge complexity of flavours. Some whiskies are meaty, some are waxy, some are fruity, and some – particularly on the Isle of Islay – are smoky.Ardbeg is the ultimate Islay smoky malt and this flavour comes from drying the malted barley using peat as well as warm air.

What are your FOUR indispensable spirit collection favourites?

Ardbeg Ten years old, Glenmorangie Original and I always have gin and vodka at home for making cocktails.

Find out more about Signet and Glenmorangie here…