There are countless Scottish Highlands nooks and crannies to explore, but one of the most charming bits of coastline on the Ross-shire Peninsula near the ancient Royal Burgh of Tain is where the Glenmorangie House sits. Famous for its Scotch Whisky, the Glenmorangie brand extends its hospitality to visitors to the region with their country house turned hotel. I spent a night there recently to check out their award-winning chef John Wilson’s cuisine and their unique expressions of whiskies.
Upon check-in I was briefed on the “etiquette” of the house. Guests meet for cocktails (a full bar on offer) in the Morning Room at seven-thirty in the evening followed by dinner in the stately dining room at eight o’clock sharp. When dinner is adjourned guests usually retire to the Buffalo Room where a roaring fire burns in the fireplace every night without exception. If it’s warm outside, they crank up the air-conditioning to accommodate the nightly ritual.
Prior to the collective Happy Hour, I had a private Whisky tasting in the Morning Room where I had the opportunity to try several drams of Glenmorangie, starting with the commercial The Original and The Lasanta – this being the more interesting of the two. The Private Edition Túsail (the word Túsail means Originary) wound up being my favorite due to my affinity for any spirit with a touch of vanilla notes. I bought a bottle to take home for my husband, but secretly hoped he’d share it with me, which of course he did! The Travel Exclusive The Tarlogan was also one of my picks because of the beautiful botanical notes. I also prefer spirits that are aged in oak barrels for a shorter period of time. Cutting down on the intense oak flavors, The Tarlogan was particularly smooth as a result.
Dinner with strangers at the single long table quickly became more like a collegial event as we bonded over whisky tasting and our shared love of gastronomy. As each course was presented we collectively “ooh’ed and aah’ed” at the beautifully plated dishes. By the end of the feast it felt more like we were old friends than people who had just met. After the following morning breakfast we parted ways, feeling a tinge of sadness that our time together was so short. I don’t know if it was the spirit of the Glenmorangie House, the copious amounts of whiskey consumed, the fresh ocean air or serendipity that had us bond so quickly; but if I were a betting woman I would bet on the house every time.
The menu for the evening included:
- *Cadboll Breads freshly baked in House
- Duthac Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad – pickled celery, apple, micro leaves, citrus & yogurt dressing
- Pan Fried West Coast Sea Bass Fillet – lightly pickled cucumber noodles, toasted almonds, vanilla, dill & caviar cream sauce
- Honey Glazed Gartmorn Farm Duck Breast – celeriac, charred corn, pea shoots, confit leg ravioloi, orange & cinnamon reduction
- Elderflower & Tahitian Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse – season Scottish strawberries, pistachio crumb, white chocolate, strawberry & basil ice cream
The number one question visitors ask didn’t surprise me, as it was also my first query of the trip, “What is the correct pronunciation of Glenmorangie?” The beginning is simple…Glen is glen and the rest is like m’orange with an ‘e’ sound at the end. Put it all together and you have ‘glen-more-an’gee’. No matter how you say it, Glenmorangie House lives up to its name, The Great Glen of Tranquility.
The Glenmorangie Distillery is close by, and I initially discovered it after booking a tour with Gavin Nicholson of Invergordon Tours who specializes in Whisky Tours in and around Inverness and the Scottish Highlands.
* Named for the MacLeods of Cadboll, whose connections with Glenmorangie’s homeland run deep. In 1699 they created Glenmorangie House (then Cadboll House) just a few short miles from where the current Distillery now stands.