Glenmorangie (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable the distillery is owned by The Glenmorangie Company Ltd, whose main product is the range of Glenmorangie single malt whisky. Glenmorangie is categorised as a Highland distillery and boasts the tallest stills in Scotland.
Legends tell that alcoholic beverages of one kind or another were produced in and around Tain since the Middle Ages.
According to the Glenmorangie Company, the earliest record of the production of alcohol at Morangie Farm is dated 1703. In the 1730s a brewery was built on the site that shared the farm's water source, the Tarlogie Spring. A former distillery manager, William Matheson, acquired the farm in 1843 and converted the Morangie brewery to a distillery, equipped with two second hand gin stills. He later renamed the distillery Glenmorangie.
The distillery was purchased by its main customer, the Leith firm Macdonald and Muir, in 1918. The Macdonald family would retain control of the company for almost 90 years.
Glenmorangie, like all distilleries and breweries in Britain, suffered terribly between 1920 and 1950, with prohibition and then the Great Depression in the United States reducing whisky sales. The distillery was effectively mothballed between 1931 and 1936. The depression ended with World War II, but the war effort left fuel and barley in short supply and the distillery was again mothballed between 1941 and 1944. Exports of whisky were important during the war, but enemy action disrupted and destroyed deliveries to the United States and Canada.
Towards the end of the war and in the immediate post war period, the distillery increased production and was running at full capacity by 1948. The number of stills was increased from two to four during 1977. Water supply became a concern during the 1980s when development of the land around the Tarlogie Springs seemed likely. Development could have reduced the quality and quantity of water available to the distillery, so the decision was made to purchase around 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land around and including the Tarlogie Springs. The distillery once again engaged in expansion during 1990 when it added a further four stills, and two additional fermentation vessels (or washback’s) were added during 2002. Four new stills were added in 2009, bringing the total to twelve.
The Macdonald family retained ownership of 52% of the company through a complicated London stock exchange listing which saw the family hold the majority of the voting shares in the company. In 2004, the company was sold to the French drinks company Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for around £300 million.
The stills which stand 26 ft. (7.9 m) high
Glenmorangie's water source is the Tarlogie Springs, situated in the Tarlogie Hills above the distillery. Barley grain is supplied by Highland Grain Ltd, a co-operative of farmers in the area. The stills used, the tallest in Scotland at 26 ft. 3 in (8.00 m) tall, with 16 feet 10.25 inches (5.1372 m) necks, are claimed by the company to produce an extremely light taste. The distillation process was for decades undertaken by a staff of 16, known as The Sixteen Men of Tain, who worked year round, with the exceptions of Christmas and periods of maintenance. Expansion of production since 2008 has led to a larger staff of 24, who are now referred to on bottles in and promotional leaflets just as The Men of Tain.
Glenmorangie uses a number of different cask types, with all products being matured in white oak casks which are manufactured from trees growing in Glenmorangie's own forest in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, United States. These new casks are left to air for two years before being leased to distillers Jack Daniel's and Heaven Hill for them to maturebourbon in for four years. Glenmorangie then uses the barrels to mature their spirit. The Original range will mature entirely in ex-bourbon casks, while the Extra Matured range of bottlings are transferred into casks that were previously used to mature other products such as wine, port or sherry in a process called finishing. These form part of the regular range of products Glenmorangie produces. Glenmorangie also obtains small batches of other casks for finishing and release limited edition bottlings from these. Following acquisition by LVMH, Glenmorangie produced a rare limited edition aged in casks previously used to mature Château Margaux; these bottlings are now (2011) extremely hard to find and are priced accordingly.
The warehouses in which the casks are stored are also believed to affect the taste of the whisky. Glenmorangie have released a special edition bottling, titled Cellar 13 which is from the warehouse closest to the sea, as the whisky is believed to have a distinctive flavor.
Bottling of the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg brands takes place at The Glenmorangie Company's purpose built bottling plant in The Alba Campus at Livingston, West Lothian, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland.Glenmorangie previously bottled Drambuie in a joint venture with the Drambuie Company; this arrangement ended in 2010