With maverick Dr Bill Lumsden in charge of whisky creation at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, these two brands have never been strangers to innovation in the world of whisky.
The jovial Scot is an ideas machine, churning out all sorts of experiments for Glenmorangie through its Private Edition range and anything else he can tinker with. But it appears his hands are currently somewhat tied with what he’s able to do.
‘We’ve got 12 stills at the distillery, and they’re running at full capacity. The demand for production means I don’t get to experiment, so we’re adding two new stills in to form an experimental distillery, meaning I’ll be able to try a lot of the things I haven’t been able to,’ Lumsden announced at the launch dinner for the Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1991.
With more capacity to indulge his many ideas, it’ll be exciting to see what comes out in 10 to 12 years’ time.
In the meantime, Lumsden and his right-hand man Brendan McCarron are busy working with the existing distillery stocks to develop the annual Private Edition and Grand Vintage launches. The latest in the latter series is a 1991, a one-off, small-batch release that’s an unusual mix of two parcels that were aged in bourbon barrels and then finished in either oloroso or Burgundy casks for more than a decade. These were tied together with some whisky that had been entirely aged in virgin toasted oak, before the recipe was married in vat for four or five months.
The result is a burnished-copper liquid with a fruity-floral-sweet nose of plums, peach, apple, jasmine, rose, coconut and cooling menthol. The silky, syrupy palate has a slightly drier character, with a distinct tannic influence from the casks, which imparted dark chocolate and cigar-box flavours, accompanied by Brazil nuts and orange peel.
‘Bringing together two such incongruous whiskies goes somewhat against convention which, in part, is what drew me to the challenge of combining them,’ said Lumsden. ‘Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1991 honours those early pioneers who dedicated themselves to the art of the wood finish in 1991, whose work still guides us today.’
43% abv, £630/70cl, Moët Hennessy UK 020 7808 4400