Visiting Dr Bill Lumsden, the creator of Glenmorangie expressions
By rose murray brown
My visit to his Edinburgh base is to witness the unveiling of Lumsden's latest whisky, the culmination of 28 years of passion and artistry. However before the big reveal, Lumsden takes us on a sensory journey.
We begin by comparing two whiskies, and choosing our favourite. The first is fresh, vibrant and citric, smelling of opal fruits, light soft tangy pear and white chocolate notes. The second is sweeter, riper, more caramelly and coconutty. I prefer the latter, the new flagship 'Original'. The former is its earlier incarnation, a 10 year old.
We then explore a few Lumsden wood creations. Glenmorangie is normally aged in white American oak, but new Finealta is a recreation of how it tasted in the 1900s when the distillery dried its malt over peat and aged in Oloroso sherry oak; resulting in raisiny, limey, mandarin notes with smoky and refined flavours. The next two glasses blew me away. Lumsden's experiment with maturing in Brazilian cherrywood is a weird blend of pistachio, floor polish, cachaca and carpet cleaner. His wonderful new Alligator Ardbeg (which launches in the UK in September, £70) is matured in high-char oak, smelling of smoked kippers, barbecues, bacon and intense spice.
Still awaiting his ultimate bottle, we head to Martin Wishart's cook school. Lumsden tasked Wishart to match The Original and his new creation to Scottish cuisine. "I don't advocate food and whisky matching per se, but as you know I am not averse to a little experimentation," says Lumsden.
With The Original we have an inspired match. Foie gras, marinated for an hour in Sauternes and The Original, smoked Orkney ham with hot toddy jelly and French style ginger bread, pain d'epice.
Finally Lumsden introduces his new Pride 1981, alongside roast loin Borders roe deer and delice of Valrhona Guanaja chocolate. "Pride 1981 has had the longest extra-maturation of any of our whiskies," says Lumsden. "1981 was a stand-out whisky, so when it was 18 years old we put a proportion of it into six Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes casks. It was disappointing to start with - then it began to take on the Sauternes character. Ten years on, it has developed amazing scents and incredible texture," he says.
Pride 1981 (pictured), looks more like a racing car model than a whisky bottle. Its container will be as collectable as its contents with just 1,000 available when it launches on 1 July.