Posts Tagged ‘Bill Lumsden’

Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg – in 140 or Less

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Author - Caroline Dewar Another in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers from the director of distilling, whisky creation, and whisky stocks at the Glenmorangie Co., Bill Lumsden. He’s understandably quite busy, but took time out to answer some nosy questions.

What’s the view from your office/lab window?

I am lucky to have a splendid view of the Balmoral Hotel and in the background…Edinburgh Castle! Oh and the lovely St. James Centre! [The Centre is a 1970s concrete monstrosity shopping mall.]

Sublime to ridiculous! What was your route into the whisky industry?

Studying for my Ph.D., I discovered the sublime taste of malt whisky. That was it; no other choice. First job was with DCL (Diageo) as a research scientist.

And from there to here was…?

Working in all aspects of whisky production; you name it. First job at Glenmorangie Co. was Glenmorangie distillery manager, then the predecessor of my current role.

Lumsden's obsession: wood

Lumsden’s obsession: wood

Well rounded then. I assume no typical day. What tasks might take up your time?

Absolutely no such thing as typical – with an incredibly low boredom threshold ‘typical’ would irritate me. Most days involve some organoleptic analysis of whisky.

Nosing and tasting then! Or just nosing? How much time do you get to spend at the distilleries?

Both nosing and tasting (but of course I don’t swallow in the office). Not nearly as much as I would like but basically at both at least once a month.

And how much time travelling? You pop up all over the world.

Hard to be precise but probably spend about 25% of my time in the markets. Usually do 2 trips a year to both Asia and the U.S. and some trips to Europe, London, Paris etc.

Do the public appearances take up lots of time? Are they enjoyable?

Out in the market sometimes I barely have time to sleep/eat/shower but it is still enjoyable. Genuinely gives interesting consumer insights into the whisky world.

Where does family life fit in?

All I will say on that one is that it costs me a fortune in presents from my many trips away.

You’re renowned—among other things—for work on maturation wood. What drives you there?

An understanding from early in my career that it doesn’t matter how good the raw spirit, if it’s not matured in good quality oak you simply cannot make good whisky.

Anything else?
Yes, the laws governing production of Scotch are so strict that the oak barrel is one of the most successful ways of playing tunes with the flavor of your whisky.

And you’ve played some great tunes. Still sourcing oak from the Ozarks?

Absolutely, it’s one of the key cornerstones of the quality of Glenmorangie. I have recently doubled the quantity of this type of wood we use for our top marques.

Presumably not a cheap option, then.

A very, very expensive option, but critical to the taste profile I am trying to achieve.

Do you like or use European oak?

I like European oak for some of my whiskies, but will typically use it for a limited part of the maturation, due to the higher level of tannin.

So the U.S. oak works better for you…?

I prefer American oak for the base maturation, as I particularly like the soft, sweet, creamy flavors it imparts (for both Ardbeg and Glenmorangie).

Any other elements/ingredients in Scotch production still largely unexplored or unexplained?

Trying to create new products; some people are looking at aspects of primary production.
I believe the fermentation offers the most potential for new flavors.

Do go on, please…

Ha ha! Not going to fall for that one. However, there are other strains of yeast out there I think could give an exciting alternative range of flavors to our products.

No trick intended! Your parent company owns champagnes, and so yeast. Any ambition for a sparkling Glenmorangie or Ardbeg?

From my experiences of drinking whisky champagne cocktails, I’m not certain that this would be a good idea!

I’ll just have to play with Ardbeg as a Kir base then. Kir fumé anyone?

I am very partial to a Mosquito (an Ardbeg-based mojito), and even, believe it or not, an Ardbeg Bloody Mary, but I haven’t yet tried it in a Kir.

Bill Lumsden TaghtaWe’ll all give it a go and let you know. In photos your suits always look immaculately cut. Is tailoring/clothing important to you?

Sadly, utterly obsessed with it, particularly the cut/fabric of suits. At any one time, I’ll have at least twenty clothing items still in their wrappings in my wardrobe.

Not sad; just particular! Ever thought of a modeling career? Seriously, though, what else do you enjoy outside work?

Modeling? Ha ha, very funny, Caroline! Interests: walking, wine, jogging, wine, cooking, wine, gardening, wine, etc.

Just a thought as an alternative career! I’m sensing a wine theme here. Anything in particular?

Very eclectic tastes and enjoy all sorts of wines. But my favorite whites, by some distance, are white Burgundies, and Cab Sauv is probably my favorite red grape.

It’s white Burgundy for me too. You cook: any signature dish?

Not really any signature dish per se, but I guess the dish I cook most is grilled rib eye steak with a blue cheese sauce.

All your fine whisky creations: any one of which you’re most proud and why?

I guess my magnum opus would be Signet, which is a very personal product to me, particularly given the length of time from when I had the original idea.

Do tell us more.

Idea from student days and disliking coffee: better aroma than taste. Led to considering the roast of the beans. A short leap to maybe roasting barley the same way.

Any favorite country to be in a) for work, and b) for pleasure?

Work: Japan. Just love the fact that the culture, the cuisine, the people are so different from the West. Pleasure: so many places but my top 3 are France, Italy, and U.S.

Lastly, what’s your desert island dram (you’re allowed to appreciate the work of others if you wish)?

My desert island dram would have to be my 1981 Glenmorangie Distillery Manager’s choice, which was bottled from my favorite single cask (ex-bourbon).

The Bill Lumsden interview

Monday, November 15th, 2010

As I mentioned here, I had lunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden the day before WhiskyFest New York.  Bill is the Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation for The Glenmorangie Company. That includes Ardbeg and Glenmorangie.

I asked you what questions you would like me to ask Bill.  Here they are, with his answers.

Rumor has it there are no old stocks of Ardbeg. True?

Untrue. We have a limited amount. That’s why we stopped bottling Lord of the Isles. But we still have some. Watch this space.

Is Glenmorangie PLC going to buy a craft distiller in the U.S. like some other Scottish whisky companies are doing?

It’s very unlikely. If anything, there will be more focus on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which the company owns.

Which closed/mothballed distillery would you like to see active again?

Rosebank. It has always been a personal favorite, and I have several bottles saved for future enjoyment.

What made Ardbeg and Glenmorangie decide now to certify bottlings as Kosher? Any plans of new certified releases in the future?

We realized that a lot of Jewish drinkers were not drinking our products becuase they didn’t know if they could. We certified Glenmorangie Original (10 year old), Glenmorangie Astar and Ardbeg 10 year old for this reason.

Any new special bottlings like Rollercoaster for 2011?

Yes, there will be new bottlings. John, when time gets closer, you will an exclusive peak. I’ll just say this for now. In 2011, we’ll release a wacky new Ardbeg. In  2012, we plan on releasing an old-fashioned, traditional Ardbeg.

We’ll also have a lovely old new Glenmorangie, perhaps around Christmas time. Look for a new release that I am calling the “grandson of Sonnalta” in the Private Edition series. Plus, you know how you and I have discussed how much we like Sassicaia wine from Tuscany? Well…there’s a clue to something new in the future.

Will Supernova become a standard release in the Ardbeg range?

That’s less clear cut.

Are you selling any casks to independent bottlers?

Only our Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings.

An plans on doing your own floor maltings again?

I have had the same dreams (he said with a twinkle in his eye). If that ever were to happen, we probably would bottle the whisky made from our floor maltings exclusively, and not blend it in with whisky from malt that we have brought in, like the way Laphroaig does it.

Would you ever identify on the bottle when you use caramel coloring?

We do it when it is required. We are not trying to hide the fact that we use it, and we are trying to minimize it’s use. We only use it for “standardization” (to keep the color of a given whisky consistent). I would like to see it (caramel coloring) banned!

Can you give me in a sentence or two the house character of Glenmorangie?

It has a softness and silkiness on the palate, a sweet taste, and great finesse and complexity.

Will there be an Ardbeg 17 year old anytime soon?

Not anytime soon?

What’s the age of Glenmorangie Cellar 13?

It was a 10 year old. If you like this whisky, then you should try Astar, its spiritual successor.

Is your company going to be bought by Diageo?

This is very topical. I don’t know. It’s pointless worrying about it.

Will there be a Glenmorangie Signet-like Ardbeg anytime soon (i.e., using caramel and/or chocolate malt, etc.)

No, but we are always experimenting.

Thank you Bill!

Lunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden TODAY! Have any questions for him?

Monday, November 8th, 2010

At 1:30 PM today (Eastern Time, US), I’m having lunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation for The Glenmorangie Company. That includes Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. That’s about five hours from now.

I realize that this is last minute, but…do you have any questions you would like me to ask him?  I’ll do my best to get the answers.