Posts Tagged ‘Glenmorangie’

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).

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics Announced

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I wanted to share with you our list of seminar topics and whiskies scheduled for the WhiskyFest New York 2013 weekend. The seminar program, outlined below, will take place on Saturday, October 12th.

Some of the whiskies are being produced and bottled just for this event–you won’t see or taste them anywhere else. They’re still “work in progress” and are identified as TBD (to be determined). We are very excited about the program and the whiskies. Hopefully you can join us. I’ll provide additional updates as we get closer to the event.

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics

Wanted: Dead or Alive

A tasting of rare whiskies: two from demolished distilleries and two from active distilleries. Industry experts will be on-hand to describe these whiskies and what makes them so special

Moderator: Jonny McCormick

  • Glenury Royal 23 yr. old, bottled in 1997. A rare bottling of single malt scotch from a distillery that last produced in 1983.
  • Stitzel-Weller bourbon (TBD). This legendary bourbon distillery closed in the early 1990s. We will taste something rare from the Diageo stocks that remain.
  • Kininvie (TBD). Relatively new distillery owned by William Grant and on the site of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, but rarely ever bottled and never imported to the U.S.
  • Sazerac 18 yr. old Rye. This is the first-ever release of this now legendary rye whiskey, Distilled in 1981 and  bottled in 2000.


Glenmorangie-Pride-1981LR-300x200Whisky Legend #1: Jimmy Russell

We spend time with Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, talk about life and whiskey, and taste a very special Wild Turkey whiskey selected by Jimmy.

Moderator: Lew Bryson



12 in all the World

The world’s best whiskymakers each produce just twelve bottles of a whiskey exclusively for WhiskyFest, never to be tasted anywhere else. Ever. (Whisky specifics TBD.)

Moderator: Dave Broom

  • Ardbeg
  • Balvenie
  • Highland Park
  • Aberlour


Auchentoshan 1979 OlorosoWhisky Legend #2: Jim McEwan

We spend time with Bruichladdich Whiskymaker Jim McEwan, talk about life and whisky, and taste a very special Bruichladdich selected by Jim just for this occassion.

Moderator: Dave Broom


Scotch & Chocolate

Whiskymakers collaborate with chocolatiers, each pairing a whisky with a specific chocolate. Both the whiskymakers and chocolatiers will be on the panel to discuss their parings. (Details on the whiskies and chocolates TBD.)

Moderator: Gavin Smith

  • Compass Box (Featuring John Glaser of Compass Box)
  • Glenmorangie (Featuring Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie)
  • Dalmore (Featuring Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay)


Talisker lunch

We taste a special selection of four different Talisker whiskies.

Moderator: Dave Broom


Balvenie TUN1401-Batch5_ComboLR1-225x300Whisky Legend #3: Parker Beam

We spend time with Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, talk about life, whiskey, and his recent diagnosis of ALS, and taste a very special whiskey selected by Parker.

Moderators: Lew Bryson & John Hansell


Where Whisky is Heading

Taste the hottest, cutting edge whiskies along with the master distillers and blenders who are making them.

Moderator: Dominic Roskrow

  • The evolution of US Artisan distilling: Anchor Hotalings
  • Bourbon Innovation: Something new and special from Buffalo Trace (TBD)
  • Japanese whisky boom: Something new to the U.S. from Japan’s Nikka whisky company.
  • The trend towards blended malts. Featuring Blue Hanger, Whisky Advocate Blend of the Year


The Best!

Taste several of the Whisky Advocate award winning whiskies, along with Whisky Advocate’s esteemed whisky writers who chose them.

Moderator: John Hansell

  • Glenmorangie Pride 1981 Vintage (>$3,000/bottle!): Gavin Smith
  • Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch: John Hansell
  • Auchentoshan 1979 Vintage: Gavin Smith
  • Balvenie Tun 1401: Dave Broom
  • Lot No. 40: Davin de Kergommeaux
  • Yellow Spot: Dominic Roskrow
  • Corsair Triple Smoke: Lew Bryson

(Please note: whiskies subject to change)

Global launch of Glenmorangie Ealanta

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Jonny McCormick attended the launch of Glenmorangie Ealanta late last month and sent in this report, but then we started announcing the Whisky Advocate Award winners and didn’t want to interrupt that process. Here’s what he learned from Dr. Bill Lumsden…and celebrated humorist Mark Twain.

Mark Twain gesticulates to the assembly with his cigar and proposes a toast, “To good friends, and the best single malt whisky I have ever tasted.” Looking quite spry for a 177 year old literary figure in his dapper cream suit, he raises a glass of Glenmorangie Ealanta to his lips. We are gathered in the elegant Palm Court of The Langham to hear Dr. Bill Lumsden reveal the first major new single malt whisky of the year, while outside London shivers in anticipation of an approaching snowstorm. So why has Dr. Bill invited the mustachioed malt Twainiac along toGlenmorangie Ealanta Launch entertain us?

Glenmorangie Ealanta is the fourth expression in their Private Editions range and has been matured for 19 years in heavily toasted virgin oak casks. The Gaelic moniker means “skilled and ingenious” and harks from the period in the early 1990s when Glenmorangie began their experimentations into wood. During his first year with the company, Bill set about exploring the stock and discovered a parcel of whisky in some of their prototype casks. You may recall the 2002 bottling of Glenmorangie Missouri Oak Reserve, a 1,000-bottle limited release that they filled into virgin charred oak barrels, their first ever release wholly matured in virgin oak and now a highly sought after collectible whisky tracked by the Whisky Advocate Auction Index.

“The charred oak gives a large amount of flavor really quickly,” Bill explains, “and while it may work beautifully for the oily, gutsy spirits distilled in Kentucky and Tennessee, it’s not ideally suited for our rather refined and delicate Scottish spirit. The challenge with that product was you didn’t quite have the same degree of finesse and delicacy that Glenmorangie normally has.”

Ealanta hails from the same melting pot of experimentation and trials into producing the perfect cask type but the crucial difference is the staves were toasted. “The Missouri Oak Reserve was charred rather than toasted,” Bill notes, “and the toasting just gives an altogether more subtle taste experience.”

Ealanta originated from very lightly peated barley made in the traditional way to make the traditional spirit, but the requirements for these 156 hogsheads specified slow growth oak that was air-seasoned, but only for twelve months, not the full eighteen or twenty-four months. As distillery manager, Bill ensured the casks were tucked away in Warehouse 3, one of their complex of old fashioned dunnage-style warehouses with thick stone walls, low ceilings, and damp earth floors, which are the perfect conditions for a long steady maturation of Scotch whisky.

Bill continues, “Rather than driving the extractives out of the wood, which you would get in a typical Kentucky heated warehouse, this allows the flavors in the wood to be coaxed out very gently, and it develops a lot of complexity.” The whisky is non-chill filtered and bottled in its natural color at 46%. It is dark in the bottle for Glenmorangie, though not quite acquiring the russet hues of Missouri Oak Reserve.

So what did this taste like 5 or 10 years ago? “Bizarrely, it was more oaky than it is now,” Bill says. “You leach a lot of the oak out fairly quickly, and then it has the ability to develop the fragrance, the complexity which helps to balance the flavors out. So it is altogether a more rounded product than it was, in my view.”

Dr. Bill lifts his glass to his nose, and describes what he smells: “Lots of influence of the oak there; toffee, butterscotch, maybe a hint of sugar-coated almonds or Brazil nuts. There are some nice ripe fruits in there, but this is more candied orange peel than the lemon blossom and orange found in Glenmorangie Original. Still, a citrus bite in there, but a sweet single cream-type sensation. On the first sip there is white chocolate, Glenmorangie Ealanta Launchsweet vanilla, and then a hint of menthol on the second sip. It is mouth filling, thick and full-flavored, fleshy and chewy. If you’re a fan of good wine then this is not so much Sauvignon Blanc, more Chardonnay. I can just find a hint of toasted oak on the finish, maybe a tiny bit of spice in there, cinnamon or clove.”

It’s a versatile whisky and we’re served a couple of Glenmorangie cocktails and Bill admits a surprising favorite serve, “This may cause some of you to gasp but I actually like drinking my Ealanta on the rocks with one or two cubes of ice. Whilst the ice will close down some aromas, it accentuates the rich, oaky vapors.”

I ask Bill what he has learned over the years about working with virgin oak. “Basically, unless you control it very carefully, it can really spoil your whisky in the same way that a long aging in a very old sherry cask can spoil it,” he says. “These days, I like the impact of new oak when I’m blending different types of casks — which I do routinely for Signet — but I’m certainly not planning to move over wholesale to using virgin oak.”

Now, the world can be divided by the way you pronounce the name of Glenmorangie (you stress the mor, not the rangie) but tonight, the MarkGlenmorangie Ealanta Launch Twain impersonator has taken a little time to get his tongue round the unfamiliar word in his slow, studied drawl and come up with a novel third way, calling it “Glenmurrungee” (to rhyme with “bungee”), to the enjoyment of the audience.

Twain published his first successful story in 1865, the year The Langham opened its doors. The writer was a guest there in 1873 and they now have a suite named after him. To bring it full circle, the toasted virgin oak for Glenmorangie Ealanta was sourced from Quercus alba felled in the Mark Twain Forest, Missouri’s 1.5 million acre national forest situated in the Ozark Highlands, named after the man himself in 1939.

Glenmorangie produced 3,433 cases to supply the United States, France, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Scandinavian countries. But the experiment may not be over yet; I enquire into the fate of Dr. Lumsden’s 19 year old virgin oak casks. “These have been refilled with new make spirit,” he reveals, “and I’ve classified them in the stock system as second fill. Whether or not it gives that same character remains to be seen.” We can but hope.

The Mark Twain Cocktail: Glenmorangie Original, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, and aromatic bitters

The Sam Clemens Cocktail: Glenmorangie Ealanta, Noilly Prat, pomegranate syrup, and fresh lemon juice.

Photos courtesy of Phill Williams

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Highland Single Malt of the Year

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Glenmorangie Pride 1981, 56.7%, $3,500/liter

Glenmorangie Pride 1981LRGlenmorangie was one of the originators of the concept of “finishing” whisky in casks that had held other spirits and wines. Indeed, the distillery was the first to bottle its own finished single malt, namely an expression that had been additionally matured in port casks. Many more have followed, largely due to the innovative and pioneering work of Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation. Lumsden has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and so brings scientific credibility to the art of developing distinctively different single malts within the Glenmorangie family.

With Glenmorangie Pride 1981, the craft of cask finishing reaches something close to its apotheosis. To create Pride, Lumsden took exceptional quality 1981 Glenmorangie spirit that had been matured in first-fill bourbon casks for eighteen years, and transferred it into Sauternes barriques from Chateau d’Yquem. A further decade of carefully monitored aging followed before Lumsden deemed the whisky ready to be bottled, having latterly sampled it every three months.

A number of distillers have discovered that the use of casks for finishing single malts that formerly held the sweet white wine from Bordeaux is very effective in creating attractive and harmonious aromas and flavors which augment rather than overpower distillery character. Indeed, one of Glenmorangie’s core bottlings is now 15 year old Nectar d’Or, which has undergone a Sauternes finish.

What makes Glenmorangie Pride 1981 very special, however, is the overall length of maturation, and with a total of 28 years under its belt, this is the oldest whisky currently available from the distillery. The result of all that aging and scrupulous marrying of spirit with cask is a truly original and spectacular single malt, and one that defies criticism of its undoubtedly high retail price due to its sheer quality.   —Gavin Smith

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Lowlands/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year will be announced.

Rare whiskies pouring at WhiskyFest New York this Saturday

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

At this Saturday’s WhiskyFest New York seminar program, you get to taste these whiskies. (1/2 ounce pours!)

  • Glenmorangie 1963 Vintage
  • The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage)
  • Gold Bowmore
  • Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old
  • Brora 30 year old

And that’s just the first seminar! There will be many more great whiskies, many of them debuting at this event, along with legendary Master Distillers,  Master Blenders, and the Whisky Advocate writers.

If you’re in the New York area and have Saturday free, a few tickets still remain.  You can purchase just the seminar program, or combine it with one (or both) of the grand tastings in the evening. Follow the link to find out more.

WhiskyFest New York 2012: A whisky enthusiast’s dream weekend!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The agenda for the saturday seminar program has been finalized. It’s going to be a great day: rare whiskies, debut whiskies, award winning whiskies, master distillers and blenders, and leading whisky writers all in one place.

A summary of the day’s events is below. If you follow the link to the WhiskyFest website (click on the logo), you’ll find the details in outline form and also be able to purchase tickets to this exciting event.

WhiskyFest New York: imagine a weekend of the world’s best whiskies, two nights of grand tastings and a day of seminars presented by the world’s top whisky distillers and blenders, bringing their best, their oldest,and their newest. The seminars on Saturday, October 27th, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be an unprecedented whisky event for those fortunate enough to attend. This educational experience takes the hands-on approach to learning, engaging every sense as we nose and taste our way through a line-up that is not to be missed. Legendary master distillers, blenders, and whisky makers will be pouring their finest—and newest—whiskies!   

The Whisky Advocate writers—the best in the business—will moderate the five 45-minute seminar sessions, and a special whisky-themed lunch, along with several whiskies making their U.S. and world debuts. A brief summary of this very special day follows.

Debut Scotch Whisky

The first debuting whisky of the day will be presented by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky, featuring mixologist and Whisky Advocate contributor David Wondrich.  In addition to treating us with a world-debut Compass Box whisky, they’ll also be serving it up in a breakfast cocktail. A great way to start a day!

Whisky Collecting and Auctions
Jonny McCormick, Whisky Advocate contributor and Martin Green of Bonhams will enlighten us on the auction and collecting scene that has exploded lately. They will offer tips on collecting and participating in whisky auctions. Attendees will taste some of the very rare whiskies that have been seen on the auction block. The whiskies speak for themselves, as do the personalities presenting them:

Gold Bowmore – Iain McCallum,
Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old – Nicholas Pollacchi,
Glemorangie 1963 Vintage – Dr. Bill Lumsden,
Brora 30 year old – Dr. Nick Morgan,
The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage).

Debut Irish Whiskey
Then, legendary Barry Crockett from the Midleton distillery will present the U.S. debut of his very own Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy bottling.

Trending Scotch
Keeping the momentum going, Dave Broom, Whisky Advocate contributor, examines the trends in Scotch whisky. Join Dave to explore smoky blends, designer whiskies, single malt extremes, and brand premiumization. Dave will be joined by the A-list of master distillers and blenders from Scotland who are making some of these special whiskies. Here they are, with the whiskies they will be pouring:

Dr. Bill Lumsden – Glenmorangie Malaga Wood Finish 30 year
Jim McEwan – Bruichladdich Octomore 4.2
Matthew Crow – Johnnie Walker Double Black
Richard Paterson – Dalmore Castle Leod

Debut Bourbon
Here we will feature the world debut of a very special bourbon presented by Truman Cox,  master distiller from  the A. Smith Bowman distillery.  He knows what the whiskey will be, but for now he’s keeping it a surprise.

Understanding Irish
Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate contributor, follows by taking us on a tour of Ireland, explaining the difference between the single pot still, single malt, grain, and blended whiskeys of Ireland. And, of course, we will taste some very special examples of each, and we will be joined by the master distillers who make them:

Barry Crockett of Midleton distillery will pour Powers John’s Lane (Single Pot Still) and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (Blend)
Noel Sweeney from the Cooley distillery will be pouring a very special grain whiskey – Greenore 8 year old
Colum Egan of Bushmills distillery treats us to a very special Bushmills 21 year old single malt.

Lagavulin Lunch

The whisky fun continues at lunch. Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach, along with Whisky Advocate writer Gavin Smith, will lead us through a tasting and comparison of three special Lagavulin whiskies: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, and the very limited 2012 Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release.

Bourbon and Rye Innovations
Immediately after lunch, we focus on American whiskey. Whisky Advocate contributor and managing editor Lew Bryson will lead a session focused on innovations in bourbon and rye. Joining him will be three legendary master distillers and one whiskey pioneer, and they will be pouring some very special new releases:

Chris Morris – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection new 2012 release
Harlen Wheatley  – Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project, comparing two Single Oak bottlings
Parker Beam – Parker’s Heritage Collection new 2012 release
David Perkins – High West’s “Campfire” (a blend of bourbon, rye and scotch!)

Award Winning Whiskies
Finishing up our special day, attendees will taste a sampling of the 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Awards winners published in the spring issue of Whisky Advocate magazine. Here they are, along with the Whisky Advocate contributors who will be presenting them:

Gavin Smith: Lowland/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year: Springbank 18 year old (2nd edition)
Dave Broom: Islay Single Malt of the Year:Bruichladdich 10 year old
Lew Bryson: Canadian Whisky of the Year:Wiser’s 18 year old
John Hansell: American Whiskey of the Year:Elijah Craig 20 year old
Dominic Roskrow: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year: Compass Box Great King Street

Tickets for this special day of seminars can only be purchased through a combination package with one of the evening grand tastings.  Tickets are available at  or by clicking here. We hope to see you at this very special event.

Some new whiskies heading your way, and my thoughts on them

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I’m back from vacation and getting caught up. A bunch of new whiskies came in while I was gone and I started tasting my way through them. Here are five that will be coming soon to the U.S. These are my informal thoughts. (I don’t have prices and availability right now, but will post the info up when I get it.)

I was really impressed with the new Aberlour 12 year old. It’s not chill-filtered and bottled at 48% . Nicely balanced, well-rounded, good subtle complexity and very easy-drinking. It should be a regular stock item in your drinks cabinet.

The Dalmore Castle Leod will be available in the U.S. in very limited quantities.  It’s a 1995 Vintage and bottled at 46%. There’s plenty of Dalmore lush fruit and spice, with good resinous grip on the finish. Lots of character here.

Isle of Jura 1976 Vintage is one of the oldest vintages of Jura I’ve seen here in the U.S. There’s a good dose of oak in this one–it’s age is obvious–but not unpleasantly so. It’s more of a juicy oak, rather than dry and harsh like some older whiskies I’ve tasted. And it’s soft and mellow. I enjoy it. There’s no dominant smoke or sherry like some of the past Jura whiskies, and it’s smartly bottled at 46%.

I like Glenmorangie, and I like Sassicaia Super Tuscan wine. The new Glenmorangie Artein combines both, by having the Glenmorangie whisky finished in Sassicaia wine barrels. The two work well together. It’s a Glenmo with loads of character and not dominated by the wine. Again it’s bottled at 46%. Hey guys, how about a three-pack?: one bottle of Glenmorangie Astar, one bottle of Glenmorangie Artein, and one bottle of Sassicaia? A guy can dream…

Finishing up: Knob Creek Rye. I really like the standard Knob Creek and thoroughly enjoy the Single Barrel Reserve (both aged 9 years). How’s this 100 proof rye? Bold and spicy, like you would expect a rye whiskey to be. My take on this whiskey is that it’s just mature enough to drink neat (there’s no age statement, but tastes a few years younger than the other Knob Creeks), and it’s youthful and vibrant enough to mix well in cocktails. It’s very versatile in this regard (as I am sure it was intended to be), but I would like to have seen it bottled at 9 years old like the other Know Creek offerings.

My general take on the whiskies above is that they’re all pretty good. No duds here to warn you about. And I hope the general comments give you a feel for what you’ll be getting into if you buy a bottle.

One thing I did notice from these whiskies is the higher proof and lack of chill-filtering. More of this, please!

I have more whiskies here to waiting for me to taste and review, including a few older Glenfarclas Family Cask whiskies (from three different decades) and a couple of older Glenglassaugh whiskies.  I’ll get to those soon and share my thoughts.

The whisky I plan to open, and the story that goes with it.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Every Christmas Eve, before I got to bed, I open up a special bottle of whisky and enjoy a dram of it. Regardless of which whisky I chose to open, there’s a story that goes with it. That’s one of the reasons why it’s special. I make sure that I drink the bottle before the next Christmas Eve, when I open another special bottle.

I have an emotional attachment to whisky, and I make no apology for it. Whisky isn’t just about the flavor or rarity. There’s more to it than this. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t always open a whisky that I buy right away. Instead, I’ll wait for a special occasion.

Maybe that’s why I have over 300 unopened bottles of whisky, with a room in my house set aside just for them. With all this discussion lately about whisky collecting and whether it’s a good or bad thing to do, the reality is that it’s just not that simple. Like many things in life, it isn’t black or white, but rather some shade of gray.

I don’t think of myself as a collector. I refer to what I have as an accumulation rather than a collection. And I fully intend to drink, share, and savor every bottle I have before I die.

Take this bottle, for example. It’s the whisky I am currently planning to open this Christmas Eve. It’s a Glenmorangie Distillery Manager’s Choice.  I’ve had it for 13 years. Every time I look at this bottle or hold it, it it brings back a very fond memory.

This whisky was bottled in 1998, but the story actually begins a year or so before this. My wife and I were visiting distilleries in the Scottish Highlands. We made an impromptu stop at the Glenmorangie Distillery on our way back from visiting other distilleries farther to the north. We went to the distillery office and asked if Bill Lumsden, then Distillery Manager (and friend), happened to be in. Well, he must have heard my voice from his office, because he came running out and gave Amy and me a big hug. Then, without skipping a beat, he said: “There’s something you have to taste!”

Bill grabbed some keys and we ran through the pouring rain to one of the Distillery’s warehouses. Inside, in the dark, damp, chilly warehouse filled with with heavenly whisky aromas, he took me to one particular cask. He pulled the bung out, stuck a whisky thief into the barrel, and poured me a sample of what was inside.

I nosed the whisky and then took a sip, nosed it again and took another sip. Bill then asked, “what do you think?”

I told him I thought that it was the best Glenmorangie whisky I ever tasted.

“I agree, John,” he said,  “and it would be a shame for this one barrel to be blended in with some other Glenmorangie casks. I’d like to bottle this on its own, cask-strength and not chill-filtered, but I just have to figure out how to do it.” I said to Bill if he ever does bottle it, save a bottle for me. He said he would.

Shortly thereafter, the Glenmorangie “Distillery Manager’s Choice” was born, and this was the cask: distilled in 1981, aged in an ex-bourbon cask, bottled in 1998 at 54.5%, and sold at the distillery. Bill kept to his promise, saved me a bottle, and I’ve waited for the right moment to open it–this Christmas eve.

Thank you, Bill. And a big thanks to all of you who take time out of your busy schedule to stop by and read whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment. I wish you all the best in the New Year and hope it is filled with many memorable whiskies.

How about you? Are you opening anything special this holiday season?


Review: Glenmorangie Pride

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Glenmorangie Pride 1981, 56.7%, $2,850 (approx.)

Glenmorangie Pride employs the use of Sauternes barriques to give a 10 year period of secondary maturation to a batch of spirit distilled in 1981. The result is a whisky with an intense, pungent, earthy nose; very complex, with polished old furniture notes, spices, oak tannins, and licorice. The palate is ‘full on’ for a Glenmorangie; waxy, with sherbet, honey, and baked apple, then orange marmalade, sultana, and a hint of smoke in the lengthy finish. Available July 1.  –Gavin Smith

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 93

The leading single malt scotch brands in the U.S. (I think #5 might surprise you!)

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Here they are, according to IMPACT DATABANK

US – Leading Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
  Percent Change
Rank Brand Importer 2008 2009 2010 2008-2009 2009-2010
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 285 286 309 0.4% 8.0%
2 The Macallan Rémy Cointreau USA 125 125 134 0.0% 7.2%
3 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 102 100 107 -2.0% 7.0%
4 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 47 50 55 6.4% 10.0%
5 McClelland’s White Rock Distilleries 49 52 54 6.1% 3.8%
6 Glenmorangie Moët-Hennessy USA 37 43 52 16.2% 20.9%
  Total Top Six 645 656 711 1.7% 8.4%


McClellands? That certainly surprised me! Anything surprise you?