On Feb 18th, Wine World & Spirits hosted Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation at The Glenmorangie Company. With a fantastic title like that, he's certainly on the short list of people to meet in the whisky industry. Before we got into tasting his work, he spoke at length about Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. Incredibly, he designs the flavors of both products. And, he readily admits that there could not be two drams so different on one's shelf. He kept referring to having to having to take off his Glenmorangie head before putting on his Ardbeg head.
Here's some notes about the distilling process for Glenmorangie:
Glenmornagie stills have incredibly long necks. This causes more reflux to occur and less oils to make it through. The result is more of the light floral tones found in their whisky.
Casks are incredibly important to the flavor of whisky. So much so, that they actually own the American casks and lease them out to American Distillers before having them shipped over to Scotland.
From their website:With 60% of the flavour coming from the cask we knew that if we improved the quality of our wood, we would improve the quality of our whisky. Which is why we are passionately, and scientifically, committed to creating the perfect casks in which to mature our precious spirit.
This journey has seen us travel to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, USA, to hand select slow growth oak tees with a highly porous nature before air seasoning the oak for at least two years, heavily toasting and lightly charring it to maximize the flavour potential, and finally leasing the resulting casks to Bourbon or Tennessee producers for four years. Then, and only then, are they ready to be called a Glenmorangie 'designer cask'.
According to Bill, harsher tasting Scotch is often a result from reusing the barrels too many times (he then jokingly named a rival distillery under his breath) They only use theirs twice (a total of three times including when it was filled with American Whiskey)
After the success of the Signet, I asked him if he had any plans to push the boundaries of Scotch further (the Signet is a very unique dram, and a must try if you can) His face glowed and he started talking about the fact that he has about twenty nine experiments running right now!
He did mention one experiment that might have actually single handedly gotten the Scottish whisky laws amended. The law used to state that to be called Scotch, it had to be made and aged in Scotland for a minimum of three years in oak.
He spoke a little bit about Ardbeg this evening. But, as he was here for the unveiling of Companta, most of the evening was spent talking about Glenmornagie.
Some interesting facts about Ardbeg:
They bought Ardbeg for 7.7million pounds, not including the major renovations needed, as the distillery was in disrepair. They were not the highest bidder, but were considered the one company who would serve that brand and let it grow to its full potential.
Ardbeg is a very small distillery. It only has two stills; one wash still and one spirits still.
If you have never tried it, it is incredibly peaty. They make the peatiest whisky in regular production. Personally, I really enjoy the Ardbeg Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan.
Some photos of the evening:
Dr. Bill with the Tacoma Whisky Society
Dr. Bill with yours truly
The good Doctor with John Slagle, of Wine World and Spirits
Spoils of war! My hand signed bottle in front of a few whisky books in my collection.
The Glenmorangie Companta is the fifth release in the Private Edition series, a highly awarded line of limited releases including the Sonnalta PX, Finnealta, Artein, and Ealanta. The Companta (Gaelic for ‘Friendship’) is the result of a marriage of two different cask finished whiskies. The first whisky started its life in 1999 and rested for the usual 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels, much like the Glenmorangie Original. However, Dr. Lumsden decided to put the whisky into a small parcel of Grand Cru Burgundy casks from the prestigious Clos de Tart winery in France. There it matured for an additional 4 years, making the whisky just shy of 15 years old. The second whisky started its first 10 years in 1995, again in ex-bourbon barrels. In 2005, Dr. Lumsden shifted it over to sweet fortifed Côte du Rhône wine casks from the Rasteau AOC. There it acquired an impressive eight additional years. The two whiskies were married together at a ratio of 60% Clos de Tart, 40% Rasteau and were allowed to mingle for together for six months before being crowned ‘Companta’.