Lumsden knows no limits

22nd July, 2011 by Alan Lodge

Dr Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation at the Glenmorangie company, believes there is no limit to what he can achieve through experimentation.

Speaking to The Spirits Business as he introduced his latest creation, Glenmorangie Pride 1981, Lumsden (left) said his “open-minded and scientific” approach to whisky-making creates a “halo effect” around his brands.

“I do like to experiment and I really think there are no limits to what I can do,” he said. “However, I like to have two parallel lines of working and one of them is, of course, the core expressions of the brand.

“While people might get excited by some of my new products a lot more people are going to get angry if I change the products they know and love.

“I put more effort into ensuring the consistency of Glenmorangie Original and Ardbeg 10 Year Old than I do almost anything else in the range.

“The experimentation creates a halo effect for the brand and generates a lot of interest, but my primary responsibility as the current custodian of the brands is looking after the core range too.”

Lumsden admitted that his experiments haven’t always paid off.

“Some experiments have gone belly-up and I’ve ended up with a few disasters,” he said. “But thankfully the instances of that happening have been few and far between.

“If I’m not happy with something it is not going to go into bottle, which means it will either be blended away or on a few occasions you might actually have to destroy it – happily this is only in very limited quantities.”

Lumsden was speaking to us as he presented his latest, and perhaps most radical, invention to date – Glenmorangie Pride 1981.

The 28-year-old whisky has undergone the longest extra-maturation of any Glenmorangie expression and only 1,000 limited edition bottles will be available at £2,500 each.

The creation process began in October 1981 when the original whisky in Pride 1981 was distilled and selected to mature in Glenmorangie’s oak casks.

By 1999 the liquid had transformed into a vintage 18-year-old, but Lumsden saw an opportunity to develop it even further.

In a first for the Scotch whisky industry, the liquid was then extra-matured in a limited number of Sauternes casks from the cellars of Château d’Yquem for a further 10 years.

Lumsden said: “The opportunity to age this superb 18-year-old for 10 years in Château d’Yquem casks was too exciting to pass up.

“The resulting liquid, one of our most mature to date, is characterised by rich flavours of sumptuous desserts and undertones of oak tannins, resulting from the extra-maturation process.

“We are always looking to push boundaries and innovate, and Glenmorangie Pride 1981 is the pinnacle of those efforts.”

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