I recently had a pleasant visit with Dr. Bill Lumsden, one-on-one, enjoying a fine single malt, and catching up. As Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks for the Glenmorangie Company, Bill is recognized as a pioneer in the innovative use of wood management in aging Scotch whiskies. He was in town to introduce the seventh and most recent addition to the portfolio’s Private Edition series – Milsean. The name is pronounced ‘meel-shawn’.
Twenty years ago, on my first visit to Glenmorangie, on Scotland’s Northeast coast, Bill led me on an invigorating hike through the snow. With the caveat that he might have to leave at a moment’s notice because of the impending birth of his second child, I trudged behind Bill up a hill from the distillery, to see Tarlogie Springs, the water source for the distillery.
Standing on the edge of the spring, watching crystal clear water bubble up from below, was a perfect Scottish moment. The crisp pristine air and steel gray skies were a magical contrast to the feeling inside the distillery, with its rich aromas, warmth, and famously tall copper stills. As I learned during our catching up, Bill’s daughter was born shortly after our trek and is now attending Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, in the footsteps of her dad and older brother.
During our interview, we enjoyed the new Glenmorangie Milsean Private Edition. Its color is coppery, and its aroma is of ripe fruits, fudge, and a touch of coconut. The flavor is a depth charge of exploding citrus, candied orange peel, peaches – all celebrating Glenmorangie’s core profile. Milsean’s sweetness is the result of aging in re-toasted used red wine casks from Portugal. The off-the-wall packaging is startling , and certainly unlike any other of which I am aware, until I learned the name is from Scots Gaelic for ‘sweet things’, as in candy and confectionery shops.
I asked Bill a few questions about aspects of Glenmorangie I’ve wondered about over the years. Regarding why the brand includes many fewer older expressions than other major brands, Bill explained that the company is comfortable sticking with the distinctive house style of the core range, the very successful Private Editions, Prestige Range, and Legends Collection. Glenmorangie is the top selling single malt in Scotland. It was interesting to learn that the specific names of the expressions are the result of collaborative efforts of various agencies and Bill’s team. Bill is responsible for the wood selection.
Another brand Bill oversees is the Islay malt, Ardbeg. Known to whisky lovers everywhere as a bold, smoky, phenolic malt. Ardbeg recently made whisky headlines with its experiments aboard the International Space Station. The experiments included 32 unique MixStix™ vials each containing 15-ml of new make spirit and wood shavings from a charred American white oak, ex-Bourbon barrel. The vials spent 971 days in space, logging 15 orbits around Earth per day and yielded fascinating, and measurable results. Read Bill’s White Paper on the entire experiment here.
As we parted company, Bill left me with a question and a twinkle in his eye: did I know anagrams for the words “Glenmorangie” and “Ardbeg”? That would be a no, so to answer his own question, he offered:
GLENMORANGIE = A GINGER LEMON
ARDBEG = BADGER JUICE
I hope it’s not another twenty years before we spend time together, but in the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for some unusual names of future Glenmorangie expressions.