Whisky, Wood & Worthy Endeavors
I was honored this week to sit down with Glenmorangie's Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden. Few people in the scotch whisky world have had as much influence over the spirit we enjoy today as Dr. Lumsden. He is one of the industry pioneers with respect to whisky finishing techniques. Phoenix was fortunate to be one of the cities he chose to stop in during the Glenmorangie Private Edition No. 9 Spios US tour.
Spìos (spee-oss) is Gaelic for "spice". It is aptly named as Spios is the first Glenmorangie whiskey to be fully matured in ex-American Rye barrels. When aging whisky, Dr. Lumsden carefully walks the fine line between adding new flavors and over powering the delicacy of the Glenmorangie Scotch. The Spìos has the familiar hints of rye on the nose and the touch of spice, nutmeg and toffee on the palate without ever losing the signature buttery delicacy of the scotch.
Whisky consumers seem to have a growing appetite for innovation. What started out as a two barrel experiment nearly a decade ago has become a highly anticipated annual event with bottles flying off the shelf. The Spìos is barely in the marketplace and already people are clamoring to know what magic he has up his sleeve for next year.
A self-proclaimed science nerd Dr. Lumsden never stops innovating and looking for the next idea. Most of his ideas work out pretty well. However, occasionally they miss. He related an experiment with Brazilian Cherry wood casks a few years back which drew the ire of the Scotch Whisky regulatory body. They demanded that he not bottle the finished whisky because it had deviated from the requirements to be aged in oak. Although Lumsden had followed the law in the technical sense the Scotch Whisky Association claimed he did not follow it in spirit. So he agreed to not bottle whisky and they clarified the law to say that scotch whisky must be wholly aged in oak barrels. In his words "the whisky sucked" anyway so he wasn't too upset. You aren't truly innovating unless they need to make up new laws to stop you, am I right?
I found Dr. Lumsden charming, passionate, humble, gracious and just a bit self-deprecating; which he insists is the mark of his countrymen. With nearly 30 years under his belt and his successor already named at Glenmorangie he has begun to think a bit about the future. Although he is quick to add that he will never be far away from this industry he is so passionate about.
If you interested in hearing more of the interview you can find it in its entirety on the Lushus Life Podcast. Download the podcast from any of your favorite providers or simply click on the link below. If you are interested in finding the Spìos, you better hurry it won't last long.