May 2015 Archives
Tùsail is the latest addition to Glenmorangie's award-winning "Private Edition" collection. The brainchild of Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, Tùsail (pronounced to-SAIL and meaning "originary" in Scots Gaelic) is an experiment to explore the role of a distinctive variety of barley's influence on Glenmorangie single malt. A carefully-selected parcel of Maris Otter barley was floor-malted by hand using traditional techniques, distilled, aged in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and then bottled, non chill-filtered, at a respectable 46% ABV.
It's been a big year for the "now-rare" strain of two-row "winter" variety of barley as both Glenmorangie and Brittany distillery Glann ar Mor have released single malt whiskies showcasing the grain's rustic and nutty flavours. Originally bred at Cambridge University in 1965, Maris Otter is a cross of "Proctor" and "Pioneer" barleys and was developed for use in brewing. Over time Maris Otter's popularity was eclipsed by higher yield strains and the once ubiquitous varietal fell into disuse. By the late 1980s, uncertified seed and cross-pollination had put Maris Otter at risk of extinction. This greatly alarmed some in the brewing industry, who still depended on its unique flavour to produce
their cask-conditioned ales. Reacting to these concerns, two English seed merchants formed a partnership to rejuvenate the variety, and in 1992, began a program to build the stocks back to an acceptable standard.
When Dr. Lumsden heard of their efforts the rest, as they say, is history. He explains: "When we heard the story of those determined to preserve such a flavoursome grain, their ethos - and the barley itself - seemed the perfect match for a Glenmorangie single malt. I knew its deep flavour profile would provide an intriguing contrast to Glenmorangie's more delicate house style, creating a whisky to enchant connoisseurs. The result pays homage to the Maris Otter variety, with rich, rustic flavours of nut toffee, sweet barley malt, ginger, cinnamon, molasses, and dates, complementing the more familiar Glenmorangie notes of peaches, oranges and smoked pears."
Released in 2010, Glenfiddich Rich Oak 14 Years Old appeared in Duty Free shops and finally popped up on LCBO shelves last year. This limited run expression is Malt Master Brian Kinsman's experiment with virgin oak finishing techniques.
Aged 14 years in ex-bourbon casks in the traditional manner, the liquid is then finished for up to 12 weeks in new European oak before spending six weeks in new American oak and bottled at 40% ABV. This is a significant twist on Glenfiddich's finishing process which typically has the spirit finish in an ex-"something" casks, e.g. sherry, bourbon, port, or wine. In fact, this is the first virgin American and European oak double finished whisky in the world.
Imagine my surprise seeing a bottle of Grant's labelled with a sticker bearing the words "A Travel Exclusive," that I had yet to try, on the shelf of a Duty Free kiosk at the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia?
"Finally," I thought, "something other than rummy Thai whisky or Johnnie Walker and Chivas!" Bending over to inspect the carton, I noticed the price: $17USD for a 1L bottle of the Distillery Edition of Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky. A quick scan of the shelves showed nothing else boasting that level of value from a brand I've historically known and loved. What's more, it's bottled at 46.3% ABV - higher than most other blends, including those from Grant's - and it's non chill-filtered; I was sold!