he sun is shining when Glenmorangie’s expert whisky distiller Dr Bill Lumsden crosses the Sydney Harbour Bridge on his way to a lunch deep in the Blue Mountains. But by the time he gets there, the April skies have darkened, the winds have picked up and the heavens have opened. Turns out the Scotsman brought the weather from his highlands home, along with the whisky.
“I feel very at home here today — this is a very typically Scottish day, with a mixture of rain and sunshine,” he tells the dozen guests around the lunch table at famed Sydney chef Sean Moran’s country farm. “All that is missing is some hailstones, which we often get along with it.”
It seems fitting that the highlands have come to Sydney for the day to mark the release of the Glenmorangie Tusail, the sixth private collection whisky to be made by the 172-year-old distillery. Located in Tain, near Inverness in northwest Scotland, Glenmorangie (owned by luxury powerhouse LVMH) produces 10 million bottles a year and frequently takes out global awards for its whisky (including Distiller of the Year in 2012). Lumsden is in Australia to introduce the limited-edition Tusail to a group of design contemporaries — fashion designers, architects, art curators — some of whom are keen whisky drinkers, others confessed novices but keen to learn more.
“The private edition is an opportunity, once a year, to showcase some of our innovation and some of our experimentation,” Lumsden explains over the first course of the lunch. “As you can probably tell from my job title, I am a scientist by training, I am a biochemist. My first job in the whisky industry was back in 1986 and I was a research scientist before I moved into production. I love carrying out experiments. Tusail is one of the more geeky members of the private edition range. The first five were more obvious in flavour because of the different types of barrel I used but this was all about seeing if I could create different types of flavour by using different types of barley.”
This question of whether a different type of barley — in this case a variety called Maris Otter that is sown in winter — could make a better whisky kept plaguing Lumsden. “In Scotland, we don’t grow rice, it is too cold; we don’t grown corn, it is too wet for that. Barley is the indigenous cereal we use and to make single malt whisky, by law it has to be 100 per cent malted barley. We use spring barley because it is sown in the springtime and can