Dr. Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Glenmorangie & Ardbeg kindly agreed to answer a few questions from this still whisky novice.
My love affair with the dark spirits began when I joined a southern gentleman in a dram. The southern gentleman is long gone but my enjoyment of whiskies and bourbons continues. The more I taste the more I become curious about the creation of fine whiskies and especially the talented people “behind the dram.”
In our interview Dr. Bill talks about what he wants to accomplish when he creates whiskies, offers ideas on how folks new to whisky can begin their tasting adventure, tells us his favorite casks, and gives us a tease of what’s to come at the experimental distillery!
Dr Bill is regarded as a pioneer of innovation in the malt whisky industry and travels the world searching for the best oak casks that will complement Glenmorangie’s whiskies and impart unique characteristics all of their own. Dr. Bill Lumsden is the only person to have been recognized as two-time Master Distiller of the Year by the International Spirits Challenge in 2015 and 2018. More recently, he was honored by the International Whisky Competition as three-time Master Distiller of the Year, having won in 2016, 2017, and 2019.
It is with great pleasure and my honor to introduce you to “Dr. Bill.” Please enjoy our interview!
Dr. Bill On Dr. Bill: Basically I have a very low boredom threshold, which makes me want to experiment and try different things. This has been a factor in my development of lots of new whiskies!
Diva Foodies: Congrats! on the prestigious award – Whiskies of the World Best in Class for Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, for Category Malt Barrell Finished – 10 years. Needless to say, the judges had their opinions about why they awarded this honor, but we’re curious to hear why you, as the Master Distiller, thought you should have taken the win.
Dr. Bill: That’s not an easy question to answer, as I like to let other people make their own judgment on my products! But what I will say is that with the new Quinta 14 year old, I was looking to make the product just a little bit deeper and more intense, while still retaining the elegance of the old one.
We're raising a toast to our own Dr Bill Lumsden who was crowned Master Distiller of the Year for an unprecedented 3rd time at this year's International Whisky Competition! https://t.co/ei41ThV8Lr #DrinkResponsibly pic.twitter.com/3qvrCb6nHB
— Glenmorangie (@TheGlenmorangie) September 26, 2019
Diva Foodies: For folks who are beginning to explore the world of whisky what general advice can you offer?
Dr. Bill: Well the first thing I would say is to choose a softer style of whisky to start off with; while many people will develop a taste for smoky, Islay Scotch, I think its better to start off with something a bit more approachable, like (obviously!) a Glenmorangie, or some of the lighter Speyside styles. I would also recommend a good Whisky book for a bit of background research, such as books by Dave Broom, Jim Murray or the late, great Michael Jackson.
And of course, remember to treat whisky with respect, don’t be afraid of it, but respect it!
Diva Foodies: There are many different ways to ‘finish’ whisky. What are your favorite casks to use and why?
Dr. Bill: That’s a tough one, because there are so many different styles to choose from. For regular usage,it would have to be good old Oloroso Sherry casks from Spain, which I like because of their versatility (e.g., I use them for Lasanta, 18 y.o. Signet and many others.) But my all-time favourite finishing casks were the barriques I used from the mighty Sassicaia estate in Tuscany, Italy. The end result was stunning and really complex.
The trick of course is always to know when to stop the finishing, so that the second casks does not dominate.
Dr. Bill: Well obviously I need to ‘keep my powder dry’, and not give away too many secrets here. But what I will say is that my new experimental distillery that I am building currently at the Glenmorangie Distillery (with 2 full-sized tall Glenmorangie pot stills) will allow me to carry out loads of experiments that I simply cannot currently do in the main distillery plant.
Amongst these will be trials where I will be looking to create some spirits with a different character for the classic Glenmorangie delicate/perfumed style.
Diva Foodies: Diva Foodies’ tradition is you get the last sip (or word). Wrap it up anyway you’d like.
Dr. Bill: Ok so that’s an easy one to answer; I have been to most of the major cities around the United States, but this is my very, very first time ever to Atlanta! So needless to say I am very excited at the prospect, and sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Atlanta!
Diva Foodies: Welcome to ATL! We sincerely look forward to “a beautiful friendship’ with you, Glenmorangie and the City of Atlanta.
More About Dr. Bill Lumsden
Dr Bill oversees the creation of Glenmorangie single malt whisky that originates in the Highlands of Scotland. The ‘Ultimate Islay Malt’ that is Ardbeg, crafted on untamed shores of Islay, is also under his expert leadership.
Holding a PhD in Biochemistry, he combines his talent for both art and science and is renowned for his ground-breaking wood management techniques, experimentation with exceptional casks at various ages, and utilisation of extra maturation to deliver outstanding whiskies.
Dr Bill is regarded as a pioneer of innovation in the malt whisky industry and travels the world searching for the best oak casks that will complement Glenmorangie’s whiskies and impart unique characteristics all of their own.