What images come to mind when you think of single malt Scotch whisky? Dark, smoky bars, the lush Scottish Highlands, or perhaps classic cut-crystal glasses? With a new limited-edition release in collaboration with floral artist Azuma Makoto, Glenmorangie turns the ‘classic’ image of Scotch upside down. By Kristen Shirley
Dr Bill Lumsden, affectionately known as Dr Bill, has spent 25 years at Glenmorangie, first as the distillery manager, then as master distiller, and now creative director. He has a fascinating mind and is unafraid to explore uncharted territory and go against what’s popular. He jokes that his favourite phrase is, “what if?”
In the world of whisky, change takes time. Lumsden exclusively told Travel + Leisure that he always wanted to change the 18 Years Old Single Malt, which he thought was too sherry-focused and heavy. “I wanted the 18 Years Old, essentially, to be much more like the big brother of our 10 Years Old, our original,” he said. “I wanted it to display the same level of complexity and finesse, but to be a little bit more full-bodied.”
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He first began experimenting with a new blend in the late 1990s, and we are just now beginning to see the full expression of his vision. This particular spirit ages for 15 years in ex-bourbon casks, then a portion is transferred to Oloroso sherry casks for three years. Finally, the spirits are combined after 18 years to create this stunning single malt.
The result is a whisky with a deep golden colour and a nose full of complex botanical and floral notes alongside dried fruits, nuts, caramel, vanilla, and honey. “I particularly like the lovely floral, perfumed notes,” Lumsden said. “I’ve often described our 18 Years Old as being the Chanel No.5 of malt whisky, given its beautiful perfume bouquet.”
Glenmorangie scoured the world to find the right partner to tell the story of this floral fragrance. Its search ended in Japan at the door of botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto. Makoto is known for his stunning floral installations and his adventurous designs. Not only does he design flower arrangements for prestigious brands around the world, but he also explores the rarely seen beauty of flowers by taking them to frozen tundras and dousing them in water, filming CT scans of them, or encasing them in transparent blocks that preserve their beauty.
Lumsden took Makoto through a tutored whisky tasting, where Makoto’s floral-focused nose was able to discern the nuances of the different flowers. This inspired a masterpiece called “Dancing Flowers of Glenmorangie.” Makoto was also struck by the sensations of drinking Glenmorangie, telling T+L that it “danced on my palate,” and he was inspired to create a piece that showcased “the beautiful harmony.”
The floral sculpture is crafted from nearly 100 different types of live flowers. To encapsulate the dancing feeling, he released petals in front of the sculpture as it was filmed. These floating petals add life and a sense of movement to the work. Photographs of the sculpture decorate the gift box and the bottle, creating a truly unique whisky experience.
Both Makoto and Lumsden hope that this limited-edition release will delight whisky lovers and introduce whisky to a new audience. While Makoto is himself a whisky connoisseur, he learned quite a bit through the collaboration. “Before, I had an impression that whisky was kind of an exclusive drink. But after I worked with Dr Bill and through this collaboration, I found that whisky can be more free to enjoy,” Makoto said.
Hopefully, as the world begins to open up even more, we’ll be able to enjoy a dram of Glenmorangie 18 Year Old alongside Makoto’s artwork in real life.
Glenmorangie 18 Years Old is priced at USD 139.99 (INR 10,341) and is available for purchase online and in stores.
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