Bill Lumsden catches ‘the one that got away’

Peter Ranscombe sips a slice of Glenmorangie’s new ‘A Tale of Cake’ whisky.

EVERY fisherman has a story about “the one that got away” – that salmon or trout or other slippery customer that they just weren’t able to land on the river bank.

For Bill Lumsden, director of distilling at Glenmorangie, his equivalent is the Tokaji wine cask.

Lumsden’s previous experiment ended in tears when he placed whisky into the Hungarian sweet wine casks at the end of the spirit’s maturation, a process known as “finishing”.

Having tasted the whisky after it had been in the casks for a short while, he knew he was onto a winner, but then he left it too long and the tannins from the wooden barrels took over, spoiling the taste for him.

Now, he’s had a second chance to experiment with Tokaji casks – and he’s very pleased with the result.

His new whisky, affectionately named “A Tale of Cake”, goes on sale today at Selfridges, and then on wider release from 18 October.

Lumsden was a pioneer of wood “finishes” for Scotch whisky.

When he arrived at Glenmorangie 25 years ago, he took over and vastly expanded the experiments with different casks that had been started by former managing director Neil McKerrow.

Lumsden’s greatest hits have included Port, Sauternes and red wine finishes.

His latest creation spent ten years in bourbon barrels, just like Glenmorangie’s original ten-year-old single malt, and then an undisclosed number of “years” in Tokaji casks for finishing.

Glenmorangie The Original 10 year old (£32.95, Master of Malt) is a sweet and warm benchmark Highland single malt, with complex aromas of caramel, honey, red apple, cedar and grain on the nose.

It’s the honey, brown sugar and peach that always come to the fore for me on the palate, with more caramel, plus a lemon note on the finish.

Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake (£75, Selfridges) brings more vanilla on the nose, plus spicy fresh ginger notes and more apricot aromas.

On the palate, it emphasises more of those peach and apricot stone fruit flavours, along with honey, caramel and some really interesting white chocolate, cinnamon, peppermint and strawberry notes.

It’s one whisky for which I wouldn’t add a drop of water though – it seemed to bring out more of the tannins from the wooden barrels, leaving a dry rather than sweet cakey finish.

A Tale of Cake is certainly complex but, given the complexity of Glenmorangie’s 10 year old, is it worth twice the price?

For me, not quite, even though it’s a limited edition; the taste for me is more evolution than revolution.

Hats off to Lumsden for landing the ‘one that got away’ though and to his marketing colleagues for the fun packaging, which is a real departure for the brand.

It’s great to see Lumsden’s innovation with casks being matched by new ideas on how to package whisky and reach fresh audiences.

Read more of Peter’s whisky, wine and beer reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.