Private Edition 9: Spìos
A most elegant innovation
The chandeliers glisten, strains of piano music float on the air – and men and women laugh and chatter, raising their glasses in elegant toasts. This is early 20th-century America. And, in the most prestigious saloons, American rye whiskey was the spirit of choice.
A century on, the long-lost taste of America’s golden whiskey era is born again in Glenmorangie Spìos, the latest annual release in our Private Edition series. Now in its ninth year, this acclaimed collection of rare and intriguing malts is renowned by aficionados for showcasing the Highland Distillery’s passion for innovation. And, as he reflects on the bygone elegance which inspired Glenmorangie’s first single malt whisky ever fully matured in American ex-rye whiskey casks, our Director of Whisky Creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, calls rye whiskey’s past to mind.
“There was a time when rye whiskey was the height of fashion,” he smiles. “Indeed, at this time, rye whiskey was the drink to be seen with in America’s most prestigious saloons. It even inspired some of those classic cocktails we still drink today, such as the Manhattan. But over time, rye whiskey fell into obscurity and became rather forgotten.”
In the late 1990s, as Dr Bill travelled to the U.S., his interest was piqued by this little-known spirit – then created by only a few distilleries. “Rye whiskey was not well known at the time and its scarcity was alluring to me,” he recalls. “The spirit has a very intriguing profile, with all these distinctive, herbal flavours, spices, clove, cinnamon... It seemed like a particularly sophisticated kind of whiskey – and I thought its taste profile would beautifully complement the house style of Glenmorangie.”
A smoother spirit
There and then, he vowed to harness American rye whiskey’s rare spice in a savoury single malt whisky. And so, long before rye’s recent resurgence came about, Dr Bill’s vision for Glenmorangie Spìos – a whisky entirely matured in American ex-rye whiskey barrels – began to take shape.
From the outset, Dr Bill knew that the success of this experiment would depend upon the inimitable character of our spirit, which is distilled in Scotland’s tallest stills. Its renowned smoothness would invite rye’s subtleties to shine through in a way that many other spirits would not” Dr Bill explains.
It would take more than 18 months for him to source the finest first-fill casks from rye whiskey’s heartland of Kentucky. He arranged for these hand-selected, heavily charred oak casks to be shipped to the Glenmorangie Distillery, where they would be filled with our new-make spirit. Dr Bill adds: “For the whisky I had in mind, I was looking for a lot of goodness from the wood, so only a full maturation would do.” Then, in a quiet corner of the warehouse in which some of his rarest creations come to life, these exceptional casks began to impart their intriguing flavours to the spirit within.
Years later, Dr Bill’s experiment emerged from its casks. As full-bodied and spicy as the whisky he had envisioned all those years before, this exclusive limited edition now takes its place in our Private Edition.
“The name Spìos, which is Scots Gaelic for ‘spice’, hints at the distinctive character that the whisky took from the rye barrels,” enthuses Dr Bill. “The classically smooth taste of Glenmorangie’s spirit is beautifully balanced by all that wonderful spiciness of clove, cinnamon and ginger. I love the way that these two subtle sets of flavours complement each other. The savoury sophistication of this single malt whisky is sure to delight the most discerning connoisseur.”