Private Edition 6: Tusail
A Rare grain
Across our Private Edition range we have experimented widely with distinctive cask finishes, inspiring and surprising connoisseurs with innovative expressions built on our extra-maturation expertise. But Glenmorangie Tùsail - our sixth Private Edition release - is quite different. Rather than exploring a key aspect of the production process, it explores one of whisky’s principal ingredients, barley. In this way Glenmorangie Tùsail allows aficionados to experience barley’s remarkable influence on Glenmorangie. And the barley in question, inevitably, is not just any barley…
Maris Otter Winter Barley was originally bred in 1960s England, on Maris Lane near Grantchester. Just outside Cambridge, this is quintessential England. Here the River Cam meanders peacefully. The dreaming spires of the university town are visible. And nearby is the home of perhaps the most English of all poets, Rupert Brooke.
Yet we have used Marris Otter to create something evidently Scottish, something distinctly Glenmorangie. This our latest Private Edition Single Malt, Glenmorangie Tùsail. Drawing on the marked taste of Maris Otter it celebrates the dedication of those who, not so long ago, saved this grain from extinction
Maris Otter had once been a key component in England’s premium craft-brewing industry, but demand fell in the 1970s as producers switched to higher yielding varieties. Then through the 1980s increasing use of uncertified seed as well as cross-pollination put the grain at further risk, a serious concern for the brewing industry which still depended on its unique flavour to produce cask-conditioned ales. So, two English seed merchants, in 1992, formed a partnership to rejuvenate the variety, beginning a programme to re-establish its purity and rebuild stocks. And it was their efforts that attracted the attention of Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, Dr Bill Lumsden.
“I felt this enticing barley might make a perfect ingredient for a limited edition Glenmorangie,” he says. “Its rich malty profile could bring a different dimension to our whisky. Plus, there was something in the story of its survival, the determination to prioritise quality over cost, something of our own ethos and a little bit of romance too! So I arranged for a batch to be sent to my laboratory.
“It proved to be the perfect match for a one-off Glenmorangie. Its deep flavour turned out to be an intriguing contrast with our more delicate house style. So, we pushed ahead and the rare barley was floor-malted by hand, using traditional techniques. It was then distilled and laid down in just a handful of casks and it has now matured into a truly outstanding whisky, an entirely artisanal and quite fascinating single malt.”
Across our permanent range we only use the very best Scottish barley, much of it sourced close to our distillery. But Maris Otter’s ability to impart a deep, rich taste gives us a perfect opportunity to create an intriguing experience for single-malt enthusiasts. At the same time its compelling history, its survival despite its low yields, seems to sit within our own philosophy, that anything we produce should be Unnecessarily Well Made.
Tùsail, in Scots Gaelic, means ‘originary’, not exactly an everyday English word. It can best be explained as ‘causing the origin of.’
And Tùsail’s origins, the Marris Otter barley, can be seen in its bright ochre colour and tasted through its rich, rustic flavours of nut toffee, sweet barley malt, ginger, cinnamon, molasses and dates. Alongside these notes are the more familiar Glenmorangie ones of peaches, oranges and smoked pears. The contrast is striking but the effect is harmonious.
2015, the year in which Glenmorangie Tùsail is made available, is also, by happy coincidence, the 50th anniversary of Marris Otter’s first commercial harvest.
Our Private Edition collection has seen a limited-edition single malt released every year since 2010 when Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX, extra-matured in retired Pedro Ximenez casks, was launched. In 2011 Glenmorangie Finealta carried flavours from Spanish Oloroso casks. In 2012 Artein explored the effect of Super Tuscan casks. 2013 saw Ealanta released, matured simply and gloriously in virgin American white oak casks. Then last year Companta was revealed, its spirit taking on flavor from the Grand Cru casks of Clos de Tart as well as those of a lusciously sweet fortified wine from Côtes du Rhône. And now Private Edition Six, Glenmorangie Tùsail, represents a change of direction, being a malt which explores the use of a specific barley variety, an English barley no less, Maris Winter Otter.