Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Review | Glenmorangie 23 years old: Dr. Bill Lumsden x Azuma Makoto

This limited edition whisky is a premium release from the north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie. It marks a collaboration between Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Whisky Creation for the brand, and renowned botanical artist Azuma Makoto. The partnership has seen the pair use a shared love of landscape and the natural world (a concept know as shinra bansho in Japan) to create a unique whisky and living art installation. This follows a visit to Glenmorangie and the surrounding Highlands by Makoto, with Lumsden as his guide.

The whisky is released at 23 years of age and consists of classic Glenmorangie long-aged in ex-bourbon casks, which was distilled in 1998. This has been married with a small pocket of maturing stock that was transferred in 2006 to French oak ex-Chardonnay white wine casks sourced by Lumsden from the Meursault region of Burgundy in France. It is Glenmorangie's first ever bottling to feature such casks. 

In his Tokyo studio, Makoto drew similar inspiration from his visit to the distillery and Highlands to conceive a one-ff piece of botanical sculpture. This has been named Shinra Bansho after the Japanese concept of appreciating nature. This included flora indigenous to both Scotland and Japan plus tree bark, moss and roots. The living masterpiece was then recreated for a two-day exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London to celebrate the whisky's launch.

The Glenmorangie 23 years old: Dr. Bill Lumsden x Azuma Makoto is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non-chill filtered and of natural colour. The whisky will be available in selected world markets including China, India, Japan, Taiwan, the UK and the USA. It will also be available via the distillery shop, www.glenmorangie.com and Glenmorangie's boutique store in London Heathrow Terminal 2. A bottle will cost €1,250/ £1,050/ US$1350.


Our Tasting Notes

The colour is coppery gold and the nose is elegant and uplifting. It is vibrant and fresh for its age. Highly perfumed and floral aromas rise from the glass - think of honeysuckle, jasmine or orchid - and are joined by some sweet toffee, vanilla fudge and twist of bitter orange peel. Hints of oaky spice and cocoa powder are also evident.

On the palate this whisky is silky and soft with a luxurious feel. A distinct note of milk chocolate appears first and is quickly joined by other fruity and floral notes. Fresh white peach and apricot give way to something more tropical - imagine dried pineapple and papaya especially. Then comes that bitter orange peel from the nose, some white grape and a hint of candied lime. Some heady lemon verbena and jasmine-like notes also make an appearance.

Underpinning all of these characteristics are notes that add a savoury aspect. There is something dry, earthy and mossy in the background. These are accentuated by hints of mocha, bitter cocoa and gingerbread. The oak and woody spices then build up to give incredible depth and balance. Cinnamon bark and oak shavings are detected and this gives a pleasant tannic dryness. This increases towards the finish with a peppery heat also building.

The finish is long and warming. The sweet, fruity and floral elements fade to leave the oaky and warming spices to play. The gingerbread leads the way and is supported by oak tannins and a distinct peppery heat. This has the effect of making the mouth water and elongate the finish. It makes you want to take another sip.

What's The Verdict?

This is a stunner from Glenmorangie. The whisky is so uplifting and fresh for its age, and the ex-Chardonnay casks must have played a role in this. It is a whisky perfect for the warm Summery weather. The highly perfumed floral and fruity top notes are elegant and delightful. The sweet notes compliment these well and further structure is added by the distinctive oak and spice characteristics. 

The whisky is superbly balanced and was a pleasure to sample, especially at the London launch event in the presence of Dr. Bill Lumsden and Azuma Makoto. It has to be added that Makoto's Shinra Bansho living botanical sculpture was spectacular and so incredibly detailed when viewed close up. The texture, smell and look was a true joy. What a great collaboration.

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