“You can only use three ingredients to make Scotch: water, barley and yeast,” Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at Glenmorangie, explains.
One might think the straightforward recipe would limit producers, yielding a homogeneous landscape of virtually identical blends. But the simple guidelines, written and enforced by the Scotch Whisky Association, have created the opposite effect.
Glenmorangie was founded in 1843, and has built a solid reputation for being an inventive innovator in the space. For nearly 25 years, the iconic Scottish distillery has been led by Dr. Bill Lumsden, Director of Whisky Creation, Distilling, and Whisky Stocks. With a PhD in Microbial Physiology and Fermentation Science, Lumsden effortlessly marries scientific procedure with creative whimsy to push the boundaries of modern Scotch production.
Nothing illustrates this approach better than the brand’s award-winning Private Edition series. For the past decade, Lumsden and his team have released a new limited edition single malt Scotch each year. The program allows Glenmorangie to experiment with variables like aging techniques and ingredients while still playing by the rules. As a result, Scotch collectors and connoisseurs eagerly await each release like kids on Christmas morning.
This year marks the program’s 10th iteration, and to celebrate the milestone, the Highland distillery just released their latest addition to the Private Edition lineup: Glenmorangie Allta. What separates this bottle from its predecessors is that it explores the underrated importance of yeast in whisky making. “Yeast’s influence on taste has been overlooked for years, but it’s an area ripe for exploration,” Lumsden says.
Glenmorangie Allta is groundbreaking because it’s the first single malt whisky made using a previously undiscovered wild yeast grown on the distillery’s own barley. It all started when Lumsden recalled a story he once heard from the late, great whisky writer Michael Jackson. According to Jackson, there were whispers that Glenmorangie had a “house yeast” thriving in its vast barley fields. Lumsden decided to put the legend to the test.
He collected a few ears of their Cadboll barley and brought them into the laboratory for analysis. To his delight, he discovered Saccharomyces diaemath, a species of wild yeast that had been unidentified until that point. With the wheels now turning, he arranged for the yeast to be cultivated and incorporated into the whisky-making process. From there, he filled former bourbon barrels with the experimental spirit and let nature take its course.
The final product emerged a few years later, which we now know as Glenmorangie Allta. “At it’s best, single malt Scotch should be nice and complex, but it should be mellow and easy drinking as well,” Lumsden says. And the brand’s latest release certainly meets the criteria.
The well-balanced, straw-colored spirit embodies light floral notes complemented by the faint hint of baking bread. Its aroma also features traces of sweet orange and raisins. With a crisp citrus bite, flavors like creamy vanilla, butter candy and gentle peppermint round out its unique taste.