Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s long-time whisky maker, is perhaps best categorized as the nutty professor of Scotch whisky. The scientist (PhD in microbial physiology and fermentation science) continually probes the potential for single-malt Scotch. Dr. Bill, as he’s known, is the innovator of Glenmorangie Signet, a dark amber-coloured single malt rich with notes of coffee and chocolate—the “most unique whisky made in Scotland,” Lumsden asserts.
For one week a year, the Glenmorangie distillery, located in Tain in the Scottish Highlands, yields barrels entirely unlike the rest of its usual output. “Signet is a complicated product made in relatively small batches when compared to the scale of the Glenmorangie range,” Lumsden says. And the complication lies in one special ingredient: high-roast chocolate malt barley. (Other factors include variations in casks, different maturations, and varying layers of complexity.) Signet “is a work in progress, as most of my whiskies are,” explains Lumsden, ever the experimenter. “We don’t blend based on a recipe. We’re adding barrels together to get the taste we want. Each time you open a bottle of Signet, you will find variations.”
Should any affirmation be needed, “Some of the batches we have bottled of Signet are only outstanding; the rest of them are way better than that,” Lumsden says, tongue in cheek.