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Glenmorangie newest release, A Tale of Tokyo Scotch Whisky, is the perfect combination of conventional and exciting.
As the creative force behind both of LVMH’s single malt Scotch whisky brands like Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, Bill Lumsden, who has a doctorate in microbial physiology and fermentation science, has a well-deserved reputation for pushing boundaries. From specially charred BBQ casks to super peated batches to extremely long fermentations, he’s never afraid to try new things in whisky. For Glenmorangie’s newest expression, he found inspiration from his many trips to Tokyo, Japan.
“I’m fascinated by the contradictions between [Tokyo’s] bustling streets and tranquil gardens, ancient and modern buildings, its many sensory experiences and its culture,” says Lumsden. “My time there over the years made me wonder whether I could capture my experience of Tokyo, and these beautiful intricacies, in whisky form.”
Powerfully herbal on the nose, Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo offers aromatic incense and leather contrasted by hints of toffee, followed by a resinous note and a touch of cedar wood. The palate features a peppery mouthfeel that leads to flavors of tangy oranges and bitter cherries alongside fennel and chewy oak. The finish is long and nutty, with hints of almond, mandarin, ground white pepper, and wood.
“I partly matured a proportion of Glenmorangie spirit in rare Japanese Mizunara oak casks, which I’ve been curious to experiment with for some time,” Lumsden says. “The influence of this wood is incredibly complex and unusual; it required balance and softening with Glenmorangie matured in bourbon and sherry casks, and the result is a dram as full of delicious sensory contrasts as a trip to Tokyo.”
To bring the vibrant inspiration and flavors of A Tale of Tokyo to life in visual form, Glenmorangie collaborated with Japanese artist Yamaguchi Akira, whose artwork adorns each bottle and its packaging. Uniting his trademark bird’s-eye view style with Glenmorangie’s technicolor palette, it juxtaposes famed landmarks and characteristics from both Tokyo and the Highland Distillery, as well as traditional Japanese pastimes with nods to the whisky’s flavors.
“It’s been a joy to collaborate with Glenmorangie to bring Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo to life through my art,” says Akira. “The idea of my residing home conjures up so many different thoughts and feelings, and my work reflects Tokyo’s contrasts in many ways. Incorporating hints about Glenmorangie and its whisky really appealed to my sense of playfulness.”
Glenmorangie’s “A Tale of” series continues to be one of the most interesting, including past bottles like A Tale of the Forest, A Tale of Cake, and A Tale of Winter. Lumsden’s experimentation is clearly working, too—Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2023.