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Issue 78 - The renaissance man

Whisky Magazine Issue 78
February 2009


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The renaissance man

Dave Broom talks innovation,metabolic pathways and obscure Scottish rock bands with Glenmorangie's head of distilling & flavour creation,Dr Bill Lumsden.

I want to see that again. It's my favourite bit. Look at that! It's like fireworks going off!” Bill Lumsden hits the button again and the screen ripples with images: honey, lemon blossom, incense sticks, marmalade, jasmine, créme brulée. “You see that sugar-coated almond? and when you taste it, there's a smokiness though of course it's not peat but wood-derived polyphenols.” That's the two sides of Dr Bill Lumsden.

There's Dr Bill Lumsden the scientist and there is Billy Lumsden the whisky lover from Greenock who is still excited and enthused by the endless complexities and potential of the cratur. It's a Scottish thing, this divided personality: Jekyll & Hyde, the Caledonian antisyzygy at work.

“Now I'm getting eucalypt and mint.” Funny I say, chipping in, I get mint in a lot of mature whiskies. “Yes!” he's off again, words almost spilling over each other. “It's diethylacetal.

You don't get a lot in new make, but in the casks the acetaldehyde interacts with free radicals in oxygen in the presence of alcohol and developes diethyl-acetal and if you have very active wood that boosts the caskdriven oxidation.” All this would be scary to non-scientists, which is where the kaleidoscope comes in, Glenmorangie's visual aid which allows the aroma, flavours and textures of the whisky to be articulated on a screen. Images explode, revolve, fade and ripple. It is a powerful and effective tool which can be used to explain whisky to the beginner or as a pathway for ...

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