Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Tùsail

Few distilleries have more successfully demonstrated Scotch whisky’s ability to look forward without losing sight of its traditions than Glenmorangie. And few of Glenmorangie’s releases so artfully straddle the line between yesterday and tomorrow as Tùsail, the sixth installment in the Private Edition range.

Tùsail is a single malt made entirely from Maris Otter barley, floor malted by hand. Those are words to make even the most retiring real ale enthusiast salivate with excitement, an homage to Britain’s most beloved brewing and distilling history.

Walk into any homebrew store, and you’ll find a bin of malt marked “Maris Otter.” Maris Otter is a malting barley variety that was grown extensively in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. Renowned for its rich flavor, it was—and still is—beloved by the craft beer community, and it’s one of the few barleys marketed by name.

Despite its great flavor, Maris Otter has mostly succumbed to the grinding wheel of progress. For the most part, it’s been replaced by new barley varieties developed for superior yield, although there’s sufficient demand from craft brewers that Maris Otter malt is unlikely to vanish from the fields entirely. For many, it’s a romantic taste of the past, for a time when malt was maltier and beer was better.

Floor malting is the process of spreading grain across a floor in a thin layer, dampening it so it begins to sprout, and then laboriously turning it by hand every few hours so the rootlets don’t tangle and choke off the infant plant’s supply of oxygen. It’s hardly ever practiced anymore, but before the invention of the saladin box, it was how all malting was done. Loyalists believe it gives the malt a deep, complex flavor unobtainable any other way. So floor malted Maris Otter? Words to conjure with for beer and whisky traditionalists.

Tùsail is squarely focused on the malt, so there’s not much emphasis (or information) on the casks used for aging. Like most of the Private Edition range, it’s an NAS release, and it has not been chill filtered. Although it’s now discontinued, it appears you can still pick up some lingering bottles of Tùsail at specialty shops and via the secondary market.

Glenmorangie TusailTasting Notes: Glenmorangie Tùsail

Vital stats: 100% floor malted Maris Otter, 92 proof, non chill filtered, no age statement.

Appearance: Warm, glowing gold

Nose: Rich, nutty, and grainy, those signature floral Glenmorangie notes are accompanied by sweet barley porridge with brown sugar, wet leaves, maple walnut ice cream, and Ceylon cinnamon. There’s a light fruit component—honeydew, soapy banana—but it’s a supporting role. Malt is on the mainstage.

Palate: Also rich and nutty, with a pronounced bakery case sweetness. A broad initial entry with high viscosity evokes munching on honeyed oatcakes, or eating a bowl of buttered multigrain porridge topped with white flowers and a light sprinkling of fresh hay. The finish thins out a bit with the introduction of mouthwatering fruit: oranges, melon, quince, and a sweet oak note. But again, like the nose, the overall sensation is dominated by malt.

The Takeaway

This is quite delicious. There’s amazing amplitude of maltiness here, an intensely mouth-filling flavor, yet Glenmorangie’s canonical fruit-and-flower style isn’t entirely subsumed. Tùsail feels intentionally well made, all the flavors pulling together, harmonious and balanced.

Yet another win for Dr. Bill Lumsden and his ongoing twin pursuits of innovation and heritage.

4.5
User Rating 4 (1 vote)
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About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.