The Glenmorangie single malt Scotch whisky brand recently opened the doors to a new “innovation distillery” – a place they are looking to to bring a kaleidoscope of new flavors to their single malts.
Glenmorangie is seen by many as pushing single malt boundaries for decades. From pioneering wood finishing to Glenmorangie Signet mocha flavors, and a unique Private Edition series, Director of Whisky Creation Bill Lumsden constantly experiments and dreams up new whiskies for consumers to enjoy.
Lumsden’s “what if?” approach has now inspired the Lighthouse, the first on-site “innovation distillery” dedicated to a single malt brand, and created solely for experimentation. Conceived to bring Lumsden’s ideas to life, it’s a playground where he and his team can let their imaginations run wild.
The multi-million-pound Lighthouse is named for its unique approach to whisky. Like an actual lighthouse, the 20-meter-high stillhouse can be seen for miles around.
The innovation distillery stands at the heart of Glenmorangie’s Highland location, with its tall glass stillhouse a new landmark for the site where the brand has been creating its single malt since 1843.
Designed by Paris-based Barthélémy Griño Architects, it will give Glenmorangie’s whisky creators flexibility at all stages of their whisky-making, enabling them to vary the character of their spirit.
The innovation distillery was created for experimentation rather than yield. Areas of innovation include, according to information from them:
- The Lighthouse: The glass tower offers Glenmorangie’s visitors a glimpse of its two copper stills. Modelled on the tall stills in Glenmorangie’s main stillhouse, these new stills have been custom-designed by the Distillery’s whisky creators. By being made able to act as if they are shorter, they can create a heavier spirit, more akin to that created at Glenmorangie’s sister distillery, Ardbeg. By contrast, the stills can also be made to act as if they are even taller, to create a spirit even lighter than that which Glenmorangie already creates. Behind the Lighthouse’s glass façade is a wood-aluminium hybrid cladding. To reflect the delicious impact that wood has had on Glenmorangie’s taste over time, the cladding has been created with the bourbon and sherry casks used to create the limited expression Glenmorangie Lighthouse.
- The Brewhouse: Next door, in this traditional-style building, experiments with barley, water and yeast will take place during mashing and brewing. These stand-alone facilities (including a mash tun custom-designed to influence spirit character by creating different clarities of wort) mean that the Lighthouse can operate entirely of its own accord. This allows its experimental work to continue unhindered, while the main Distillery remains dedicated to satisfying the world’s growing demand for Glenmorangie’s delicious signature single malt.
- The Sensory Laboratory: The position of the sensory lab, and the innovative nature of the distillery means that the team will be able to study raw spirit, rather than the mature spirit they would more usually work with. They will be able to assess their experiments after every six-hour spirit run, enjoying the flexibility to alter recipes in ways which would never be possible in the main Distillery. Complete with a tasting room and terrace, this floor will offer views of the neighboring Dornoch Firth, to inspire those inside.
- Power source: Glenmorangie is committed to preserving and sustaining its Highland surroundings. As a result, the Lighthouse will be partly powered by biogas, created in Glenmorangie’s own anaerobic digestion plant, from the by-products of distillation.
Lumsden said of the Lighthouse in a prepared statement, “We will indulge our most fantastical ideas as we strive to create a whole array of different flavors. We will play with raw ingredients, and make small adjustments and big changes in ways never tried before. Nothing is off limits, as long as it’s delicious.”
Thomas Moradpour, President and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said that global demand for Glenmorangie is growing significantly and the Lighthouse experimental distillery is the keystone of their plans to stay at the forefront of taste innovation. “By giving our talented creation team free rein, we will welcome even more consumers worldwide to enjoy delicious whiskies,” he added.
To mark the Lighthouse opening, Glenmorangie has released a special whisky, limited to 3,000 bottles. Glenmorangie Lighthouse is created with bourbon and sherry casks now encased in the Lighthouse’s walls.
Glenmorangie Lighthouse distiller’s notes:
This soft, fruity 12-year-old limited edition is inspired by the wondrous flavours yet to emerge from the Lighthouse innovation distillery. Aged in bourbon and sherry casks, it is uniquely bonded with its namesake: fragments of its casks are embedded in the walls of the Lighthouse, where they will play their part in the Distillery’s whisky creation for years to come. Just 3,000 numbered bottles exist. Glenmorangie Lighthouse is non chill-filtered and bottled at 48% ABV. It will be available exclusively from the Distillery Visitor Centre.
- Color: Bright sparkling gold.
- Nose: Fresh, bright, clean and perfumed, with soft velvety vanilla, fresh red apples, honeycomb and the merest whisper of oak. With water, a curious ‘green’ note like fresh pepper and olive.
- Taste: A silky mouthfeel leads into honey, almond, milk chocolate, apricot and fudge, with hints of icing sugar, baked oranges, honeydew melon, and, again very much in the background, soft, sweet resinous oak wood.
- Finish: More orange, vanilla and oaky notes.
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