Glenmorangie Evening with Dr Bill Lumsden

After the disappointing Jim Murray Amrut experience, what a joy to join the Glenmorangie event in Delhi at the Oberoi with Dr Bill Lumsden – Director Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stock. Bill’s irreverent humour, insights and knowledge alone was a draw…. throw in a couple good drams, quality food and great company – we have a winner!

The evening had three parts:

  • Sociable ‘cocktails’ (aka Glenmorangie’s The Original 10 year) with canapé
  • Formal 4 course dinner paired with Glenmorangie’s 10 year, 18 year, 25 year and Signet expressions
  • Poolside free-pour party

Pre-dinner networking

Never doubt the lure of free booze in India and the growing popularity of single malts!

The ballroom foyer set the tone with a long Glenmorangie bar, ever-present waiters dropping generous drams of whisky into empty hands, rounds of hors d’oeuvre so we didn’t perish until the main event…

Desultory conversations, multiple introductions revealed a mixed crowd of folks from around India – mostly Mumbai, Delhi with a smattering from Bangalore and beyond. It was also a mélange of industry professionals, passionate whisky aficionados, journalists and ‘men about town’. Aside from women involved with the event, the female quotient was decidedly rare.

Glenmorangie evening at The Oberoi, Delhi

Glenmorangie evening at The Oberoi, Delhi

Dinning delight

From the warm glow of the Glenmorangie centrepeice to the ornamental trademark giraffe gift for each guest, someone somewhere had fussed over the details. And why a giraffe you ask? Glenmorangie has adopted a giraffe as their stills have long copper necks and stand the same height as a fully grown adult giraffe!

Warning… what follows may make you hungry!

Setting the stage for a Glenmorangie food and whisky pairing

Setting the stage for a Glenmorangie food and whisky pairing

1st Course with Glenmorangie 10 year

Introducing the Glenmorangie The Original 10 year, Bill shared that he is often asked “Which is your favourite Glenmorangie whisky?” To which he joked it is like being asked “Which do you prefer – your son or your daughter?” However he did admit the Original is the whisky he drinks most often – either neat or in a cocktail.

The Glenmorangie staple whisky was paired with:

  • Grilled Peruvian asparagus and warm goat cheese salad, roast baby beetroot in honey mustard dressing
  • Yellow fin tuna carpaccio ‘Nicoise’ citrus emulsion, egg, kalamata olive tapenade, french beans

I opted for the tuna and while the citrus and whisky wasn’t a completely successful combination, the olive gave the dish and whisky a nice ‘punch’.

st course with Glenmorangie 10 year 'The Original'

1st course with Glenmorangie 10 year ‘The Original’

2nd Course with Glenmorangie 18 year

Bill then introduced the 18 year as the ‘Big Brother’ of The Original. He shared that the whisky spends 15 years in American Oak then finishes for 3 years in Olorosso Sherry casks and called it his “Channel No 5 of malt whisky.”

The whisky had a delightful nose with fruit, raisins, sweet mint and walnuts, balanced palate with a superb finish. It was paired with Parmesan cheese tortelli Himalayan morel consommé saffron cream.

Perfection! A pairing that enhanced both in a delightful dance of flavours – the whisky heightened the parmesan and cream whereas the tortelli added a chocolate dimension to the whisky. In short – delicious!

2nd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

2nd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

3rd Course with Glenmorangie 25 year 

By this point in the evening, Bill simply had to intervene to prevent the waiters from providing ice. There was no way the Glenmorangie 25 year would be served on the rocks!

While he admitted he is always tinkering with the recipe, was delighted with the recognition the 25 year received in 2012. Bill also suggested this is one whisky to enjoy with a cigar.

To go with the Glenmorangie 25 year, there were three options:

  • Lobster – Braised Cochin lobster with country cream, forest mushrooms, wild rice and ‘Glenmorangie Signet’ infusion
  • Lamb – New Zealand lamb chops with gratin potatoes, artichoke cream, micro greens with Port wine sauce
  • Vegetarians – For the vegetarians, there was artichoke, pok choy and zucchini ‘fritto misto’ with a lemon and rosemary potato cream, bell pepper coulis.

The 25 year has such a full-bodied robust whisky bursting with character that it required entrees with equal personality and pizzazz.

I tried the lobster and found myself wondering if cracked black-pepper would have enhanced the combination. From others around me, clearly the lamb was a complimentary pairing. While a vegetarian was just happy it wasn’t a typical pasta, not sure the pairing scored top marks.

3rd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

3rd course with Glenmorangie 25 year

4th Course with Glenmorangie Signet

For the last course, Bill reversed his ‘no ice’ stance and encouraged sampling the Signet chilled. The waiters enthusiastically defaulted to serving in this way.

Desert was a slow cooked Valhrona chocolate torte with a mocha sand, raspberry coulis and a side of minted vanilla ice cream. Signet had a liqueur like quality, like tiramisu, cinnamon, cloves, creamy like sweet butter, smooth with a chocolate coffee. As a combination – the minted ice cream was a refreshing contrast to the rich coffee smoothness of the Signet with the mocha sand adding a deeper note to the torte and whisky both. There was more than one moan of sheer unadulterated delight.

4th course with Glenmorangie Signet

4th course with Glenmorangie Signet

Post-dinner impressions

Informal polls on whisky preferences had surprising results. In most cases, gentlemen preferred the 10 or 18 year. One could argue that palates were pre-tuned to the 10 year as it was available in generous pours during the ‘cocktail’ hour. Additionally, the 18 year pairing was simply superb – one of the best I have sampled til date.

Whereas for me, it was a toss-up between the coffee complexity of the Signet and the depth and personality of the 25 year. The benefit of the poolside party was an opportunity to try both on their own and, more importantly for the Signet, without ice!

However, even with the chance to sample further, it is not the optimal way to form an understanding of a whisky’s character. Rather than ‘tasting notes’, I gained instead the memory of a thoroughly enjoyable evening, where the company and conversations were engaging with a rare opportunity to meet the innovator behind Glenmorangie and Ardbeg creations.

Glenmorangie Signet on ice

Glenmorangie Signet on ice

Though each whisky was appreciated… I wish I could have snagged the open 25 year and Signet for solo sampling or a quiet tasting evening at home with a very small set of friends to focus primarily on the whisky. I’m also partial to sipping from Glencairn or tulip glasses and not the Glenmorangie rounded tumblers.

However, if the goal of the evening was to whet the appetite for further interest in trying again – clearly they succeeded!

PS I was fortunate to interview Dr Bill Lumsden one-on-one for Man’s World magazine… stay tuned for more!

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