Glenmorangie releases whisky made with rare barley

Glenmorangie Tusail whisky

Glenmorangie has released the latest in its Private Edition range of limited-edition single malts, giving a spicy twist to its original recipe with a barley not normally used for making whisky.

Glenmorangie Tùsail has notes of spicy ginger, cinnamon and nutty toffee from the use of Maris Otter barley from Norfolk and Suffolk which is normally used to make beer but not grown in Scotland for whisky.

Dr Bill Lumsden, ‎head of distilling and whisky creation at The Glenmorangie Company, used the barley to bring a new dimension to his normal recipe for Glenmorangie Original.

Bottled at 46% ABV and non-chill-filtered, it is the sixth in the Private Edition collection, following Sonnalta, Finealta, Artein, Ealanta and Companta.

Bill explained that Maris Otter barley not only declined in popularity with brewers because of its lower yields but, after extensive research, he found that it had never been used for scotch as it was too difficult to grow in the harsher climate of Scotland.

He sourced a winter variety of the barley which has been revived by two British seed merchants who formed a partnership to re-establish the grain’s purity and save it from being wiped out.

To make Tùsail, which means “originary” in Scots Gaelic, he had the Maris Otter barley traditionally floor-malted by hand at a maltings in Witham in Essex.

He said: “When we heard the story of those determined to preserve such a flavoursome grain, their ethos – and the barley itself – seemed the perfect match for a Glenmorangie single malt.

“I knew its deep flavour profile would provide an intriguing contrast to Glenmorangie’s more delicate house style, creating a whisky to enchant connoisseurs.

“The result pays homage to the Maris Otter variety, with rich, rustic flavours of nut toffee, sweet barley malt, ginger, cinnamon, molasses and dates, complementing the more familiar Glenmorangie notes of peaches, oranges and smoked pears.

“It has been demonstrated to me there is some merit in playing around with barley varieties so I may do so again in the future.”

Available from specialist suppliers, Glenmorangie Tùsail will be sold in retail at a recommended price of £75.99. A launch event was held last night at Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair in the new pop-up whisky bar created by the team behind Scotch bar at Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel.

Maris Otter was originally bred in the 1960s near Cambridge at a site on Maris Lane, the street after which the barley was named. Its flavour was initially sought after by the brewing industry but its popularity began to wane in the 1970s as tastes in beer changed and farmers switched to barley with higher yields.

By the late 1980s, uncertified seed and cross-pollination had put Maris Otter at risk of extinction. This greatly alarmed some in the brewing industry, who still depended on its unique flavour to produce their cask-conditioned ales.

Reacting to these concerns, two English seed merchants formed a partnership to rejuvenate the variety, and in 1992, began a programme to build the stocks back to an acceptable standard.

Maris Otter is used today by many UK brewers such as Box Steam, Ben Truman, Woodforde’s, Everards, Butcombe, Bath Ales, Stroud Eden.

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