Glenmorangie and its effervescent distiller on top

Bill Lumsden, not-so-mad scientist
In the two decades or so I've known Dr. Bill Lumsden, I have never witnessed his enthusiasm for his beloved Scotch whiskies reach anything but the highest levels.

Whether he is experimenting with many different woods for aging, trying different blends, glad-handing industry folks around the globe, hosting visiting distillers and spirits journalists, working with his team to create sales campaigns for his heavenly whiskies, tramping around the white oak forests of Missouri -- as we did together a few years back -- to select special trees to be turned into whisky kegs, or any other myriad activities, the director of distilling and whisky creation for Glenmorangie is one of the industry's leading lights.

He has even gone so far as to take part in an experiment now going on in outer space. Really? Yep. He supplied samples of unmatured malt and charred oak of the sort used to age whiskies to be taken to the international space station and mixed together in October of last year. The results will be revealed when the materials are returned to earth next year.

Says Lumsden, “This experiment will throw new light on the effect of gravity on maturation. We are all tremendously excited. Who knows where it will lead?”

Not that he doesn't have his off-balance moments now and then. I recall some years ago standing with him on the bank of Tarlogie Spring, the natural water source for Glenmorangie in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland. Lumsden, with his usual enthusiasm and ultra-thick accent, was extolling the pristine qualities of the water when I noticed a couple of local kids gamboling in one of the rivulets feeding into the spring and observed that such play might tend to taint the water.

"The little bastards," Lumdsen muttered, then louder as he recovered his equalibrium, "The distillation process gets rid of any impurities. It's all part of the plan."

The Glenmorangie Company and Lumsden were the stars of the just-completed International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London where Glenmorangie was named "2012 Distiller of the Year" and, for the second straight year, "UK Spirits Producer of the Year."

In addition, Glenmorangie’s 25 Year Old was the winner in the category for "Best Single Malt Over 15 Years Old."

Paul Skipworth, managing director at The Glenmorangie Company, said, “Being crowned the Distiller of the Year is the icing on the cake in what has been a highly successful 2012 for Glenmorangie. This is the top prize for the whole international spirits industry. This award recognizes the extra mile that Glenmorangie goes to deliver an exceptional quality of whisky. The IWSC judges have recognized the efforts made by everyone in our team and we are absolutely delighted.”

Lumsden added, “This accolade makes me very proud to be a part of such a highly regarded whisky company and its contribution to such a vibrant Scotch whisky industry. The superb quality of our whiskies has always been my top priority together with my team, and it is great to receive independent validation from the highly respected IWSC.

“Our attention to detail from the selection of raw materials, through careful distillation to the use of the finest quality oak casks for maturation, helps to ensure that all our whiskies provide an unparalleled taste experience.”

Glenmorangie Company whiskies have won 32 "Best in Class" and "Outstanding Gold" medals over the past six years at the IWSC, the most internationally-recognized awards body.

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Another legal moonshiner opens in Tennessee

The newest moonshine.
The continually expanding white spirits niche has gained another player.

The East Tennessee Distillery, the ninth distillery opened in Tennessee since liquor laws changed in 2009 to allow production, has opened in Piney Flats, TN.

It is producing and selling Mellomoon, a 100-proof unaged white whiskey.

Partners Gary Melvin, Byron Reece and Neil Roberson went into business to take advantage of the popularity of the white spirit in East Tennessee.

Melvin, who began as a home distiller, says "Everybody around here has got a recipe. They all really involve the same type of fermentables -- corn, rye, barley, sugar, corn syrup."

The newcomers are starting slowly -- one still and one product. But, with so many recipes floating around the region, that may change. Melvin notes his research into moonshine recipes has turned up some that date to the 1700s.

Of the nine distilleries that have opened since the law changed, about half produce moonshine. The first was Ole Smoky Moonshine, which is located in Gatlinburg.

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'Your Whiskey, Your Way' at new craft distillery

Having your own wine made isn't unusual. There are any number of wineries in many states that will tailor a batch to your specifics. But a new craft distillery that just opened over the weekend in Washington state may be the first to allow customers to help create their own spirits.

Heritage Distilling Company, which just opened to the public in Gig Harbor on scenic Puget Sound, is Washington's -- and perhaps the nation's -- first distillery to have a do-it-yourself component.

Owners Justin and Jennifer Stiefel are offering a program like called "Your Whiskey, Your Way." Customers can order a cask of spirits made to their specificatiopns, or can even take part in the process under the distillery's supervision.

The process is a bit tricky. State regulations do not allow unlicensed individuals to produce spirits without the proper federal and state licensing and permits. Heritage Distilling gets around that problem by doing all but the final stage of the distilling. Customers are allowed to selec a recipe and, later on, run one of the distillery's six micro-stills to complete the process.

"We are the ones licensed. We own all the equipment and have all the responsibility. It only becomes the customers’ product when they pay for it at the end," Justin Stiefel told The Business Journal.

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Kentucky-Ireland whiskey connection strengthened

A Vendome copper still.
Irish whiskey is known worldwide, but there are only four producing distilleries in Ireland. That number now is about to be bumped up by one.

The Alltech all-manual craft distillery has just finished installing pot stills at its Carlow Brewing Company in Bagenalstown, County Carlow.

The stills, made in Louisville, KY, by Vendome Copper & Brass Works Inc., are about to go online to begin the process of creating Alltech's first made-in-Ireland whiskey to be released some time in 2015.

"Our whiskey is 100% malt, made with only two other ingredients -- water and distiller’s yeast," said Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech and a native of Ireland.

"As yeast technology forms a large part of our core business, we have developed our own distiller’s yeast to use in the whiskey making process. Once the distillation process has finished, the whiskey will then be aged for three years in barrels from Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington, Kentucky. ... This way we will keep the Kentucky-Ireland connection alive."

Alltech’s Town Branch Bourbon and Pearse Lyons Reserve Single Malt Whiskey, both made in Kentucky, won gold medals in the 2012 World Spirit Awards.

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'Whiskey fungus' probe cloaked in silence

The Millers Lane facility.
From the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal:

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Diageo Americas Supply Inc., a subsidiary of a British company that makes Bulleit Bourbon, had a November 4 deadline to respond to a Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District enforcement action against a so-called "whiskey fungus" that authorities blame for covering cars and homes with dark spots.

But district officials aren’t saying whether the company met the deadline, and they are withholding all correspondence from the company to the district related to the enforcement action.

The secrecy -- for now, anyway -- is allowed under the Kentucky Open Records law because the district’s enforcement action is still ongoing, officials said in a response to a request of mine to review the records.

Back in September, the violation notices sent to the company cited air-quality infractions at whiskey warehouses at 2349 Millers Lane, and were the first since the district began looking into the vapor problem in the mid-2000s.

The case could be called high profile because it involves a signature Louisville industry -- bourbon. Mayor Greg Fischer, in a response to a reporter’s question, at first questioned the science behind the enforcement action of his own agency, but later withdrew from the matter, citing a potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest. A business partner is among those suing the company over the fungus.

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