All the talk of late in the whisky world has been around grain whisky.

Now, by grain, I mean – single grain variant releases (i.e.: Haig Club/Girvan) which have a main base of wheat (for the most part in the UK currently) and are made using continuous distillation.

These other processes lend a major differentiation to the final flavour profile, in comparison to single malt Scotch (made on pot stills, using malted barley).

But let us take a minute and think more about ‘grain’ itself and what that actually means. You see, regardless of whether the whisky you’re drinking is ‘grain’ whisky or ‘single malt’ whisky, it will be affected, to some degree, by the variety of grain used. After all, that wheat or barley is a major component in the final product.


Dr Bill Lumsden at the launch of Dornoch in November.


For Glenmorangie’s head of whisky creation – Dr Bill Lumsden – this fact was one of major interest. A scientist by background (read more about him in this in-depth feature) Dr Bill has been getting geeky for the past 20 years at the company, and his longevity with it has allowed him to see through projects he started dabbling in right from the earliest stages, including choices around grain variants.

The has, in turn, led to Tusail, meaning ‘originary’, this year’s Private Edition whisky (read about last year’s Companta, and how it differs, here), which is the sixth in that range.

Over the years, distillers have generally tended towards using barley or wheat which provides the highest yield when it comes to production. Those that are less giving – such as Maris Otter, used for this new release – were left by the wayside in favour of those other variants. In the case of this English barley variety, it was nearly extinguished from the common brewing and distilling vernacular, and had it not been for two English seed merchants who helped to rejuvenate it in the ’90s, it most certainly would have.

Dr Bill wanted to understand how this barley strain, when used on its own, would affect a final whisky and worked with them to use it in production. As usual for this range, no age statement is given, but from the depth of flavour, I would think it would be at least 8-12 years.

It’s definitely a rich Glenmorangie – much spicier and bigger on the palate than others I’ve had. It reminds me in some ways of Astar – which was a corker of a release, in my opinion.

How much is precisely down to the barley variety is hard for me to conclude. But, the experiment and the discussion about grain variants is not only an important one but something that more of the start-ups in the whisky world are looking into, potentially at the detriment of the bigger behemoths who stick to the tried and tested varieties. As such, I raise a glass to Dr Bill and the team at Glenmorangie for taking the time to test things out. Given it’s being priced in at £75.99 it’s one to pitch in with a couple of friends and buy a bottle of while you get a chance – if only to see for yourself.

Here are my thoughts on this new release:

Glenmo Tusail

Glenmorangie Tusail: 46%: £75.99:

(c): Agave

(n): Hay, hazelnuts and marzipan lend a richness, while orange juice and dried mango give it a fruitier kick. There’s dusty books, leather and spicy oak in there too.

(p): Chocolate covered ginger and vanilla pods combine to lend a rich palate with a lot of spice around the tip of the tongue. Just a hint of earthy bitterness at the back of the palate gives it more depth. Oak spice, aspartame, fizzy cream soda, lemon peel, quinine and white flowers all mingle at various points.

(f): Poached pears.

In Conclusion: A satisfying, rich whisky that lends itself well to late springtime drinking, when the flowers are just coming out but it’s still cold enough to want a bit of a spicy zing to warm you through.