Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo is a single malt whisky with bright, bold flavours with soft sweetness.
Japan’s capital has always been a place of great creative inspiration for Glenmorangie’s globe-trotting whisky creator, Dr Bill Lumsden, countering bustling streets with quiet gardens and ancient customs with ultra-modernism.
Inspired by the memories, feelings and flavours of his many visits to Tokyo and a desire to experiment with rare Japanese Mizunara oak casks for the first time, Dr Bill has created a limited edition expression characterised by enchanting opposites.
In the whisky’s flavour profile, pepper meets bitter cherries and coconut, as orange zest fuses with incense and sweet oak. On the finish, classic Glenmorangie flavours of mandarin, almond and marzipan can be detected.
Some time ago, as Dr Bill travelled through Japan to share the joy of Glenmorangie more widely, he wondered how he could create a single malt that encapsulated Tokyo’s contrasting delights, and what the influence of complex Japanese Mizunara oak might be on the Highland distillery’s light, floral character.
After a tireless quest, he was able to source a small number of Mizunara casks, which are known for bringing a very distinctive and unusual flavour to whisky.
He balanced the resulting unique and bold flavours from the Japanese oak with Glenmorangie aged in both bourbon and sherry casks to create a deliciously balanced whisky that encapsulates the juxtapositions of Tokyo.
To bring the vibrant inspiration and flavours of A Tale of Tokyo to life, Glenmorangie collaborated with Japanese artist Yamaguchi Akira, who has created his own playful perspective of the city’s rich layers of history and culture in an artwork which adorns each bottle and its packaging.
Uniting his trademark maximalist bird’s-eye view style with Glenmorangie’s technicolour palette, it juxtaposes famed landmarks and characteristics from both Tokyo and the Highland Distillery, as well as traditional Japanese pastimes with nods to the whisky’s flavours.
From the Tokyo Tower and Ueno Park to Glenmorangie’s giraffe-high stills and lush Mizunara oak trees, there are many intricate, hidden discoverables in his work, including several Dr Bill figures peppered throughout.
Dr Bill Lumsden said: “I’m lucky to have travelled widely over the years sharing Glenmorangie around the world whilst also gathering new inspiration for whisky creations, and Tokyo has always been one of my favourite places.
I first travelled to Japan in 1999. I flew into Tokyo and I visted Nagoya, Fukuoka, Osaka and Sapporo, but Tokyo was the main place I was, and I was completely captivated and bewitched by Japan, I just loved it.
"And it was what I loved so much about it was that it's a country full of contrasts.
"I honestly thought when I left that trip in 1999, that that was it. That was a once in a lifetime chance to go to Japan and I thought, Gosh, it would be great to go back. As it turns out, I've been back to Japan every year since then.
"I’m fascinated by the contradictions between its bustling streets and tranquil gardens, ancient and modern buildings, its many sensory experiences and its culture.
"My time there over the years made me wonder whether I could capture my experience of Tokyo, and these beautiful intricacies, in whisky form.
“I partly matured a proportion of Glenmorangie spirit in rare Japanese Mizunara oak casks, which I’ve been curious to experiment with for some time.
"The influence of this wood is incredibly complex and unusual; it required balance and softening with Glenmorangie matured in bourbon and sherry casks, and the result is a dram as full of delicious sensory contrasts as a trip to Tokyo.”
This hard to come-by oak was top of Dr Bill's wishlist for use in his work, and it has taken 20 years for him to be able to use it.
He explained: "the legendary Japanese mizunara Oak has been at the top of my wish list for barrels.
"Mizunara Oak has this kind of mystique about it. There's so many reasons why you would not make barrels out of it because the trees don't grow straight, they're gnarly and have lots of branches and knots and things, which is not ideal for barrel making.
"The wood is very porous, so you you what you suffer losses and the taste profile is utterly bizarre.
"Despite of this mizunara oak has this cult status, and historically, there's not a lot of it about but what is available was kept in Japan."
Yamaguchi Akira said: “It’s been a joy to collaborate with Glenmorangie to bring Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo to life through my art.
"The idea of my residing home conjures up so many different thoughts and feelings, and my work reflects Tokyo’s contrasts in many ways. Incorporating hints about Glenmorangie and its whisky really appealed to my sense of playfulness.”
Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo has recently been awarded Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2023.
It will be available from Selfridges exclusively from 1 to 15 October, then be available from 16 October onwards at whisky specialists, and online.
To explore Yamaguchi Akira’s full artwork as well as a range of cocktail serves inspired by A Tale of Tokyo, visit the Glenmorangie website.
What started as a one-off has become a series of whiskies, with Tale of Tokyo being the fourth in the range.
Dr Bill explained this, and how him and Gillian Macdonald (master blender and head of whisky creation) have already developed the next in the Tale of series, saying: "When we did A Tale of Cake, which was number one, that was meant to be a one-off.
"I think consumers and the trade were so intrigued by this concept of a tale of, with a genuine story to back up the whisky credentials, that we decided let's run with this.
"Gillian and I have already jut about refined the recipes for number five, which will be out next year."