Clubbed by single malts

Updated: Nov 7 2003, 05:30am hrs
Its a connoisseurs club, comprising wealthy people who indulge in an expensive passion in private environs. Welcome to Mumbais Single Malt Club, which caters to the ultra refined tastes of 70 successful people, including 10 ladies. Says noted columnist and socialite Anil Dharker, whose baby the club is, Whenever I attended a party, there were people who wished that Single Malt whiskey was available. Its difficult to lay your hands on single malts in India since they are not retailed at wine shops and only select brands tend to be available at leading five star hotels. There were many scotch lovers who kept ideating about starting such a club, but no one really came forward. So, I just went ahead and started one, says Mr Dharker.

That was three years ago. In its present avatar, the Single Malt Club is a club of like-minded people and ideas; essentially those who love their single malts and get together and share their stuff. Sample this: I got interested in single malts after I went to Scotland, where I saw distilleries and how scotch was prepared. I found that very fascinating, says Jaydeep Mehrotra, a painter and member.

Single malts are certainly for a select few. First, they dont come cheap. A 1 litre 12 year-old Glenfiddich, lesser among equals, costs about Rs 5,000, thanks to the close to 300 per cent excise component involved. And, do shell out close to 20 grand for a litre of Mortlach. Additionally, they have a very strong, distinctive taste and not everyone tends to fancy that. Most of the popular whiskeys, in fact, are blends of single malts. For example, Cardhu, a smooth and sweet tasting single malt, is the main ingredient of Johnny Walker Black. Similarly, Chivas Regal is also a blended whiskey.

Single Malt Club members usually meet once a month according to their convenience at a members residence. The host of the evening is decided by rotation and provides the food and booze - strictly single malts, of course. Members normally pick up their quota on trips abroad.

The clubs first evening was hosted by Sanjeev Malhotra, vice-president, Oberoi Hotels at his residence. The evening was a real hit as Sanjeev had managed to organise around 14 different brands of Single Malt, says Mr Dharker.

At another of the clubs do, hosted by Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell, there was an official from Macallan, a brand considered the Rolls Royce of single malts. He had managed to get 48 year-old Macallan bottles with him. They were undeniably the high point of the evening, considering a 30 year-old Macallan qualifies as a genuine collectors item and goes for an eye-popping 100 peg in a London bar.

Another member, Ashok Hiremath, MD, Astec Chemicals, especially joined the Single Malt Society in London to access the societys special Single Malt bottles. The Club has interesting and fun-loving people, leading to a combination of content and fun, he says. Other members include ad man Prahlad Kakkar, Euro RSG CEO Ishaan Raina, Tara TV head Rathikant Basu, former test cricketer Yajuvendra Singh, Sabeera Merchant and interior decorator Nisha Jamwal.

Ms Jamwal was initiated into single malts by her father who owns a liquor company. Therefore I have grown up with different liquors, she quips. Though expensive, I love the taste of single malts and I have just started my own collection as I will soon have to host an evening. What I like about the club is that there are people from all walks of life and therefore there is a certain vitality and vibrancy to the club. Everyones working and you get to learn a lot in the bargain, says she. Buoyed by her pleasant single malt experience, she now plans to start a wine club with a friend.

Gaining entry to the Single Malt Club may get a bit difficult now as Mr Dharker is already planning to cut down numbers. Its getting a bit unwieldy now, he states firmly. Time to start SMC II, we feel.