A taste of Scotland: Time for some top-notch Scotch whisky experiences

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September 12, 2021 2:30 AM

Need advice on what to try for some top-notch Scotch whisky experiences? Then read on

whiskey and natural iceEither way, most distilleries stick to the formula once they know they have one which works. (Getty Images)

The past two weeks have been all about whisky. It started a fortnight ago when I erroneously mentioned Grant’s Distinction as a homegrown blended whisky in my column. The taste should have pointed me in the right direction but I blame a certain dilution of my sensibilities while writing the piece.

Let this be another warning for me not to operate heavy machinery like a laptop under the influence of extremely fine Scotch. In fact, it’s a waste of Scotch if you aren’t giving it all your attention.

So, I decided to mend my ways and make whisky the focal point in the last fortnight. I hope that all of this will absolve me of my factual oversight and the soul of late William Grant will receive this as due repentance on my part.

If you want my advice on what to try for some top-notch Scotch experiences, then read on.

Glenmorangie is the tallest still in the business, a fact they exemplify with the giraffe (shall I say, their mascot?), but please don’t ask me how the taste would change if the stills were short and stout. It would be different, that’s for sure. Either way, most distilleries stick to the formula once they know they have one which works. Glenmorangie is a fresh and easy-to-enjoy single malt for me. It is exemplary fruity for a single malt with the toast and spice in balance, supportively subtle yet structured. The idea that a tasting need not just be about what one smells and tastes but even hears was exemplified here as the kit also had scannable codes to online music which felt, to me, like an audio representation of the taste and flavours of this single malt. It’s art, so there are no rights and wrongs, just interpretations and opinions. This was a good way to get any evening started.

I had received two Scotch whiskies from Grant’s—the Triple Wood and the Distinction. Although both were made and matured in Scotland, the difference was that one was bottled in India. It doesn’t change anything from the recipe and flavour profile, just makes it more accessible. Now, to be fair, Triple Wood, as the name suggests, is aged in three types of casks. The mix creates a harmonious yet wide-ranging sensory profile, from subtle florals to fruit and spice with rich notes of creme brûlée and creamy vanilla.

The Distinction is a somewhat easier blend, less complex but aptly deep and it sits beautifully in a highball, with soda and a garnish of your choice. The Triple Wood, while it does lend itself to highballs too, also shows extremely well straight up, or with a few cubes of ice. Given the price, Distinction holds the potential to become an easy-access Scotch whisky that is premium and yet surprisingly affordable.

Meanwhile, Johnnie Walker Princes Street was a sensory journey that involved more than just the tactile senses. It was a virtual visit to the newly opened multi-storeyed experience centre for Johnnie Walker on Princes Street in Edinburgh, where one can buy some very fine Scotch, including rare and exclusive bottling. Once the lockdown eases, we can even plan a visit to their restaurant or the rooftop bar, enjoying the whiskies neat or built into cocktails. In a video, during the launch, they had Ryan ‘Mr. Lyan’ Chetiyawardana (a famous bar personality) mixing highballs that we could recreate at home too. Of course I made one for myself—it didn’t matter that it was nowhere close to 6 pm yet.

Then I had a fun evening with the ever-wry Aneesh Bhasin of Svami drinks who led a fun tasting around highballs (we used 10-year-old Glenmorangie, Dewar’s White Label and Paul John Bold) combined with Svami’s range of mixers and aromatised with their unique set of aromatisers which are equal parts perfume and (edible) garnish.

I never thought that a simple whisky-soda/tonic/ginger-ale could be given so many different finishes simply by spraying them with a unique (alimentary) scent. My favourite was the Bergamot but I also enjoyed the Aniseed, Rosemary and the Cinnamon. The last one was exceptionally good and old-fashioned. By the end of the tasting I felt so ‘inspired’ that I started tinkering with free-pouring a bit, which didn’t seem to go too awry.

The writer is a sommelier

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