Whisky: In high spirits

The colour of a spirit doesn’t dictate how or when it should be drunk. Almost everything can be adapted to any weather and setting.

lifestyle, lifestyle news
Blended whiskies with pronounced ageing are becoming an extremely popular category,

The rising mercury notwithstanding, I have spent these last few weeks absolutely soaked in this brown spirit of choice for a majority of Indians. And consequently, I got a chance to reiterate (even to myself) that the colour of a spirit doesn’t dictate how or when it should be drunk and almost everything can be adapted to any weather and setting. Otherwise put, all we need is to have the will and one will find a suitable way to make it work.

The first was the Ultis XX from Chivas Regal. This is a blended Scotch whisky, an eclectic (and expensive) mix of five exceptional single malts and some grain whisky, with 20 years of ageing on top of it. Why five? Think of it as a tribute to the five previous master blenders who have handled the spirits at the famous whisky house. Everything about it, from packaging to sip, is distinguished and wrapped in classy elegance. Sure, it’s pricey but it serves up great value for your investment. In fact, blended whiskies with pronounced ageing are becoming an extremely popular category, going up against the standard aged single malts and there are two advantages they have over the latter—firstly, they can be priced better, and secondly, and more importantly, blending allows us to arrive at a more amenable and easy-to-appreciate-for-all smoothness and balance in the final taste, whereas a single malt will show more distinction and individuality. The Ultis XX ticks all the right boxes and is a great add to the stash. They state that it lends itself well to cocktails but I’d still prefer it on its own, slightly cooled.

Also read: Ratan Tata to Dhirubai Ambani: Classic luxury cars owned by top Indian business tycoons

Next was an event by Glenmorangie where all the biggies from the brand organised a discussion to understand Indian market better. Frankly, brands need more such exchange exercises and kudos to the team for pulling it off. I was able to taste all Glenmorangie variants side by side, which allowed me a much deeper understanding of their flavour profiles:

X—a bit brusque but shines in cocktails.

10 year old: The OG classic, a great reference point for a fruit-forward malty whiskies.

La Santa: Sherry cask ageing adds some earthiness which makes it deliciously dry.

Quinta Ruban: Port cask finish adds a playful (berryesque) sweet-tinged ending to each sip.

18 year old: A rare sip, even for me, complete and well-rounded, fruity with restraint.

Signet: Dark ale style toasty richness with exquisite balance and length.

And then we move on to Bourbons where I had a quick but rich interaction with Benji Purslow, the brand-am for Heaven Hill distillery that makes Elijah Craig and Evan Williams Bourbon whiskies. These are some of the top Bourbons in the world and we are lucky to now have them here. I wouldn’t advise having them with cola because that would be a waste of good Bourbon (and your money) but yes, they can definitely hold their own in more complex cocktails where the sugar doesn’t drown out all the nuanced flavours. Benji was candid in his approach and knew how to navigate Bourbons in this Scotch heavy market. The fact that these are fairly premium in pricing perhaps makes it an even more daunting exercise. Elijah Craig was (allegedly) the first person to invent barrel-aged Bourbons (they were mostly unaged white spirits or spirits flavoured with fruits before that, and sure there are other origin stories but let’s not split hairs for now.) Today, they make loads of styles and variants (no barrel-finishes though) and even won an award for being sustainable. This last one is commendable given that nobody goes through more wood (in barrel-form) than a Bourbon house. Benji also attributed the rising popularity of bourbons like Elijah Craig to the early twenty-noughties when the world moved on from basic whiskey-cola drinks to reviving classics and more delicate cocktails. Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, Sours…they possibly paved the way for such brands to become more relevant and popular.

Also read: Alia Bhatt’s net worth is Rs 229 crores: A look at her luxurious house, expensive cars, angel investments & Rs 150 crores start-up ‘Ed-A-Mamma’

I also tried Jim Beam Black, a Bourbon which spends an inordinately longer stretch of time in white casks which makes for a softer more complex flavour mix. Sure, there is the perception of ‘sweetness’ with notes of vanilla and caramel but nothing is too loud. On the whole, it’s a good premium-yet-not-too-pricey bottle out there and fairly versatile in that, one can have it on the rocks and still afford to let your friends mix it in whatever concoction they prefer.

I know Varchas, a Bourbon with an Indian connection will launch across India soon but more on that once we have it everywhere. And, before I leave, a quick mention for a blended American Whisky called Budweiser Magnum Double Barrel (I am not making this name up). It does come from the mothership behind the eponymous beer brand and is a fun quirky easy sip even if a bit oddly sweet up front. But it comes at a super price point and time will tell how the Indian whisky drinkers take to it.

As I said, it has been a few very whisk(e)y weeks. Slainté!

The writer is a sommelier

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 19-03-2023 at 01:45 IST
Exit mobile version