Get a bottle of 100 Pipers to be served in the evening, (or Teachers or Black & White or Vat 69) and watch their face screw up!
And your party is over before it began.
Noticed that ever? I am sure !
Why does Bottled in India Whisky (BII) draw such flak? Is it inferior? Is it spurious? Is it tasteless? Or does it taste less?
I’ve even noticed lesser known yet imported whiskies draw more applause than Bottled in India Whisky (BII) ones – its arguably our Indian-ness of wanting to self label anything made 100% abroad as being better. Whisky or T.V! Right?
This article is just to set the facts right on the Scotchness of Bottled in India Whisky(BII). Yes it’s a word – and it’s been in use since 1808!
And to all those who think it’s inferior in anyway – sorry mate! That so aint it!
BII is 100 % Scotch – as scotch as scotch eggs, single malt, golf and haggis!
So what is BII Scotch?
It’s 100% Scotland Made – Scotland Matured made Scotch Whisky Style just bottled in the land of consumption!
It’s revenue paid (in Britain) and has undergone some check to ensure that’s it’s promised quality and unless fixed’ by an unscrupulous agent – it promises similar excitement.
Yes Sir, want to check? Here is a quick glance at what the British Legislation says about it:
As regards maturation, one area of possible ambiguity has been addressed. The Scotch Whisky Regulations make clear that Scotch Whisky must be wholly matured in Scotland, i.e. it may not be matured in any country other than Scotland.
The Scotch Whisky Regulations also require that all maturation must take place in an excise warehouse or in another “permitted place” regulated by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
“Permitted place” includes any place to which spirits in an excise paid warehouse
Such other purpose as HMRC may permit It is only if all maturation of Scotch Whisky takes place under some form of HMRC control that they will be able to certify that the spirit is Scotch Whisky and, if an age is claimed, that the Scotch Whisky has been matured in the permitted size of oak casks for the period claimed.
But why is it done
2 main reasons – 1st – it significantly lowers taxation on the bottle – so you get good stuff – cheaper and 2nd as it’s in larger quantities – its also less cumbersome to transport the spirit in a steel container than all those individual bottles.
So it’s brought to India in bulk by liquor marketers such as Pernod Ricard – bottled under a watchful eye – by reducing the alcohol level to local standards using denatured water and served up to you!
You should but yes, there is still a lingering doubt – that Teachers you had in London tasted better than the one at your friends last evening? Yes, maybe!
For one, the idea of sitting around drinking whisky in London itself adds to the experience and thus enhance the taste – also, the Britain, most blended premium whisky is bottled at 40% strength – while here in India its usually 42.3% – that would account for a bit of the doubt!
[vc_column width=”1/1″]Whisky, Tartan and Golf are probably the three most recognisable icons of Scotland and the port of Leith can lay a claim to all three!
Leith is a town on the Firth of Forth just north of Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital) and it has seen an amazing history with many important events taking place in this port town which up until 1920 was a separate burgh to Edinburgh.
Aside from the turbulent history, it has been a wine storage location as far back as the 16th century, the first official rules of golf were drawn up in Leith in 1744 and at one time up to 90% of all Scotch Whisky was aged in Leith!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Whisky & the Port of Leith
Amongst the many exotic products that came through the port were the wines of Jerez and Leith was a major warehousing location for the casks that were shipped into Scotland.
In typically canny fashion, once emptied, these casks were used as storage and transport containers for whisky and it became increasingly apparent that it benefited the spirit greatly. The sweet notes left behind in the wood were imparted into the whisky and created a flavour like no other.
As the 19th century wore on, the port of Leith became the centre of the industry as bottlers, blenders and merchants built their warehouses and offices around the burgeoning numbers of distilleries that sprung up. Customs and Excise, amongst other government departments connected to the industry were also located nearby in Edinburgh.
The big distilleries may have long since disappeared like the angel’s share, but the port continues to do business in the rectifying, blending, bonding and exporting of Scotch. The spirit is still very much alive and well.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]The Tartan Connection
It is not known when tartan was first created in Scotland but there are prints and carvings dating back to the early 16th century showing the Highlander of Scotland wearing this dress. After many years of trying to calm the warring Highland clans, the English banned the wearing of tartan and highland dress in 1746.
Although the ban was repealed in 1782 it was not King George the IV arrived in Leith in 1822 (the first monarch to step foot in Scotland for nearly 2 centuries) wearing a kilt and full Highland Dress that the tartan kilt was elevated to be part of a full Scottish identity.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Kinloch Anderson (based in Dock Street, Leith), now in the sixth generation of family management, has been known and respected in Scotland’s capital city as the foremost experts in tartans and Highland Dress since 1868. The company are proud holders of Royal Warrants of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
The company’s products have always reflected the pride they take in Scotland’s capital and nowhere has been more vital to Edinburgh’s development than the port of Leith. In 1995 the company produced a tartan that reflects Leith’s heritage and in summer 2016 they bottled a Scotch Whisky that is as close to a classic Scotch Whisky as close to the style produced two centuries earlier – a 35 year old Blend aged in an ex-oloroso cask and hand bottled free from artificial additives or colouring and has not undergone the process of chill-filtration.
KINLOCH ANDERSON 35 YEAR OLD SMALL BATCH BLEND
TASTING NOTES BY CHARLES MACLEAN
Cask No: 198408 -1 of 498 bottles
Nose: Rich fruits intermingled with the Sherry flavour. Sweet and spicy oak. Figs in syrup. Palate: Full-bodied. Again rich and fruity. Beautifully balanced sweetness working with the oak. Rich malt flavours and mouth-coating. Finish: A rich explosion of sweet fruits in the finish. Again perfect balance of flavours and a long, rich aftertaste.
THE LEITH TARTAN Packaged in the Leith tartan, this tartan was designed in 1995 by Kinloch Anderson and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.
The symbolism of the colours is as follows: Ancient Blue and Navy to represent the sea and maritime connections. Green signifies the association with Leith Links, the original site of the game of golf. Red recalls the renowned wine and whisky trade around the world from the Port of Leith.
[vc_column width=”1/1″]I’ve heard that in some countries it’s known as the Devil’s share and not the Angel’s share. I’m referring to the liquid which evaporates each year from the casks in which it lies maturing, typically applying for spirits such as whisky, rum and cognac. In harsher climates such as India, the Caribbean and to my surprise even Kentucky, the loss of liquid can be higher than that in Scotland. Apart from the loss of liquid, maturation is also quicker – a year of maturation in a warmer climate takes Scotland 3/4 years to achieve because of the cold weather. That’s why the number of years of maturation is not given the importance for bourbon or Tennessee whiskey as it’s traditionally been given in Scotland. They know that maturation is not just a function of the number of years but of the weather and the interaction of the spirit with the wood because of it. Most American Whiskey will only put the years from 6 onwards.
Its nuggets of information like this (+ a lot of whiskey!) which drew me to an American whiskey appreciation evening with a difference, hosted by Shatbhi Basu, a doyenne of Indian bartending and currently ambassador for American whiskey in India. Shatbhi gets the evening started by getting us to rub our hands together with a four year old bourbon to see how just a few drops had an incredibly big fragrance which got could only get from a scotch that was 12 years and above. She even suggested that we could replace our regular aftershave with bourbon because it smells so good (might even be cheaper!)! What could be better than a sip and a splash![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Delhi Pavilion, ITC Sheraton’s spanking new venue, which pays tribute to Delhi’s heritage was the host venue this evening and Shatbhi had drawn upon the ingenuity of the Chefs there to pair a range of American whiskey’s with a set of Indian dishes, from the street food of Delhi to the Nawabi cuisine of Lucknow and she had in front of her, a ready set of 30 something guinea pigs.
Our first course was a chilled shot of Maker’s Mark bourbon served with a selection of typical Delhi chaat, a portion of Alu Tiki and a dahi bhalla served on a papri. The icing on the cake was the date perched on the rim of the glass. Bill Samuels Jr is the current President of Maker’s Mark and has a family tree which links back to the famous outlaws, Frank and Jesse James!
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Next up was a cocktail concocted by Shatbhi, a chilled shot of Jack Daniel’s covered with a layer of citrus foam and served in an ice cold martini glass, all of this served with a portion of fried fish. Delish! And if you thought Bill Samuel’s had a colourful history, then even if you tried you couldn’t come up with the story of how Jack Daniel’s is believed to have died! The story goes that he kicked his safe in anger, when he couldn’t remember the combination, which led to blood poisoning and his death! Jack Daniel’s has taken this gory fact and made it the basis of a sales promotion they run periodically wherein you need to guess the combination of Jack’s Safe, and the correct answer could get you a trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniel’s and a dry county to boot 🙂
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]From the Delhi fried fish we traveled south to a piece of lamb, Chettinad style, served with a Jim Beam & Pomegranate Sour (mixed up with fresh pomegranate juice and served in a champagne flute).
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]From Tamil Nadu to Lucknow, as we savoured a shot of cold Woodford Reserve infused with a hint of saffron, served straight up with a portion of galauti Kebab.. and my favourite touch was the slice of aam papad served with it. One of the finest bourbons from the house of Brown Forman, Woodford Reserve is handcrafted in small batches. The rich, fruity taste of the bourbon complemented the aam papad perfectly and was more than a match for the spicy galauti.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Our dessert was liquid, a chilled shot of Tennessee Honey (a blend of JD and Honey liqueur), served with a selection of traditional Indian desserts. And a decadent Choconut Madness (bourbon blended with chocolate, peanut butter and ice cream) served smoked with a crisp brandy snap lid to hold the smoke.
I’m with Dean Callan, global brand ambassador for Monkey Shoulder, the blended malt that has taken the world by storm. Dean is in New Delhi for the finals of the Monkey Shoulder Ultimate Bartending Championship. It’s Dean’s first trip to India, and his anticipation is considerable. So far, whatever he’s seen of the first bar he’s visited, Ek Bar, augurs well he says of the Indian bar scene. Made mellow, as we both are Ek Bar’s Royal Punch, who’s to disagree?
Dean is not a stranger to Asia though, and worked across China for 18 months. As he said it was one of the best growing experiences of my career. The culture was very different and he got to do things, which he didn’t see himself doing. “When you’re part of a fast growing cocktail culture, right at the start, you’re a lot more selfless in teaching people”, says he.
Did you learn Mandarin I asked him?
Dean – The very first lesson I got in Mandarin I asked the translator what she called a bartender and she said “Foo yea” which when you hear it sounds like a very derogatory term. As opposed to “shifu” which is the word Chinese use for a master. A taxi driver for e.g. is “shifu”, which means they know how to do something, but to call someone “foo yea” is like treating them as unskilled labour. I tried to change that and say that a bartender is like a Shifu, he’s like a Master of his craft and the pushback was that a bartender has no skill, anyone can be a bartender. The translator teaching me was so negative, saying that bartenders know nothing, it’s a nothing job and anyone could bartend. I told her the same could apply for her profession as everyone in China knew Mandarin, so even you should be a “foo yea”, and we had a falling out. I then learnt enough to get by though and by the end of my time there, could understand a fair bit.
From China to London then, I ask him?
Dean – It was really good. I was in London for about 8 months and only there a few weeks before I got a job at Milk and Honey (Editor’s Note – an iconic cocktail bar). It’s not an easy place to get a job. Fortunately I had a friend there, who got me an interview. The bar manager asked me to make him a cocktail that I loved which I thought was a good quality cocktail and one which I thought was a bad quality cocktail. I looked around the bar, and said, “I don’t know how to make a bad cocktail with the ingredients that you have. You only have fresh juices, you only have quality spirits and syrups, and bad quality cocktails use terrible ingredients”. So he said, “Ok, what’s the worst cocktail that you can make”?
I told him that I was going to make him a cocktail that has a very bad reputation, but I still think that people like to drink it that was an LIIT. Then I was going to make a Corpse Reviver # 2. And he stopped me before I was going to make it and said, “that’s on our menu”, and I said “yeah”! And he said, “You’ve got some big balls to make a cocktail which is on our menu, with your own spec”. I said no! I made the drink and I thought I wasn’t going to get the job and I got it, so I was quite lucky.
Was Milk and Honey London connected with Milk and Honey in New York.
Dean – Yes. Jonathan Downey opened Milk and Honey London in association with Sasha Petrovsky. Sasha helped open it, as regards setting up procedures / drinks preparation / etc. It’s changed a little bit since then, however it’s the same ethos and same passion. After Sasha’s death, it’s put a lot of pressure on Milk and Honey London to preserve the ethos of Milk and Honey. The building in New York where Milk and Honey is housed has got a demolition notice, so we may end up being the only one in the world!
I understand that the term Monkey Shoulder derives from a work related injury suffered by the Malt men when they are raking the barley repeatedly, which causes their shoulder to elongate and stoop like a monkey. How did that end up as a brand name though?
Dean – Well I’m going to be completely honest and give you the real story, not the marketing spiel. When William Grant and Sons thought of this brand, they felt that it was a brand, which should be easy to drink, and targeted at people who don’t already drink Scotch whisky. So they started with a flavour profile. Usually in the brand world, the brand and the packaging design come first and the liquid comes second, as marketing drives the process.
But William Grant and Sons is a family business, and this was a family decision. The family decided that they wanted something, which appealed to people who didn’t drink Scotch whisky that is it, should not be smoky, and should be smooth and rich with simple flavours. So Dave Stewart, the then malt master came up with a few different recipes. In fact, in our marketing store we have some of the original samples of three batches – 19, 27 and 22. These were code names for the various batches. These samples were sent to the family who tasted them all and decided to go to with Batch 27.
The marketing department had to come up with a name now for this amazing blend, and alternatives suggested were Spice hunter, Spey River and William Grant and Sons 100% Malt Blend. None of the names seemed to fit, so they looked at the components of the blend, and at the time there was some Balvenie in there, so they went back to the malt masters of Balvenie and asked them for some inspiration. What were the things, which were unique to Balvenie and one fact, which stood out at the production unit, was the floor malting as Balvenie still does it’s malting the traditional way, and from there the term Malt shoulder or Monkey Shoulder sprung. They decided this was a great opportunity to make the brand unique. Malt shoulder or Monkey Shoulder didn’t sound like any other Scotch whisky and it was very different. It also gave them an opportunity to tell a story on how the whisky was made. And then the whole monkey thing started. Originally the monkeys perched on the shoulder of the bottle were plastic. They also figured that as a brand story, the name Monkey Shoulder give them far more to play with. 3 Monkeys, because there were 3 malts in the original. Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie, all 3 owned by William Grant and Sons.
The brand team assumed they would be able to stick with the exact same whiskies in every blend, which is impossible. We always use only 3 malts from Speyside; we used first fill bourbon casks. Originally we were only doing a batch of 27 casks at a time, but that’s so tiny, so we had to stop doing it.
It’s not always Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie now. It has to be 3 malts from Speyside and for one of them a portion has to be turned by hand. The flavour profile of Balvenie is not the same as Monkey Shoulder. So if there’s a cask of Balvenie, which is ageing, and which is very sweet with a lot of Vanilla, this might make up a tiny portion of Balvenie Double Wood, but for Monkey Shoulder this makes up the bulk of the whisky. What matters now is it good quality malt and does it taste like Monkey.
Globally there is a shortage of aged single malt whisky. So is a product like Monkey Shoulder a creative response to this shortage?
At the time Monkey Shoulder was released, Scotch whisky wasn’t so popular. This was 10 years ago and there wasn’t that much shortage then. Also for a company to use massive amounts of younger whisky, they are only hurting themselves down the line. If we only use Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie in Monkey Shoulder, then it’s not good for these 3 brands, because their stock of aged whisky is being diminished. They are building more and more warehouses to age these whiskies. And a lot of older whisky is going back into these brands. The age on the label may say 21, but the whisky inside might be much older. It’s not a huge expense to age the whisky for a longer time, but the quality and value addition you’re getting is outstanding.
Often a 10 pound bottle of whisky can be really good. If you took a bottle of William Grant’s Family reserve and put in it a decanter and said there were only 10 of them, you’d probably have people raving about it. So a lot of this is about perception and marketing. If you like the taste of it, drink it. Trends keep coming and going. It started with colour, then went on to age, then to non-chill filtered, then to cask strength then to finishes and then to single cask! I drink a lot of whisky (shows me a picture of the bar in his back garden). There’s a lot of whisky in my bar and I drink everything.
How did Monkey click with everyone, including the bartenders?
Dean – In my experience, there was a thirst among younger people for a product like this. A lot of Scotch whisky drinkers, are very passionate about their whisky, and got their friends to drink whisky, quite often by starting them off with the whisky they liked, which more often than not, could be smoky or peaty. A sure way to turn them off the category. In larger markets we didn’t have the budgets to take on big brands. What we had was the freedom to be someone’s peer, to be at his or her level. So if someone is drinking a gin and tonic, then we’ll mix them Monkey Shoulder with a squeeze of lime and dry ginger ale, which is a Mamie Taylor. It’s easy to move from a Cuba Libre to a Mamie Taylor and the rum drinker says actually Scotch whisky is not so bad. But if they go from a rum cocktail to neat Islay whisky at cask strength, it’s too much. I think the success has been that we’ve been flexible and we’ve approached people on their own terms, after listening to them. There’s a very old saying in hospitality “treat people the way you want to be treated” – but that’s wrong – “you have to treat people the way they want to be treated”. And that’s what we did with Monkey Shoulder.
What’s your desert Island Drink?
Dean – To be completely honest a Pina Colada.. maybe with Monkey, which would make it a Monkey Colada. Pineapples have lot of sustenance. Sugar for the energy, citrus for the scurvy. I’d use coconut water, which has a lot of potassium. And a little bit of cream for the fat content!
Born in 1839. A man who followed his dream. In 1886, he identified the Valley of the River Fiddich, to be the perfect place to make the perfect dram of whisky, and along with his 9 children, began to with their own hands build the Glenfiddich distillery. Even today, after 128 years, William Grant remains family owned and family run, with members of the 5th and 6th generation of the family, actively involved in the business. It’s one of the few major distilleries to remain family owned.
The Boehm family first stepped foot in America in 1740. They later changed their family name to Beam. In 1770 Bourbon was born in America. Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of whisky in 1795 and it was called “Old Jake Beam Sour Mash”. The distillery was then known as Old Tub. Colonel James B Beam was born in 1864 and after prohibition lifted in America he unveiled Jim Beam, when he was 69 years old. After the lifting of prohibition he brought the family distillery back to life in 120 days.
George Ballantine was born into a family of farmers hailing from the town of Brought Knowe, Peebleshire. A grocer by trade, George set up shop at the tender age of 19, in a completely different part of Edinburgh to most of the other grocers. Blending was in George Ballantine’s nature. He started with tea as a lad, but moved to malts later. In 1910, in celebration of George and his passion, his sons created the whisky he is most remembered for, Ballantine’s Finest – complex, elegant and truly iconic. George Ballantine, our founder, used to tell his sons – “get the blend right and you’ve got everything right.” In 2011, Jim Murray named the definitive 17 year old ‘whisky of the year’.
Unable to open the safe in his office, Mr. Jack kicked it in frustration. This blow broke his toe and infection set in, leading to his untimely death in 1911. No one knows exactly when Jack Daniel was born because there are no birth records, but it’s customary to celebrate Mr. Jack’s birthday in September. Born Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel, one of 13 children, he was taken in after his parents death by Dan Cole, a local minister who also had a whisky still. Jack passed away in 1911 and some even say that his nephew Lem Motlow changed the label of the bottle to black to mourn his passing.
Ireland’s most famous whiskey was founded by a Scotsman. Having spent most of his life as a sheriff clerk, John Jameson arrived in Dublin as a middle-aged man. “Our fearless founder stepped off a ship from his native Scotland to set up the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin in 1780.” On every bottle of Jameson, you’ll see the words Sine Metu and it means without fear, as it was given to John Jameson’s forefathers who battled pirates at sea. In 1805 he handed over the distillery to his son John Jameson IInd and in fact the first four people to run the distillery were all called John Jameson.
[vc_column width=”1/1″]With the launch of Monkey Shoulder in India by William Grant & Sons, the topic of Blended malts is back on the table. Vatted Malts, or Blended Malts as they are officially now known, are made only from Single Malts. So, no grain whisky, only malt whisky, and they needn’t be from a single distillery makes it a Vatted malt.
The Monkey Shoulder derives its name from the curious way the arms and shoulders of the malters from yonder years use to droop – akin to shoulder of a monkey and thus the name.
Name and bottling apart, and the bottle is a collectors item with its metal embellished minimalistic finish, Monkey Shoulder is a fine blend of 3 Speyside malts. William Grant & Sons that owns both the legendary Glenfiddich & the superior Balvenie brands doesn’t shed much light on the source of these whiskies but lets the spirit do the talking.
The Monkey Shoulder with it’s distinctive yet characteristic Speyside nose and taste is a must in one’s bar.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]But since the purists want more, may I suggest you seat the Monkey Shoulder with the Nikka Pure Malt. From the house of Nikka come the Red, White & Black Pure Malts with spirits from the 2 distilleries they own in Japan the Yoichi & the Miyagikyo. Nikka whiskies are made Scotch style – the founder Masataka Taketsuru came to Scotland to pursue education and found his calling in whisky world instead and thus imported his knowledge & experience to found Nikka .
Nikka Black is a highly rated whisky and a must have for its fine nose of asparagus and rich fruit in a decanter again worth saving for long.
Also look out for a limited edition released by Compass Box from Scotland, called the Last Vatted Malt. A mix of fine malts from Islay and Speyside only 1323 were released. The name is a bow to the phasing out of the term Vatted Malt by the Scotch Whisky Association and it’s replacement by Blended Malt.
Glenfiddich’s iconic triangular shaped bottle was designed in 1961 by influential 20th century designer Hans Schleger. Why triangular? Well, water, air and malted barley are a trinity expertly crafted together to make Glenfiddich.
In 2011, Glenfiddich sold the Janet Sheed Roberts limited edition (55yo) which was then the most expensive single malt sold at auction. Janet was at that time 110, and Scotland’s oldest woman as well as the last surviving grandchild of William Grant.
Although the cask yielded 15 bottles, only 11 bottles were released worldwide. The remainder 4 were kept by the family. Each of the 11 are auctioned for charity. Bottle no. 7 is still up for sale at Edinburgh and the money from that will go to a charity for making school and home for physically challenged children in Ramnagar, India. The last bottle was sold for around INR 57 lacs.
The snow from the Conval Hills melt into the Robbie Dhu, which is the water source of Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich is one of the only Single Malts which uses the same source of water throughout the production process.
David Stewart, only the 5th ever Malt Master for Glenfiddich used the Solera process, traditionally used to make Sherry, to create the Glenfiddich 15 yo. The giant Solera vats are kept half full from every batch for consistency.
[highlight]Distilling this legendary distillery experience[/highlight]
Before you clap your hand and squeal with joy over any Indian connection, I’d like to pause and say no. This is no desi ‘nagar’. Scotland’s famous Royal Lochnagar, whose ch is a kh (that’s right, from the epiglottis), and nagar is a jet-lagged nagaar, is a quaint distillery in the highland region of Scotland.
But for me, the long drive from Speyside to the Highlands was for 3 selfish reasons – to experience the Royal Games – Breamar Royal Highland Gathering, and if lucky enough, catch a royal glimpse of Her Majesty The Queen, a patron of the games. Finally, the most important – a visit to the Royal Lochnagar distillery.
Braemar a small village in highlands known for its sporting event, Breamar Royal Highland Gathering. Athletes, musicians, dancers from across the world compete with one another at this annual event that puts Aberdeenshire’s only highland village on the world stage, this year following close on heels to the commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
My euphoria of reaching the gathering was a bit short-lived, for between the pipes, fanfare, marches and games, was a spell of rain, rendering it quite a slushy fare. Beef hotdogs, fresh cream and strawberry and rain soaked boots is a memory I will cherish forever. And the fact that I did manage to spot Her Majesty’s car. I am sure she saw me waving madly at her! Bucket List, box number two – check.
From sports to spirits, the distillery, outlined by a dense green forest, is a short drive from Braemar and has been set by the Balmoral estate, one of the private residences of the British Royal family. The prime location is its vantage point, one that bagged it the Royal Warrant in 1848 when John Begg, its founder, invited Prince Albert to visit the distillery. The following day, the distillery played a happy host to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.
If you ever venture from Speyside, one cannot spot signature pagoda atop the distilleries there. Instead a long stone walled building, housed within manicured green surroundings is a captivating sight. However that’s not where the romance lies, it’s in the small production quantity where the magic is. One almost forgets that this tiny unit is a part of a gigantic group called Diageo. Much of its whisky is released as a single malt, although it is also a key component of high-end blended whiskies, such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
The visit also revealed intriguing chapters from its history – the first Lochnagar distillery was burnt down under suspicious circumstances in 1824, by illicit distillers and a replacement again burnt down in 1841. In 1845 John Begg built the “new” Lochnagar. They also claim, “if Glenfiddich has the largest production in Scotland, then we produce annually as much as they produce in two weeks.” Wow – if craft distilling has ever been equated to scale, this sure would have qualified.
Light, sweet and delicate is the hallmark of all Royal Lochnagar whiskies. With maturation in Spanish sherry casks, the affair gets a lot more regal, especially with the expression – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve. The filling up of the cask happens 100% at the distillery, a rare practice that highlights the level of craft here. The infant spirit un-matured out of the distillery when tasted, almost tastes like the Walker short bread, since it is a bit malty in addition to being sweet and elegant.
We tasted 2 variants, Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old and Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve.
I found the 12 Year Old refreshing, fruity, a spicy malt, sweet on the palate, reminding me of apples, bananas, malty and dry at spaces. Overall, elegant and delicate enough to give whisky newbies a go or for those moments when you need a refreshing and clean drink.
The Select Reserve, on the contrary, has a big sherry influence. An un-aged variant, this malt is dark, with an exceptional fruitcake-like influence on the palate, the rum and raisin lending the effect of a Christmas pudding. It’s such a bold contrast to the earlier expression that it almost wipes the distillery character off one’s head.
I’d make this an after dinner or a dessert malt, and if paired smartly to scoop the flavor out, could accompany the main course like a mutton shank or Tenderloin of Beef. Though my most divine pairing with a malt, such as this, is dark chocolate with a big swig of the Selected Reserve.
Bring on the Christmas cheer, intense, dry, vintage and regal!
[vc_column width=”1/1″]Watershed*: an event or period marking a turning point in a situation.
And while this is a column in Swizzle, on whisky, let’s begin with some wine…
We’re round the corner from the 30th anniversary of one such event* – An innocuous wine tasting that took place in Paris on May 24, 1976 but will be remembered in Napa, home to the Californian wines or what was then called New World wines forever.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]The 1976 Paris tasting as it can be classified was a hastily organized set by Steven Spurrier, a part time wine merchant & an Englishman at it who also ran a wine school in Paris, and was aimed mainly at the upcoming U.S. Bicentennial celebration then. The event was to assemble some of France’s greatest experts one afternoon and do a blind tasting of French and California red and white wines.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]To cut a long story short – it was a French revolution part II. The first tasting was of white wines, with four California Chardonnays pitted against six white Burgundies from France. The jury of nine tasters included top France’s oenophiles, among them the secretary general of the Association des Grands Crus Classes.
No one in France had ever seriously tasted California wines before, yet the California white wines took three of the top four spots in the blind tasting, with a 1973 Chateau Montelena beating out a 1973 Meursault-Charmes Burgundy for the top rating. A 1973 Batard-Montrachet, which had been classed by the famous wine experts as one of the “greatest of all white Burgundy,” came in a distant seventh.
To add mockery to the calamity, the results of the crucial tasting of the reds, which in wine circles are far more important than whites was beholding. Four Grand Cru Bordeaux squared off against six California Cabernets. The judges were also informed the judges that a California white had won the first tasting. The alarmed judges did everything they could to segment what they thought were the California reds and make sure they didn’t win.
Even so, a 1973 Cabernet from California’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars took the top spot while the French wines took the next three. The French monopoly was crushed permanently. Many experts view the Paris tasting as the key event in the transformation of the California wine industry.
It was a seminal event and I cite it every time I speak about the growth of the California wine industry or now the whisky world.
The tasting, nonetheless, did nothing to dent the French belief that their wines are superior to all others.
Still, even many American wine experts and the world over agree that the best French wines are the best in existence. However, once you remove the top 0.5% of wines, California, Australia and S. Africa come roaring up – quite like in the W World[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Cut to the dram and yes we are witnessing a changing Whisky world out there. Right here at home, Amrut’s flying off the shelves. Friends back in India are hounding every foreign returnee, to get him or her Japanese Malts. Last month on a holiday to S.E Asia I experienced the limitless charm and passion in Kavalan Single Malt Whisky, from the only distillery in Taiwan. Mind you, Kavalan won a Gold Medal at the IWSC 2011 and the list is growing.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Are we about to witness a watershed* soon? I’d say yes, so, sit back and pour yourself a dram, I’d recommend the Peated Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky – Ms. Catherine Zeta Jones, you around?
45 years ago when the Beatles broke out, Paul McCartney and his wife Linda left for Scotland to rejuvenate and relive the next phase of their lives. The little town of Campbeltown allowed them to flirt with mother nature, set about writing some of the best post-Beatles songs and live an almost reclusive lifestyle. Some of the people even called them the worst dressed people in the town ! However, when Linda died of cancer, there was a memorial set up, for the love, charity and kindness she shared with the locals. It was the simplicity of the people and the place that left a mark !
Today you ask anyone at Campbeltown along the harbour, which are the places to see,
“weel naethin’ much….Linda in the garden (her memorial !), “few auld fellows like me at th’ harboor” & Springbank distillery.
A region that could once swagger under the prolific comfort of 34 working distilleries was reduced to two, owing to the economic depression across the Atlantic, supplemented by prohibition era and also some distilleries spoiling the region’s reputation by relaxing their quality standards. In the last decade, owners of Springbank restored and reopened Glengyle Distillery, raising the count to three.
There is a reason why the Scotch Whisky Association reinstated Campbeltown as a separate whisky region. Scotch whiskies from this region have a peculiar style, you could picture a hybridised version of Highland and Lowland style Scotch whiskies, a dry pungent smoke with the briny maritime burst. These scotches are individuals in their own right, however some of them have acquired more of a temperament and disposition thanks to the spirit of innovative production lent by the respective distilleries.
So what is it that made brands like Longrow Red 11 Year old, a delight at the latest World Whisky Awards and a winner in its own category or Springbank 19 Year Old (Master of Malt series), which got the Liquid Gold Award 2014 by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]
100% On Site production
A visit to Springbank distillery makes you realise that it’s perhaps the only unit in Scotland with a production process 100% on site. So in this quaint town of Campbeltown, the distillery happens to be quite busy, with a human touch at each stage. Absolute floor malting, on site bottling plant and even a whisky school. The most fabulous aspect of this distillery is its flirtatious nature with these processes to yield not one but a triplet of single malts, all with a fanfare of distinctive characteristics. So whisky lovers can expect a mix of varied tastes, finishes and body.
There is a lot to choose from, a two and a half times distilled, medium peated, Springbank Scotch Whisky, Double distilled, generously peated Longrow, triple distilled and non-peated Hazelburn. You can now put at rest the popular belief and myth that only Irish whiskies are triple distilled, Hazelburn is one of the few peculiarities to the rule.
While the malt from Glengyle distillery, Kilkerran is rather new in its release, most of them even being termed as WIP Sherry or WIP Bourbon, the other two in the region, Glenscotia and Springbank distillery releases can be described as complete antitheses to one another. Springbank, with its marked smoke, brawny character in contrast to Glenscotia’s archetype light and grassy nature. Given these differences you cannot negate the aura of the proximity to the sea and hence its wee bit of similarities that come along.
Aside of the whiskies, Campbeltown makes you feel like a lonely traveller at times. The flybe flight I took from Glasgow to Campbeltown had 3 of us in it, giving us the feeling of a private little jet of ours. The landing was smooth except that I realised there is nothing like cabs there !
You maybe a lonely traveller, however, the town makes you feel rather special. One of the fellow travellers was gracious enough to drop me to my destination. He and his wife kept cracking jokes on the way, most of which they seemed to be enjoying amongst themselves, I’ve always wondered, how do people of Campbeltown laugh so much, is it the air, life or something else their smokin’ up.
There is also Honda, Toyota , Yamaha to name a few more, not to forget Sony!
But yes, this is a call to definitely add Yamazaki or Suntory to our regularly used Japanese sounding names!
For the uninitiated, Yamazaki is a single malt distillery owned by the Suntory Company of Japan, which produces eponymous whiskies aged 8YO and 12YO. Whisky guru Jim Murray who produces the Whisky Bible has named Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as the Best Whisky in the World in his 2015 edition. He also gave it 97.5 marks out of a possible 100 – surely the highest in the world, but for readers from Delhi, nah! I don’t think Yamazaki could make it to the 1st cutoff list of any Delhi University college!
Back to Yamazaki, or Suntory..
..actually, as the legend goes, Japan’s whisky traditions begin with the college going of a student on an international exchange program, Masataka Taketsuru, who traveled to Scotland post World War I to study in Glasgow before falling under the spell of Scotch. Taketsuru worked in a number of distilleries during college days and took notes before returning to Japan in 1920. A few years, he found a willing partner in Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, to establish the first commercial whiskey distillery, Yamazaki, the flag-bearer of Suntory’s whiskey portfolio. A few years late, Taketsuru founded his own distillery, which survives to this day as Nikka and is seen in bars the world over
The Japanese have been making whiskey in an array of styles for more than a century, though frankly, they pay brazen homage to Scotch whisky in one form or another. There are peaty styles, fruity styles and some styles that defy easy categorization because of the use of oak called Mizunara from Japanese forests, which imparts a uniquely spicy finish.
Has Japanese whisky found it’s place in the sun, yes, I would say as I sip on Hibiki, 12YO, for example, one of the better known whiskies which comes in a keep-worthy flower like bottle. A blend of about twenty odd whiskies, it is among the most elusive and complex whiskies I’ve had, with scents of grain and delicate floral whiffs, cream, and a oily texture that is by turns salted yet sweet.
So go ahead, pour yourself a dram of Japanese Liquid Gold, on me, today as you watch this space for more invasions in the whisky world!
And it’s got nothing to do with Stonehenge, that many historians think is a Greco- Roman temple for the Sun god!
Or first, a few questions – how do you get your malt pour ? Like What do you say? Ek Chotta dena? Naw! Not likely. Or is it I’ll have a large? More likely
Nice, nearly there but no, not so Scottish and you’ve got to work on it ole’ boy!
How about as they’d say back home – I’ll have a dram’! Got it! You’ve heard that haven’t you?!
And a splush’ of water please! Right! There you go! Pull out the tartan, blow the bagpipe you’ve arrived!
Dram is the way you go around asking for a drink of malt!
Ever wondered what dram’ is ?
It’s derived from the Greek word Drachm’ which was a weight of 4.37gms! and that’s where a dram gets its name from is – when things were measured in weight, whisky too was sold by it! This was when the avoirdupois system was in vogue – Avoirdupois is a system of measuring weight based on the fact that sixteen ounces are in a pound. A dram is defined as 1/16 of an ounce which is exactly 1.7718451953125 grams – stunning!
Nice, geeky eh! Sorry greeky!
The drachm’ also lent it’s name to the Drachma – the present day Greek currency – which quite like the sterling pound’ is the only other currency which is based on weight!
Now, come –on! Say you didn’t know that either? That the pound’ is called so because it weighed a pound of sterling silver!
or a bottle of whisky – how many times and in how many languages have we said this, unimaginable right?
But ever wondered about the bottle? Or Considered?
I am sure you know that Glass as a material was discovered centuries back and bottles have been around since the Roman times, 100 B.C. or around then! There was almost no change in the way bottles were made from back then until almost the early 19th century when they switched from hand-blown, mouth-blown bottles craft-type bottle production to machines after a glass-blowing machine was invented by Arnall and Howard Ashley in 1887 in Europe & became widely available after Michael Owens made his machine in 1903.
Through the Byzantine era, medieval times, the Renaissance, it was mostly free blowing, although they had some molds too.
Mouth-blown is probably a more correct term than hand blown, though they’re synonymous. The air from the glass-blower was used to inflate and make the bottle versus a machine, which produced pressurized air. They would just drop the glass on the blowpipe down the hole, and when inflated it would form the squarish or roundish shape of the body. Must be lung-power champs !
Needless to say, one of the first uses of bottles was for liquor, mostly as wine. Early bottles, such as those from the 16th and 17th centuries, were made exclusively for storage, not to drink out of.
The origin of the glass bottle is as a serving vessel, used by the upper classes and by merchants from the mid-18th century. Whisky (and wine) was supplied in a cask or stoneware jar, and was decanted into a clear glass vessel (the decanter), the job being performed by a “bottler”, (hence the title “butler“).
Liquor of all types – bourbon, rye, gin, cognac, scotch, etc. – was bottled in a wide variety of bottle shapes and sizes ranging from small flasks to stuff that held gallons. And like with all bottle type categories to follow, liquor bottle diversity is staggeringly complex in depth and variety.
The first bottled scotch was put out by John Dewar as a blend called “White Label.” His first bottles, however, were fashioned from stoneware because the drink was not bottled until 1846. The first whisky bottles were re-used wine bottles, e.g. Macallan. They took off in the whisky boom of the 1890s when whisky began being sold by the case for export.
Whisky Bottle Shapes
Whisky bottles are principally categorized under 3-4 broad sections, listed below, wherein you’ll notice that categories are shape based primarily with the exception of the first category – figured flasks – which are largely recognized by collectors/archaeologists as a separate category.
The figured flask: Figured flasks is a generic name for the large class of liquor flasks primarily produced between 1815 and 1870. They are also variably referred to as “historical”, “pictorial”, or “decorative” flasks. Not much are being produced anymore- except in some very rare cases of special mention whisky- so keep a look out in antique stores or Ebay if you run into any!
The cylinder style – Not much to disseminate here but these are arguably the most common shapes of whisky bottles- right from Bells to The Glenlivet, most of the whiskies in the market have a cylinder style bottle
The Square or rectangle – another common shape – though there’s a lot of mixing within the shapes. Thought to have originated from the medicinal bottles – or even Gin – which was a Dutch invented medicine, however both the Ballantines & Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey are exponents of these bottle shapes
The Flask Style – most often seen on bottles with a larger holding capacity – like the ones at duty free & quite a collectors item still – I am sure you would have all seen the large 5 litre variants of these bottles
Misc. Styles – the ones who stand out like the conical and iconic Glenfiddich & the Grants Whisky Bottle rarely seen in the whisky styles – however they are out there waiting for you to spot and collect them!
So turn out you collectors and spot them till then, the most famous line about the bottle would still be’ Nasha Sharaab mein hota – to naachti Bottal’
It’s not every day that you walk into your office and find a football on your desk, and not just any football, but a Man U ball, with the Man U logo on one side, and on the other the logo of Amrut whisky. As an offer of association it was perhaps a little too much for Amrut to afford, but as a sign that Amrut had truly arrived on the world stage, it was priceless. And not something that Rakshit Jagdale probably envisaged, when as an MBA student at Newcastle on Tyne in the early 1990s, he gave a sample of malt spirit produced by Amrut to the owner of a famous whisky bar in Glasgow called The Pot Still.
When Rakshit returned after a few days to check if the owner had tried it, the owner instead asked him to come back in the evening, which was when they would run an experiment with the regulars. Back that evening at the Pot Still, they introduced the Amrut as a mystery dram, and asked regular scotch drinkers to guess where it was from. “Highland” said one, “Speyside”, another, naming two of the most famous regions for Single Malt production in Scotland, and indeed in the world. Talk about a vote of confidence in your product! It took a while after that, but then in 2004, they introduced Amrut Single Malt for the first time in Glasgow.
Visiting Amrut’s distillery on the outskirts of Bangalore, takes about 90 minutes or so from their original location, on Bangalore’s Sampangi Tank Road (opposite where now the ITC Gardenia hotel stands). The founder of Amrut was a chemist making bulk drugs, and N R Jagdale took up his mantle. The Jagdale group makes a range of IMFL spirits, mostly in what you’d classify as entry-level products in the categories they are present in like, whisky and brandy. So Amrut represents a giant step into the big leagues for the brand.
When we arrive at Amrut, our first sight on entering the distillery is a big stack of barrels, which have recently arrived from the Jack Daniel’s distillery in America. The bulk of the barrels used to age Amrut are once used Bourbon / Tennessee whiskey barrels, and these are increasingly hard to come by. But as the demand for Amrut’s whisky grows exponentially, so does their need to expand the number of warehouses, which are carefully ageing the whisky. At last count, when we visited a few months ago, 5000 + barrels of whisky are carefully being aged across 6 warehouses.
It’s only recently that Amrut has begun to become increasingly available in India, with its whiskies now available in markets like Chandigarh and Mumbai. I understand from conversation at the plant, that due to Indian climate, it’s difficult to age whiskies beyond 4 to 5 years, with a simple rule of thumb equating one year in India to 3 in Scotland. And after this time period, they move the whisky from oak barrels to stainless steel barrels to stop the ageing.
Every brand needs a break out moment, and this came for Amrut in 2010, when Jim Murray, publisher of an eponymous annual Whisky Bible, announced that Amrut Fusion was the 3rd best whisky in the world. This piece of news possibly catalyzed and certainly tremendously helped it’s launch in the domestic market, a good 6 years after it’s launch in Glasgow. As the name indicates, the Fusion is a mix of two types of malted barley (the main ingredient from which whisky is made), peated malt from the UK and Indian barley malt from North India.
Fusion is not the only example Amrut has of a brand made across borders, they also have a whisky called Amrut 2 Continents, which is partly matured in Bangalore, with the spirit then transferred to the island of Heligoland (a small German archipelago in the North Sea), where it is again matured and then bottled.
Amrut’s success has encouraged other Indian companies like Paul John and Tilaknagar to also introduce their own brands of Single Malt. The team at Amrut welcomes more players, and hopes that the other companies pursue their dreams with the same passion that Amrut has.
With ageing being the challenge it is in India, Amrut is trying to break new boundaries in this area, with the first attempts in the form of a whisky called Greedy Angels, which is a 8 ½ year old single malt whisky, the most they’ve ever done. It’s named for Angels Share, the term given in Scotland, to the whisky, which evaporates each year from the barrels. Perhaps given the scarcity of Amrut in India, we should call this Amrut’s loss!
If you’re a distillery architecture romanticist and a lover of the signature pagoda roof top, then you will be alarmed to see what is ahead of you! The Oban distillery is quite an antithesis to anyone’s idea of a typical distillery. Ask me… I love the imperial look and the possible unintentional quirk.
Its been on my list of distilleries to visit and i finally made it after a few hours of train journey from Glasgow.
A black and grey big block of stone building with a cave like entrance, it’s possible to stand within half a block and not be able to locate it. The fuss to this however is when you watch the distillery from a distance, the McCaig’s Tower, a colosseum look alike seems like a tiara adorning the distillery. Phew! finally the misty romance we were looking for.
The Stevenson brothers created the Oban distillery in 1794. It was the time of flourishing trade, end of the clan era and a climate of opportunities. A town which was once just a fishing port soon became a popular destination, especially with the Victorians travelling on their steam ships from Glasgow. It is said that at one time a trip from Oban to Staffa was priced at 15 shillings and 2 bottles of whisky. I am sure there were a bunch of happy & spirited sailors! Well, what this did was that the town grew up around the distillery. Now Oban is the capital of the west highlands & the distillery is at the heart of this town. Today you can reach Oban by coach courtesy ScotRail, in just 2-3 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow, or by Air, or better still take a ferry from any of the Islands around.
Many close friends often tell me that they quite like Oban, however hardly get to lay their hands on the bottle. A distillery which is mid sized in its production capacity and yet produces a distinctive malt, you’ve got to be real lucky to get your hands on this one.
Our production tour was short and honey sweet. Oban is very popular for its small pair of stills and one of the longest fermentation processes running into 4 days. Now you may wonder, what’s in the prolongation, well it’s here that the malt acquires its signature aroma of oranges. The high contact of copper given the stills creates a rich spirit with a lot of character.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]
On with the Oban tasting
With so much said during the tour, I was like an eager soul ready to taste this one. Mr. Oban 14YO – Signature Malt, don’t break the fantasy world of perfectionism I am on.
Oban Nose – Nicely aromatic, malty, vanilla notes, hailing from the American oak maturation. Oranges, salt, smoke – I am struck by this freaky combination and can’t wait to take the next step.
Oban Taste Review – What impressions the nose leaves you with, your taste buds accentuate it further. Rich, medium bodied, citrus, honeyed sweetness, spiced a bit fruity.
My overall opinion on this one and the reason for its differentiation is that, Oban is like a meeting place between the land & the sea. You have the honey, citrus and fruits on one side and peat, salt & spice on the other. !
I really recommend adding water to this one, since it enhances the touch of peat and intensifies the smoke & salt !
In addition to the standard 14 year old there is one other edition which comes from Oban, a Distillers Edition finished in a montilla fino sherry cask. The distillery exclusive bottle, released in 2010, was exasperatingly sold out.
Is this in the list of distilleries to visit before you die, well I’m not sure, however if you lay your hands on the dram, you must give it a try.
Recommended serve, try with some crystallised ginger – a taste sensation, as they say.
Rahul Singh started of an unbeliever, and in his own words, “had never found whisky to be a great product and stuck with beer”. This lasted until a business trip to the USA, where his collaborator asked him to join him in a glass of whisky. “I don’t like whisky”, replied Rahul. “But this isn’t whisky, it’s Single Malt” said his associate triumphantly. And so began Rahul’s whisky voyage, funnily enough with an Irish whisky, a Bushmills 10 yo, triple distilled and light on the palate. On his next visit, he tried a Talisker, from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, which had a much “peatier” taste profile.
Rahul was well and truly hooked now, so much so that in 2006-07, he went on a Scotch whisky trail, figured out the four major regions of Scotland (and the differences between them), how to pronounce these difficult Gaelic names, and even went as far afield as the Isle of Jura (located north west of the island of Islay).
Whisky, more particularly Single Malt has become an obsession with Rahul now. He has about 150 whiskies, and his collection keeps growing. He prefers Highland whiskies, which are easier on the palate, with the Macallan 18 a favourite as is the Balvenie Double Wood. The most expensive Malt he probably owns is the Balvenie 30, which was a whisky he really wanted, as was the Glenfiddich 25.
The flip side of collecting whisky is that however,
“no one likes to gift me whisky, as they’re scared I may already have it”!
Once a month, Rahul calls a bunch of Malt loving friends and they open up 7 to 8 whiskies, and do a tasting.
It’s not only Scotch which Rahul collects, he has a few Japanese whiskies, which are all the rage nowadays, a couple of Irish whiskies and a few from the Amrut selection. A particular whisky he had his eye out for was one called Monkey Shoulder, which has an interesting story behind the brand name (A monkey shoulder is the term given to an injury suffered by workers who are carrying sacks of barley!). He finally found that in the USA.
The whisky shop at Terminal 3 in New Delhi has made Rahul’s job much easier now, as it has a wide range of whiskies, and he doesn’t have to bring a lot in now from overseas.
Rahul is primarily self-taught when it comes to whisky, and relies mostly on the Internet for his research. He hasn’t really found anyone in India who can help guide him on his quest, and has relied purely on his passion and curiosity to pursue this unique hobby. So can you!
Life after whisky! I bet a lot of you reading this must be thinking I’m drunk coz’ I have the words jumbled up, but wait and read on!
This is about my favorite topic within Whisky, the Barrel! The barrel as you know is a little laboratory because hundreds of small chemical experiments are happening in there thus making our whisky what it is!
So what happens to the barrel after its used? I know most of you here know that Bourbon barrels head across the Atlantic to help mature Scotch, but what else? What’s the after life of a barrel?
Surprisingly, scotch isn’t the only thing we consume fondly that finds its character via whisky barrels! Really! You’ll be surprised! A lot of beer is finished in whisky barrels! Yes! Ask the guys at Brooklyn Breweries the next time when you’re in the Big Apple! Vinegar too, some of which we find at upmarket stores in your city look out for the label Sherry Vinegar! Maple syrup, apple cider and a lot of wines go to the Whisky Barrel finishing school’ to polish their ends’ if I may say as do specialized table salts, soya sauce or soy’ and spices.
Barrels as I said earlier are truly laboratories and the aged wood, with millions of little pores or holes lets the air in through the rafters, oxidizing and cross pollinating the ingredients inside to turn them mature and a little woody!
And that’s not the end of the list , look keenly when the missus is at the grocers and you’ll find a lot more of the stuff on the shelves, coming off a whisky barrel!
And just before we go, just to let you know, Tabasco Sauce from Avery Island is finished in bourbon barrels! But beware, the next time you run out of your favorite tipple, don’t try sip a few drops of the sauce straight up! Nah, that will be lock stock and definitely 1 smoking barrel!
BANGALORE: Global whisky powerhouse Beam Suntory has started local bottling of its flagship bourbon Jim Beam betting on India’s changing whisky habits. This is one of the rare instances of the largest selling bourbon being bottled outside the home market US, underscoring the significance attached to India, the biggest consumer of whiskies.
New Delhi/Bangalore: American liquor company Beam Suntory Inc.’s Indian arm is expanding its range of Jim Beam bourbon with new launches to counter a drop in the market share of its flagship whisky brand Teacher’s. In next 12-18 months, the company will push new variants of Jim Beam into the market to diversify its portfolio, close to 80% of which is dependent on Teacher’s, varieites of which retail for between Rs.1,200 and Rs.27,000 per bottle.
Did you even know there was gross stuff hiding in there?
Portland, Oregon-based startup company Time & Oak has taken to Kickstarter to garner support for a new product, designed to get rid of the junk in your favorite spirit and ramp up the aging process on a very small scale.
Diageo has announced the worldwide launch of its single grain scotch whisky Haig Club.
Haig Club, which is a collaboration between Diageo, David Beckham and Simon Fuller, will now be available in bars, restaurants and retail stores in the UK.
The whisky will roll out in China, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the US in the next few weeks and be available in duty free shops globally following the exclusive release period in the UK.
Kishore Chhabria-promoted Allied Blenders & Distillers (ADB) is set to take on premium Indian whisky brands such as Blenders Pride and Signature with a new product, expected to hit the market early next year. The product, to be launched in Delhi and Kolkata initially, will be priced at par with Blenders Pride and – Rs 850-900/750-ml bottle.
The Siddharth Banerji-led Kyndal India — importer, maker and distributor of premium spirits — has teamed with Scotland-based Edrington to bottle Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky in India, the first ever outside Scotland.
Its members have scaled Mount Everest, walked on the moon and trekked to the farthest reaches of the Earth — but they don’t make Scotch whisky, so Johnnie Walker had better stop using their name.
That was the ruling from a Manhattan judge, who has shut the spigot on a $50 million line of Johnnie Walker scotch known as “Explorers’ Club,” finding that parent company Diageo was profiting off an association with the world-renowned, Manhattan-based club without permission.
Yes sure there is. Especially if your favorite Malt tipple is a light Speyside dram or one of the well known, highly peaty Islay Whiskies!
The Bourbon and the Scotch whisky industry are highly symbiotic or shall I say the Scots actually lean heavily on the Americans! And no I am not talking about the referendum*.
Because bourbon legally has to be aged in brand-new barrels, distilleries can’t reuse them. Instead, many of them are shipped off to Scotch companies who give them a second life aging their own spirits. An estimated 90 % of Distilleries in Scotland use American Oak to age their whiskies, especially the ones in Spey & Islay!
When they’re shipped overseas, several gallons of bourbon—most estimates I’ve heard range from about three to five gallons—remain trapped in the wood. While the barrels are ripped open, to make newer ones for the Scotch industry, there’s still residual bourbon in them! This trapped bourbon mixes in with the Scotch during the aging process, and gives the spirit much of its flavor.
That Bourbon has to be aged in brand –new barrels is a due to an old law** that was passed in 1933 just when America was coming out of Prohibition.
The requirement the timber industry in America was in decline and this was a way to ensure the distilleries would have to order more wood. The use of new barrels is what gives Bourbon its signature flavor profile and makes it sweeter than other styles of whisk(e)y.
So the next time you’re sipping your favorite Malt, look deep in! There is some bourbon lurking in there & not Nessie’ the Lochness Monster!