Your ultimate guide to the single malt whisky that must find pride of place in your bar at home.
In 1997, Glenmorangie Co, a subsidiary of LVMH, paid less than £ 8 million to purchase the Ardbeg distillery and all its stock. Fast forward 25 years and a barrel of Ardbeg—known just as Cask No. 3 and dating back to 1975—was just sold to a lucky lady in Asia for the sum of £ 16 million, more than doubling the price Glenmorangie paid. The cask will yield 88 bottles, each priced at GBP 36,000 and that will be delivered over a period of five years to the buyer. Ardbeg was a distillery that almost closed permanently before being acquired, making this whisky all the rarer.
An impact that has definitely been seen globally is that consumers post pandemic, are using what the Financial Times call their “treat brain” to splurge on products across the board, including of course, fine spirits. As a corollary of this, allocations of rare and exclusive spirits tend to be made to markets closer home as well as where possibly higher realizations can be obtained on their sale.
As and when such products do become available in India, it’s advisable to count your blessings and snap them up at the earliest. Simple tips for this are to keep a close eye on what’s available in duty free, including travel retail exclusives, and to stay well plugged in with one of your nearby liquor retailers so that they can keep you posted when something new comes in stock.
There’s also fortunately a lot of excellent single malt whisky being made in India nowadays, whose escalating demand internationally has also made India allocations much prized for collectors and enthusiasts with excellent clubs like SMAC (Single Malt Amateur Club) that have exclusive bottlings of Indian single malts made available for them.
Here’s a short list of what you can get your hands on now, and what to look out for.
Amrut: New release
The granddaddy of Indian single malts, their whiskies often sell out before they release. For instance, the Amrut Fusion XI, retailing at INR 16,000/- per bottle sold out in the first half of the day of its release. To be expected perhaps, as the original Amrut Fusion is the malt that truly got the ball rolling when Jim Murray anointed it in his Whisky Bible in 2010 as the 3rd best whisky in the world.
Amrut has a new release on its way to hit stores in Bengaluru by October-end and at a suggested price point of INR 24,000/-. If you don’t shop at Dewar’s Stores in Bengaluru, then now’s a good time to get acquainted and make it to their customer list for the release.
The Macallan: Reflexion and No. 6
Dating back to 1824, the Macallan is truly one of the most stored single malts in the world, from Scotland’s Speyside region. A spanking new state of the art distillery produces some of the finest malts in the world that are all made in accordance with their much-touted six pillars of whisky making. Two of those to look out for in India are:
- Macallan Reflexion: Presented in a beautifully crafted decanter, this is part of the Macallan Masters Decanter Series. The influence of first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks greatly influences the colour and flavour of the liquid. (INR 2.7 lakhs in Gurgaon and INR 4.21 lakhs in Mumbai).
Tasting notes: Bold and full bodied, it’s a celebration of floral and vanilla notes punctuated with fresh apples and apricots.
- Macallan No. 6: Encased in a beautiful decanter crafted by Lalique, this is a rich and complex malt, that also draws upon the influence of first-fill sherry seasoned casks, all from a single cooperage.
Tasting notes: Rich in spice and dried fruit, with a layer of heady orange groves.
Paul John: The Christmas Editions
I first tasted Paul John’s Christmas Edition on a visit to their experience centre in 2019, and that was the 2019 edition. A truly sublime whisky—and I use these words sparingly—it’s an exclusive small batch of their older malts that are then finished in Pedro Ximenez casks. Since then, Paul John has gone on to release two more Christmas Editions, but my favourite remains the 2019. The Christmas Editions are a limited release that are available sparingly and mainly in Goa, from my experience. If you want to get your hands on the entire series, then try and buddy up to the good folks at Vaz Enterprises in Goa, who have the entire series in stock (but not on display!) as also the Paul John Mithuna, the 2nd release in their Zodiac series. All fine examples of the work of Michael D’Souza, an Indian distiller at the top of the game.
Epitome Reserve # 2
For a whisky collector or enthusiast, this is definitely worth picking up, especially as the first ever release of craft whisky in India from Diageo. Available selectively and in two editions, # 1 that is a single grain and # 2 (my favourite) that’s a peated single malt, finished in casks that have previously held Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Again, available at select stores only, including the aforementioned Vaz Enterprises. Also spotted fleetingly in Gurgaon. The price varies across regions, but you can expect to pay upwards of INR 10,000/- a bottle.
Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26-year-old
A travel retail exclusive, this single malt after ageing for 26 years, is finished in rare French cognac casks. Available at Delhi Duty Free as you jet in. INR 46,000/- a bottle.
Tasting notes: The casks add extra lavish layers of sweet, tasted oak and velvety aromas of café crème, brown sugar and soft spice”.
Springbank distillery dating back to 1828 is in Campbeltown, one of the smallest whisky producing regions in Scotland, and once considered to be the Whisky capital of the world. Their 3 single malt whiskies—Springbank, Hazelburn, and Kilkerran—are considered amongst the most hand-made in Scotland. The Kilkerran 16yo is the 2021 edition and is matured in 75% bourbon and 25% sherry casks. Available in select stores in Mumbai at INR 17,600/- per bottle.