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The journey of scotch and single malt whiskies in India

Whiskey or whisky, whichever you prefer, is India’s favourite drink, evident in the vast quantities the country consumes annually, the highest in the world. Here’s a look at how the magical firewater has evolved in the country and the various kinds available.

The British East India Company came to India as traders in spices, a very important commodity in Europe back then as it was used to preserve meat. Apart from that, they primarily traded in silk, cotton, indigo dye, tea, and opium. Aside from sourcing goods from India, they also introduced a number of things that have stood the test of time; among them, was the “water of life” or whiskey.

In the 1820s, the first brewery in India was set up at Kasauli which was soon shifted to Solan as the location had an abundant supply of fresh spring water. It was soon recognised as India’s first distillery where a dram was made majorly by blending neutral spirits that were distilled from fermented molasses with only a small portion consisting of traditional malt whisky, usually about 10 to 12 percent. Today, whisky culture in India has come a long way to become one of the most preferred spirits that suit different occasions.

By the mid-’80s, India noticed a trend where consumers became more inclined towards single malt whiskies as travellers would bring home their liquid experiences in abundance. By 1980, Indian distilleries had started producing single malt whiskies in India, but the consumers still preferred single malt whiskies from Scotland. In the last 10 years, we have seen a positive sign for Indian single malts as people are more cognizant about available brands. Consumers are more educated and understand whiskies better. As of today, India is the biggest consumer of whisky in the world in terms of volume. This statement itself justifies the growth of whisky culture in India.

Scotland is divided into different whisky producing regions which are Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay and Campbelltown, and each region has its own characteristic and flavours.

Lowlands: Soft and smooth malts are characteristic of the region, offering a gentle, elegant palate reminiscent of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, and some spices. The Lowlands produce drams doted on by lovers of the aperitif and mellow malts.

Speyside: Speyside whiskies are known for being fruity with a hint of peat. Apple, pear, honey, vanilla, and spice, all have a role in expressions from this region, which are commonly matured in sherry casks. Speyside is also known as the whisky capital of Scotland.

Highlands: The Highland whisky is most associated with silky floral notes, with strong peaty flavours complementing the dry oak and fruit cake finish.

Islay: The versatility of the Islands accommodates both feathery citrus flavours and smoky, peaty noses and some sea salt. These malts are full of maritime notes.

Singleton of Glendullan

Singleton of Glendullan

This was originally known as the Glendullan single malt. The distillery is situated in a small town known as Dufftown. Singleton of Glendullan is a perfect single malt whisky for any occasion and as we say it can be unapologetically enjoyed. It is creamy and fruity texture is perfect for the Indian palate. It is matured in a high proportion of American oak casks with a small portion of European oak casks to balance the liquid. If you are looking for an easy going and smooth single malt whisky, then Singleton of Glendullan is your go-to drink. In India, Singleton is available in three different variants – 12 YO, 15 YO and 18 YO.

Talisker

Talisker is distilled in Carbost, Scotland, on the Minginish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye. The spirit is most frequently matured in American oak casks and accommodates both feathery citrus flavours and smoking peaty noses and some sea salt. Talisker is full of maritime flavours.

It is aged for a minimum of 10 years in American oak casks, and this member of Diageo’s Classic Malts series has been recognised numerous times for its excellence. Immensely satisfying with whiffs of warm peat blending with coastal air, this single malt is a spectacular after dinner dram.

If you like whiskies having powerful aromas, then definitely Talisker 10 YO is the right choice.

Copper Dog

A blended single malt which is a combination of eight single malts from the Speyside region. It is a deliciously fruity spirit with a hint of honey and spice.

In years long passed, distillery workers would help themselves to a dram using a ‘Copper Dog’ – a pipe hidden inside the leg of their trouser. These Speyside rascals and characters are the inspiration for this unique blend of no fewer than eight single malt whiskies. Slowly married together in old oak casks. An easy drinking liquid with ripe fruit aromas and a delight spicy finish. It was first created in Craigellachie Hotel.

The Era of Blended Scotches

Initially scotch was all about single malts, as these drams have a powerful and strong aroma which caters to different palates. In India, when people smell a whisky, they mistake the strong aroma to be high alcohol content. For single malt lovers, if a whisky has a powerful aroma, then it is a good malt as they understand the different flavour notes.

In the 1930s, when Aeneas Coffey invented the Coffey Still (aka Patent Still), an apparatus that allowed for a continuous process of distillation, Coffey opened the door to the production of grain whisky, which was later on used to create blended scotch whisky. Thus, a market for blended scotch whisky opened up for people who did not like the powerful flavours of single malt whiskies.

As each single malt differs from one another, blended whiskies also different from each other as a variety of malt and grain whiskies are used in the blend and in different proportions. If a blend has more malts from Islands and less blends from Speyside, then the final blend would taste smokier with hints of fruits and creaminess. Same goes for the other whiskies of the blend that comprise a share of malts and grains from Speyside. If other malts or grain whiskies are from Lowlands then the blended whisky would taste fruitier, creamier and have a slight hint of grain and less spices. A great blended scotch whisky such as Johnnie Walker Black Label combines all four corners of Scotland, with each of the regions complementing each other beautifully and in balanced harmony to give the drinker a perfect taste of Scotland in a glass. Crafted by the most respected Dr Jim Beveridge, Master Blender OBE, and a veteran of over four decades, the journey of the brand in the scotch industry still finds its base going strong.

Now that you’ve learnt a bit about whisky, here are a couple of cocktail recipes that should liven up your weekend.

Johnnie Pineapple

Ingredients:

  • 45ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 60ml pineapple juice
  • 60ml soda

Preparation

Take a highball glass, add ice and pour all ingredients in.

Stir well and garnish with a wedge of fresh pineapple.


B&W Cran Cooler

Ingredients:

  • 45ml Black & White Scotch Whisky
  • 20ml lime juice
  • 60ml cranberry juice
  • 60ml soda

Preparation

Take a highball glass, add ice and pour in all ingredients.

Stir well and garnish with mint leaves and a slice of lime.


Breakfast Time

Ingredients:

  • 45ml Black Dog
  • 30ml orange juice
  • 20ml honey
  • 20ml black coffee

Preparation

Take a cocktail shaker, add ice and all the ingredients. Shake well.

Put ice in a whisky glass and pour all the shaker’s contents in. Garnish with coffee beans.

Akash Tomar is Brand Ambassador, Diageo, North India. He is a certified beverage educator with a Level 2 Award in Spirits from WSET Global.

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