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December 2011

20 Great Single Malts

How A Single Malt Is Made The various steps and processes that make a great spirit

A selection of the best single malt whiskies from across the world

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Good Spirits The Whisky Special

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh*, Pune*

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editor’s note

Contents Indulge December 2011

04| A global

Good Tipple. Bad Tipple

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he responsible and, dare I say, classy way to drink whisky, I realized earlier this year, is to drink it with a sensitive mouth. Everything else is secondary, master blender David Stewart told me, when I went to visit the Balvenie distillery in Dufftown, Scotland. Stewart is this warm, somewhat shy, man who has spent decades crafting splendid whiskies such as the 12-year-old Balvenie DoubleWood. I’d left on my trip to Dufftown fully expecting to enjoy everything— the superb scenery, the people and the food—but the whisky. This was due to a terrible bout of drinking whisky the wrong way one April night way back in 1998. The parts of that night I still remember I will never forget. Let us not go into the details. Suffice to say that too many bottles of Tiruchirappalli’s finest whisky were drunk by too few engineering students. And then, years later, David Stewart coaxed me into a wonderful tasting session at the Balvenie visitor centre. “Can you taste vanilla and raisins?” he asked, holding up a tasting dose of whisky. Lo and behold, I could! Overnight whisky went from being my personal drink of the devil to the water of life. Since then—no cliche intended—I’ve been on a journey of discovery. And I’ve come to realize that there are few greater pleasures in life than sitting on a Saturday night,

after dinner, slowly getting to know a smoky, almost chewy, dram of the 16-year-old Lagavulin. Stewart told me that there is no such thing as good or bad whisky. There is whisky you like and whisky you don’t. There was also no absolutely right way to drink it. Neat, with a splash of water, over ice, drowned in soda...anything was alright, he said, as long as I enjoyed the spirit. Another journalist on the Balvenie trip I got to know well was Joel Harrison, who later became whisky columnist for Indulge. Harrison, who runs a whisky blog at www. caskstrenth.net, talks about whisky the way some people talk about Ford Mustangs or vintage Ferraris. A few months ago, Harrison and I wondered if we could commit an entire Indulge issue’s worth of space to whisky. Were there enough interesting new stories to tell and spirits to profile? Could we engage both novice and expert? Could we lift the readers’ spirits? What do you think? Note: Many of the photographs you saw in the last issue of Indulge came from the splendid archives of Roli Books. Priya Kapoor and her team spent hours finding pictures we could use. Indulge wishes to thank them profusely. Have a drink on us, Priya.

SIDIN Vadukut issue editor

phenomenon Neil Ridley on how whisky is enjoying a renaissance around the world

6| How a single

16| The Ardbeg distillery 17| The Balvenie distillery

malt is made Joel Harrison on the processes involved

Malt profiles

8| On a high

Since Johnnie Walker broke the £1 billion mark in 2007, whisky seems to have been in rare health

9| Column

Madhu Menon on cooking with whisky

10| A buyer’s

18| The Old Bushmills distillery

12| 20 great

19| The Four Roses distillery 20| The Yamazaki distillery

A selection of 20 of the best single malt whiskies from all over the world

22| Milestones

single malts

Dave Broom talks about the emotions of drinking great whisky

guide

11| Whisky

in India

How India has grown into the largest whisky market by volume in the world

NOTE TO READERS The Media Marketing Initiatives on Pages 14 and 15 are the equivalent of paid-for advertisements, and no Mint journalists were involved in creating these. Readers would do well to treat them as advertisements. Cover design: uttam sharma

Cover image: iStockphoto

Issue editor: SIDIN Vadukut; Editorial coordination: Pradip Kumar Saha, neil rodricks; Design: abel robinson, Uttam Sharma, Venkatesulu. Mint editorial leadership team: R. Sukumar (Editor), Niranjan Rajadhyaksha (Executive editor), Anil Padmanabhan, Tamal Bandyopadhyay, Priya Ramani, Nabeel Mohideen, Manas Chakravarty, Monika Halan, Shuchi Bansal, sidin vadukut, Jasbir Ladi, Sundeep khanna. ©2011 HT Media Ltd, All Rights Reserved


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A Global

Phenomenon Whisky is enjoying a renaissance around the world, thanks to some innovative cocktails and the influence of 1960s chic By Neil Ridley

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hen the firstrecorded incidence of Scotch whisky was documented back in 1494, it was highly unlikely that the man behind the production of the spirit, a certain Friar John Cor, had any idea of just how much of a global phenomenon it would become—or indeed its influence on popular culture. Fast-forward more than 500 years, and whisky is more popular than ever, drunk by an increasing group of younger, more aspirational consumers in a multitude of different serves, each mirroring the truly international appreciation of the spirit. Sales of whisky have been on a steady incline for the past decade, with newer markets in the Far East, the Baltic states and South America helping to play a major role in reclaiming whisky from the domain of the snobs, or, indeed, the traditional image of the inebriated octogenarian sitting propping up the bar, nursing a tumbler of his favourite blend. Thanks to the huge popularity of TV series such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire , which feature a host of classic whisky cocktails (as well as some superbly sharp suits), mixing up a Whisky Sour or an Old Fashioned has helped the drink attract a more culturally aware audience, that is looking for a greater complexity of flavour in its favourite tipples. “The perception of whisky around the world has so many different views that the list is almost endless,” highlights George Grant, director of sales at the Glenfarclas distillery. “In Scotland, it is the national drink, whereas in India, it is almost a right or a ‘must have’ entitlement. In the USA, it is seen as something elusive, and the drink that signifies that yes…you have ‘made it’,” he continues. “But generally, whisky around the world is seen as something to aspire to. The image of it as a drink my father used to drink has almost gone.” Over in Japan, sales of both single malt and blended whiskies have seen a sharp increase partly due to the “Highball” revolution— drinking blended whisky diluted with chilled, sparkling mineral water and served in pint glasses, sometimes with a twist of lemon zest. This popular way of enjoying the spirit developed first in the 1950s, when whisky found favour as a perfect sociable accompaniment to meal times, providing a counterpoint to the spicy Japanese cuisine, shared among a group of friends. “For the past few years, the popularity of the Highball is continuing to contribute to the expansion of the whisky market by a large amount,” explains Kazuyuki Takayama, Suntory Whiskies UK’s marketing manager. “Because the

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Sales of whisky have been on a steady incline for the past decade, with newer markets in the Far East, the Baltic States and South America helping to play a major role in reclaiming whisky from the domain of the snobs drinker gets the whisky flavour, as well as refreshment from the soda and zest, it is often enjoyed as a first drink instead of beer in Japan. It is not only a way for previous whisky drinkers to renew their love for the drink, it also allows newcomers such as young people and women to have their first experience of drinking whisky.”

But the world’s love affair with whisky doesn’t only stem from its ability to adapt to its surroundings or indeed glassware. One can argue that the artisanal origins of the spirit are hugely attractive to the more discerning drinker and that the continued perception of “provenance” that Scotch whisky exhibits help to further ignite passions. Despite their huge stature in the whisky industry, brands such as Glenlivet are focusing heavily on the home-grown aspect of their whisky and the time-honoured traditions that have been rigorously followed since George Smith first established the distillery back in 1824. Through the Guardians programme, the distillery has developed a like-minded group of some 65,000 drinkers, keen on developing its knowledge of the intricacies of what makes single malt whisky such a unique drink. Over on the Isle of Islay, which lies just off the west coast of mainland Scotland, Laphroaig has a similar strategy, where the Friends of Laphroaig scheme grants every member access to their very own square foot of distillery land, where they are encouraged to visit and

place their national flag. Seeing a peaty field covered in hundreds of tiny paper flags from destinations as diverse as the Seychelles to Switzerland shows just how far whisky has travelled. “What’s exciting in the digital age is just how excited younger people are becoming about the provenance of whisky,” says Glenfarclas’ Grant. “The fact that people can research the heritage of a whisky on their phones, whilst they’re in a shop, shows that they do want that extra level of knowledge and not just the obvious choices, which is great for independent distilleries like Glenfarclas.” So whether it’s the rediscovery of a long lost cocktail or the simple but flavoursome pleasures of a traditionally made single malt, whisky continues to fuel conversation, settle scores and influence future decades of cultures across the globe. It seems that you can’t keep a good dram down. I

Neil Ridley is a well-known whisky writer in the UK and co-founder of the website Caskstrength.net


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How A

Single Malt Is Made

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ingle malt whisky, wherever in the world it is produced, is made of just three ingredients—water, malted barley and yeast. The spirit that is produced is then matured, usually for a minimum of three years, in oak barrels before being bottled. The process runs thus: barley contains complex starches, which, through a process called ‘‘malting”, are converted into simple sugars. These sugars are then converted into alcohol by yeast through a process called ‘‘fermentation”. The water and alcohol are then separated by distillation and the final spirit is aged in oak casks.

By Joel Harrison

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the Ingredients Water

Water is used at every stage of production, through the malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation processes. Each distillery will pride itself on its water source and constantly monitor the quality. Many distilleries were built in specific locations because of the quality of the nearby water source, which may be a spring, well, stream or loch (small local lake).

Barley

Barley is one of the key ingredients in the whisky-making process. The majority of the barley used in making single malts worldwide is grown in Scotland. Only certain varieties of barley are considered to have a sugar yield high enough to use in whisky-making, with new varieties being constantly engineered to help improve this area of production.

Yeast

Yeast is a microorganism that converts sugars from the barley into alcohol and carbon dioxide. FINAL cut: Balvenie malt master David Steward.

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good spirits

step by step: The various processes in the making of a single malt.

Photographs: Balvenie

The process Malting Malting is the process in which complex starches from barley are broken down into simple sugars such as maltose, from where the term “malting” is derived. Barley is steeped in water and slowly dried, recreating the warm and moist conditions in which it would grow naturally. The barley must break down its starch content into sugars to use as energy in order to grow. Before this energy is used in growth, the barley is “killed” by drying it out in order to capture the sugar content in each kernel. If peat smoke is used to dry the barley, the resulting spirit and matured whisky will carry a smoky, earthy flavour to it.

Mashing The newly malted barley is taken to a mill and ground down to a course flour known as “grist”. The grist is then soaked in warm water to extract the sugars. Once drained, the sweet liquor, known as “wort”, is moved to fermentation tanks. The leftover grain, called “draff ”, is used as animal feed.

Fermentation The process of using yeast to convert the sugars in the wort to alcohol is known as “fermentation”. This takes place in large vats called “washbacks”, often made of pine or stainless steel; the largest in Scotland holds just under 70,000 litres. Firstly, the wort is cooled, otherwise the heat will kill the yeast. Once the yeast is added, the sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide over a fermentation period of around two days. The carbon dioxide is extracted and either recycled or disposed. The result is a strong, beer-like liquid, known as “wash”, which is around 8% alcohol. At this stage,

In Scotland, the maturation period must be no less than three years and a day before the contents can be called Scotch whisky each distillery will have its own unique wash, with the flavour profile depending very much upon variables such as the water used, the type of barley grown, the substance used to dry the barley, the length of mashing and fermentation.

Distillation The biggest influence on the flavour of the spirit comes from the distillation process. The wash is transferred into a large copper still that acts like a giant kettle.

The first still is known as the “wash still”. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, so heating the stills to just below 100 degrees centigrade will cause the alcohol to separate from the water and rise as steam. Once the alcohol hits the colder, upper area of the copper stills, some of the steam will condense naturally, running back down the inside of the still, picking up elements of copper as it goes. Some of the steam will carry on out of the still to a condenser where it is cooled and turned back into a liquid. The liquid that evaporates from the wash still is known as “low wines” and is transferred to a second, smaller still known as a “spirit still” for the same distillation process to happen again. Typically done twice (double distillation), but occasionally done three times (triple distillation), this final step produces a strong, clear spirit called “new make”, which is around 70% alcohol. The size and shape of the stills play a major role in the flavour of

the new make produced by the distillery. Some harmful alcohols are also produced during the distillation so only the middle of the spirit run from the second still is taken away for maturation.

Maturation Once the new make has left the stills, it is moved into oak casks to mature. In Scotland, the maturation period must be no less than three years and a day before the contents can be called Scotch whisky. Often the spirit is cut down to 63.5% average by volume (ABV) before being casked. In Scotland, second-hand oak casks are used, which give flavour to the spirit from the previous contents of the cask (sherry, bourbon whiskey, etc.) and allow for the maturation period to be longer than in other sectors, as the influence of the wood will be lower due to its previous use. I Joel Harrison is a drinks writer and consultant and co-founder of the website Caskstrength.net December 2011 |

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By Joel Harrison

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On A High Since Johnnie Walker broke the £1 billion mark in 2007, the spirit seems to have been in rare health across the globe. A status report on demand and supply

emand for Scotch whisky worldwide is booming. Driven by growing demand from markets such as Brazil, China and India, where Scotch represents prestige and social status, single malt exports have grown around 20% year-on-year in value over the last few years. Since Johnnie Walker, the world’s biggest selling Scotch, broke the £1 billion mark in 2007, the category seems to have been in rare health across the globe. However, when you think of whisky, you may think of Scotland; but then you should think again. The product has found a renewed vigour in the drinks market and the production now is not exclusive to Scotland. Hot on the heels of the Scots are the Japanese, who embraced whisky-making after the founding father of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru, studied chemistry in Scotland in the early 20th century. Returning to his native Japan, he set about producing single malt whisky, and eventually founded the Yoichi distillery in an area of Japanese countryside, which, in his view, mirrored that of Scotland. The two major whisky producers in Japan—Suntory and Nikka—are both predicting growth in the sector this year, driven locally by the rise of the whisky drink known as the “Highball”, and also by the reception Japanese whisky has been getting in foreign markets such as Europe. Both Nikka and Suntory have picked up gold medals and other accolades at whisky award ceremonies such as the International Wine And Spirit Competition and the World Whisky Awards—some news to cheer for the country that has faced major challenges this year. However, it is not just the established companies that are pushing Japanese whisky forward. As with all growing sectors, new producers enter the market and make a mark and, in this case, it is the Chichibu distillery, founded in 2008. Set up by Ichiro Akuto, who comes from a long line of drinks makers (a family famed for sake production that moved to whisky-

In terms of pure consumption, one of the fastest growing markets for whisky is Taiwan (up 26% last year and 21% the year before)

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making in the 1980s), Chichibu has just released its first whisky of age, at three years old, labelled Ichiro’s Malt: Chichibu The First. In terms of pure consumption, one of the fastest growing markets for whisky is Taiwan (up 26% last year and 21% the year before), which embraced the single malt revolution with its own distillery, the King Car Yuan-Shan distillery that produced its first spirit in 2006. The core release of single malt by this distillery is bottled under the name Kavalan, but there has also been a recent release under the more corporate name of the distillery’s parent company, King Car. Back on more familiar ground, but not quite in the recognized home of the single malt, two distilleries have popped up in British Isles, outside of Scotland. The first was in Wales, where in 2000, the Penderyn distillery was opened. Unusually, the distillery does not conduct its own beer production, but works with a local brewery to supply the wash for the whisky-making. Sales of this Welsh whisky have grown consistently over the past 10 years, and it has gained a solid foothold in the local marketplace and grown as a serious brand. Across the border in England, they’ve started competing with the Scots by opening the first whisky distillery in more than hundred years. Situated in Norfolk, the eastern area of England rich in peat, the distillery opened for business in 2006 and since then has been producing both peated and unpeated single malts. However, the real developments have been happening back in Scotland, with the opening of a host of distilleries across the country on both the boutique and industrial levels. At the lower end of the production level, 2005 saw the opening of Daftmill distillery in the southern region of Scotland, known as the Lowlands. Churning out just 60,000 litres of alcohol a year, this is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. On the Scottish islands, 2005 also saw the opening of the Kilchoman distillery on the Isle of Islay—home to seven other single malt distilleries such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Bowmore. But the smallest of them all is a new distillery, hidden away on the Isle of Lewis, named Abhainn Dearg. This tiny distillery is situated in the wild island group known as the Outer Hebrides and released its first limited edition single malt whisky in late 2011. In contrast to these tiny operations, Diageo, the largest distiller in Scotland, invested £40 million in building a new distillery, Roseisle, which opened in 2010 and was built to ease the demandsupply gap. With Scotch needing to age in oak barrels for a minimum of three years and a day, the distillers can’t plug the demand-supply gap by increasing production immediately as the demand grows. For this reason, big manufacturers have to look years ahead to try predict demand and, with the opening of new distilleries such as Roseisle, which has a capacity of 12.5 million litres a year, the signal is positive towards Scotch whisky from the major players. I


column

madhu

menon Chef

Whisky In Food

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hat’s in a name? That which we call whisky by any other name would taste just as sweet. At least that’s what the Indian whisky industry seems to believe, since 90% of the whisky made in India is made from molasses, not from any grain. (I do hope Shakespeare didn’t turn too violently in his grave for my brutal mangling of his writing.) That said, I’m sure this issue of Indulge has plenty to talk about appreciating good whisky in its purer forms. And I’m just a chef, not qualified enough to be a whisky snob, so I’ll just focus on using it in different ways in food. Whisky can complement a variety of flavours and add punch to sauces, marinades and stews. Before I get around to that, two important issues need to be settled: what kind of whisky should you use, and does the alcohol in whisky really burn or evaporate when it’s used in cooking? When it comes to selecting whisky to use in cooking, the same principles hold as that for wine used in cooking. Don’t use the cheap stuff since the flavours will

probably be harsh. Don’t use the good stuff because all the subtle flavours you pay so much for will probably be lost in the cooking (save your single malts and expensive blends for your glass). Use the stuff that you would otherwise drink, but not on a special occasion. If you find the need to cover up the flavour of a whisky with a mixer such as coke, there’s no point using it in food either. Some of the ‘‘premium” Indian brands such as Blenders Pride will do just fine. Now let’s move to a popular misconception propagated in many a cookbook about how much alcohol is actually left behind after cooking. Many people believe that most of the alcohol in any spirit evaporates in the cooking process. This isn’t true. In scientific tests conducted by the US department of agriculture, it was found that after flaming (as in a flambé), 75% of alcohol remained in the food. Simmering for 15 minutes left 40% of alcohol behind, and even after an hour of cooking, 25% remained. While this may not bother you if you only use a few tablespoons for flavour, it’s something you should know if cooking for children, people allergic to alcohol, or those who don’t consume it for personal or religious reasons. Boring scientific part now behind us, let’s see how we can use whisky in food. One of the popular uses is to incorporate it into sauces, both sweet and savoury. Unlike wine, whisky is splendid with creamy sauces. Here’s a variant of a classic pepper steak sauce using whisky: sauté your meat in a stainless steel or cast-iron pan until it’s done, remove and set it aside. Your pan should have some tasty brown bits from the meat. Add some butter, some freshly cracked pepper, some garlic and possibly an herb such as rosemary, and then add about 60ml of whisky (careful to keep

the temperature low, or you’ll set your kitchen on fire). Add some heavy cream, stir, and simmer for 5-10 minutes till the sauce reduces. Add salt to taste, and another tablespoon of whisky. Taste the goodness. Oh, you’re vegetarian? You may not get the meaty flavours, but you can do the same with pan-fried potatoes and even a dry Indian sabzi dish. Take the veggies out of the pan, heat the pan till the masala bits are dried up, and then do as above (but leave the herbs out). Indian veggies, western whisky pepper cream sauce. Like some matrimonial ads say, it’s a perfect blend of eastern and western values. Whisky can also be used in sauces used for marinades or served with barbecued food. The overpriced American casual dining chain, TGI Friday’s, for instance, has a ‘‘Jack Daniel’s Sauce” it serves with burgers, steaks and other assorted foods. You can add whisky to a regular BBQ sauce to lift it up, or to a spicy marinade for both western food as well as Indian kebabs (a juicy leg of lamb is an excellent match). Heck, I’ve even added it to mashed potatoes and made people happy. iStock photo

On the other hand, whisky can be used in desserts. Just as whisky’s flavour goes well with cream in savoury sauces, it does the same in sweet sauces. A simple ‘‘whisky cream sauce” for dessert involves stirring sugar and whisky into some heavy cream and letting it simmer for a while till it reduces to a consistency you like. Some folks like to thicken it with corn flour, but that’s up to you. Use it to go with puddings or Christmas cakes. Or work whisky into a caramel sauce, possibly with some added orange—delicious! Dry fruits such as figs, raisins and blackcurrants, and nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds are natural partners for whisky, and their flavours complement each other brilliantly. Try crushing a few nuts and dry fruits and let them infuse in whisky for two-three weeks. You should get some tasty homemade liqueur at the end. Lastly, whisky is a nice partner for chocolate. There are whisky connoisseurs who do pairings of single malts and chocolate. As I said before, I’m not qualified, so I just use it in chocolate sauces or desserts, preferably those on the darker chocolate side, i.e., more chocolate, less dairy. If you like chocolate mousse, try adding some whisky into your mix. I’ve successfully made an ‘‘Irish coffee mousse” by incorporating coffee and chocolate in a chocolate mousse, and it was darn tasty. I hope I’ve given you a starting point for your own cooking adventures with whisky. There are plenty of variations in the above to keep you going for a while. Find your own winning combination and let me know how it worked out for you.

Madhu Menon is a chef, restaurant consultant and food writer. Respond to this column at feedback@livemint.com


good spirits

A Buyer’s

Guide

Blended or single malt? What age expression? Which region? What kind of cask? This guide will help you find the perfect tipple By Joel harrison

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feedback@livemint.com ou’re there again, wheeling your Samsonite case through security at Heathrow Terminal 5. The hotel concierge advised a travel time that has got you to the gate with a good few hours to spare, so what does one do? Look for gifts, for bargains, for deals in the dutyfree shops? What happens if you’re in the market for some whisky? The range available—not just at airports but in shops—and concessions across the globe, are growing ever faster as the popularity of the drink continues to grow worldwide. But with Scotland playing host to 102 operating distilleries, the majority of which bottle their own single malts at a variety of ages, where does one start? And that’s before we’ve even considered blended whiskies, Irish whisky, Japanese...the list is almost endless. Hopefully, this guide will help debunk some myths and will act as your guru when spending your hardearned cash on an exciting bottle of whisky. Blended or single malt The first aspect to ascertain about whisky is whether it is a blend or a single malt. In the world of whisky, there is always discussion about which of the two is better, and neither party is wrong. Blended whisky is made of single malt whiskies, often mixed together with grain whisky. Grain whisky is made in the same way as a single malt, but using a different base cereal, such as corn, as the main ingredient. Single malts must use only malted barley. The art of blending whisky stretches back hundreds of years, when the quality of single malt whisky was, to say the least, inconsistent. Blending was a way of creating some consistency in

the whisky being offered for sale at shops such as the one owned by blended whisky pioneers Johnnie Walker and Sons—among the first people to experiment with blending whisky and offering their clientele consistency in flavour and quality. Over the past 100 years, specifically in the past 30 years or so, distilleries have honed their production process, allowing them greater understanding of how to maintain consistency and flavour. This, coupled with maturation in higher-quality oak barrels, has led to single malts being able to rival their blended brothers for quality and consistency. If you choose a blended whisky, a general rule of thumb is that more expensive the blend, the lower the proportion of grain whisky in the mix. Too much grain whisky can cause a blend to be thin and taste slightly more spirit-like. Wellblended whiskies, such as Royal Salute or Johnnie Walker Blue Label, are a thing of total beauty; wellcrafted and constructed, you’re on safer ground with medium- to high-priced blends. Lower-end blends, well, just be careful. There are some crackers out there, but also some not-so-good blends. My advice is find an expression you like and experiment within the range. If, for example, you like the delicate smoke hints of Johnnie Walker Black Label, you are not going to be disappointed by the 18-year-old Gold or the “very old” Blue Labels. Single malt is a different game altogether. There are many more variables to choose from and the first I shall discuss is age. Age Some whiskies, both blended and single malts, will carry an age statement, such as “18 years old” on the label. What does this mean? Well, this is the youngest whisky in the bottle. An 18-year-old single malt may contain whisky upwards of that age in the bottle.

But is older whisky better? The answer here is, no. Just like a sports team, the older players will have more experience, more guile, more understanding of their environment. But that doesn’t make them better than the younger players on the field. What you can usually be assured of with an older whisky is that it has taken a greater degree of influence from the style of oak cask in which it has been matured. As whisky “sleeps” in a warehouse, some of the liquid is lost through evaporation (at a rate of around 2% per year). This loss is romantically known as “the Angel’s share” and serves to increase the wood to liquid ratio, meaning that older whisky will have a greater degree of flavour from the barrel. It also explains why older whisky is more expensive, simply because there is less of it available. Cask wood The cask style is hugely important to the flavour of the product inside. If a whisky has been matured for the full term (its whole life) in an ex-European oak sherry cask, then it would have picked up a lot of flavour and colour from the sherry (rich, red fruit notes). On the other hand, if the whisky has been matured in an ex-American bourbon oak barrel, it is going to have tones of light vanilla and honey. A lot of whisky companies are now “double maturing” or even “triple maturing” their spirit. Take for example, the Balvenie 12-year-

old DoubleWood. This whisky is matured first in ex-American oak bourbon barrels for around 11 years and six months. It is then transferred to an ex-European oak sherry cask for around six months, giving the whisky a balance of vanilla and honey, yet with a kick of delicate red fruits from the sherry barrel. Other whiskies, such as the Macallan 18 years old Sherry Oak, will have spent their entire 18 years (or more) in an ex-sherry cask, drawing out deep spices and rich, red fruit flavours into the spirit. If you like rich and spicy flavours, sherry-matured whisky is the way to go. If you like something a little more delicate, with ginger and vanilla flavours, head for whisky with a lighter colour that has been matured mainly in ex-American oak casks. Region and style It used to be the case earlier that you could pick a single malt Scotch whisky style by the region in which it was produced, but this is no longer the case, save for the Islay region. On the Isle of Islay, as on the Isle of Skye, and, to some extent, the Islands of Orkney, the whisky that is produced carries a smoky, earthy flavour given to it by the use of peat smoke in the manufacturing process. This flavour is distinct and not everyone likes it. If you find it convivial on your palate, then look for whiskies from the Scottish islands. If not, then steer well clear! Brand names Once you have settled on a whisky you like, try experimenting up and down its range. For example, if the Glenlivet 12 years old is a regular in your cabinet, why not treat yourself to a bottle of the 21 years old. It’s thicker, darker and carries a greater influence of sherry which, coupled with the additional age, gives a more luxuriant experience in the glass altogether. Sharing The real key to discovering which whiskies you like or don’t (and it is okay to not like certain ones) is to try as many as possible, in a responsible manner. One of the best ways to do this is to find friends who also share a passion for whisky and share your bottles with them, as they share theirs with you. This way, you can expand your palate, discuss your choices with your friends and form your own opinion. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own. Find out what aspects of a whisky you like and look for those in a bottle. Don’t let anyone else tell you what is good or bad—you should be the ultimate judge! I

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Whisky In

India

India has grown into the largest whisky market by volume in the world, and the four biggest selling Indian brands sell more cases per year globally than the entire Scotch business combined By Joel Harrison

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hisky and India are intrinsically linked. Boasting the largest whisky market in the world by volume, India is also home to the world’s second largest distiller—Vijay Mallya-owned UB Group. Whiskymaking is serious business in India. However, this was not always the case. Distillation of spirit was introduced to the country in a major way at the time of the British Raj, with entrepreneurs looking to satisfy the palate of the newly settled colonial communities with their own, Indian-made versions of whisky, gin, rum and vodka. These spirits became known in Asia as locally made foreign liquor and across India as Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL). One example of distillation taking a foothold is the Kasauli distillery, the oldest continually used distillery in Asia, established in the late 1820s by a gentleman named Edward Dyer. Dyer brought his brewing and distilling equipment from England and Scotland with some of the original equipment, such as the copper pot stills—so important in spirit-making—still in use today. The location of the distillery was deliberate as Dyer was keen to find a place in India with a climate similar to that of Scotland, but with the added bonus of a market of British troops and civilians in Shimla and elsewhere in Punjab to sell his products to. As the appetite for homemade products grew, so did the production levels, and India now boasts of some of the largest selling liquor brands in the world. But if one is to travel internationally, he will rarely see these brands outside the country. So what has developed in the last 150 years for the average IMFL to have not found its way outside the home market; why is it so?

Key Market: Wink Bar at Taj President (above) and the Indigo restaurant (below) in Mumbai.

The answer lies within the product itself as well as wider, international legislation. Many of the Indian-made whisky brands you will see at your local liquor store are made using some percentage of spirit derived from a molasses base, not the traditional wheat, maize or other cereal base, which most products labelled whisky outside of India are made from. Take Europe for instance, where, a directive passed in 2008 states that “whisky or whiskey is a spirit drink produced exclusively by distillation of a mash made from malted cereals with or without whole grains of other cereals...” Rules such as these become even narrower when we look at the definition of Scotch whisky—an area ruled by a governing body known as the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) whose guidelines regarding

The passion to innovate and the attitude to embrace foreign whisky in the local market will prove to be key factors if the premium imported whisky segment is to continue to grow

production and labelling are clearly set out in their document—The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. In this document, the exact and precise definitions of products such as blended Scotch whisky and single malt Scotch whisky are outlined. This whole area has been of great consternation for Mallya and United Spirits as it curtails the international reach of some of their most-successful brands. To put the sales of Indian-made whisky into global context, the four biggest selling brands sell more cases per year than the entire Scotch business combined. We’re talking seriously big business here. The counter-argument posed by the wider whisky industry against molasses-based liquor is that it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that the consumers know about the product they are consuming—how it has been made and the quality and consistency of ingredients used. Therefore, if the general public is expecting a cereal-based product from a liquor labelled whisky, or whiskey, then it is the duty of the producer to meet that expectation. Do not let this argument draw a quality comparison on flavour, however. Some of the high-end, Indian-made whisky is excellent— and there are clear flavour reasons of why they sell so much—but it is still important for the consumer to be able to draw a distinction between whisky made using just cereal (wheat, barley, maize, etc.) and those made using a portion of molasses-based spirit. Certainly, a factor in the thriving state of locally made whisky over imported products is the complex tax structure in India as well as the regional variations on the sale and distribution of alcohol. Import tax is seen by foreign producers as prohibitively high, but some good work has been done in the last few years to help lower this and make the market softer for the import of Scotch, Irish and other whiskies. As the market softens and opens up to imports, Indian spirits companies can be seen embracing Scotch whisky. United Breweries’ purchase of Scottish whisky maker Whyte and Mackay for £595 million in 2007 is a good example. Mallya told me earlier this year, “I was giving a talk at the International Brewers and Distillers conference in Glasgow, and I told them that when I was a small boy, one of my first-ever jobs was selling

Mackinlay’s (Scotch) whisky. I didn’t know, it didn’t cross my mind, that when I bought Whyte and Mackay, that when I walked in the offices and looked at the range of whiskies, I almost fell off my chair when I saw they owned Mackinlay’s. So it has almost come full circle.” He continued, “We are very proud of the fact that when I took over Whyte and Mackay, I noticed a company that was more focused on the commodity and trading of parts, than on luxury whisky brands, and, with the resources that we have, I said, ‘You know, we’re wasting our time in commodities and we really want to get into the high-end luxury good as a family’. I believe in it. I’ve always believed in it.” “We have created brands over the last 30 years with the UB group, some of which are the largest-selling brands in the world by volume, with real brand equity. We believe in innovation and investing money in building solid brand equity. I’m absolutely delighted that Jura and Dalmore, both our single malts, are now amongst the fastest growing single malts in the world.” It is this passion, this vision and the attitude to embrace foreign whisky in the local market that will prove to be key factors if the premium imported whisky segment is to continue to grow. United Spirits, owned by Mallya’s United Breweries (founded by a Scotsman Thomas Leishman in 1857), is the largest spirit producer in India, commanding around 60% of the market. Its key locally produced brands are Bagpiper, Royal Challenge, McDowell’s No. 1 and Antiquity, with Jura and Dalmore in the single malt Scotch brands, and the hugely popular Black Dog in the blended whisky segment. When it comes to Scotch whisky, the main players in the Indian market are still Diageo—which owns Johnnie Walker and Dimple— and Pernod Ricard—which owns Royal Salute, Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s. However, India does boast its own single malt in the form of Amrut, which was launched in the local market this year, showing that tastes may well be developing in favour of malt whiskies. One thing is for sure, this complex market has a real taste for whisky of all denominations, and, as tastes and palates develop, it is going to be an extremely important part of the worldwide renaissance in this wonderful product we all love. I December 2011 |

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good spirits

good spirits

Aberlour a’bunadh

Balvenie DoubleWood

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Twenty

Great Single Malts

Mackmyra The First Edition

Springbank 18 years old

Sweden

Campbeltown, Scotland

A whisky from Sweden? Using some Swedish oak casks? Yes, and gives an all-round lovely hint of vanilla and spice. Well, worth trying.

Springbank is always the whisky that, when I see it behind a bar, makes me trust the bartender and his stock. Not widely known, it is a great alternative if the peat of an Islay malt is too much, but you still enjoy the salty, maritime aspects of a coastal whisky.

Laphroaig 10 years old

Nikka From The Barrel

Talisker 10 years old

Islay, Scotland

Japan

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Nikka from the Barrel not only comes housed in one of the most beautiful bottles I’ve ever seen, which is both stylish and practical, but the high-strength Japanese whisky inside is just fantastic and, flavourwise, provides the missing link between a Scotch and a bourbon. A must when it comes to discovering Japanese whisky.

One of the most successful single malts in the world, Talisker 10 years old is heavy on the smoke and the salt, leading to a real seafisherman’s whisky—warming and smoky, but powerful and packed with flavour.

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here is much more to single malt whisky than those famous brands you stock up on every time you fly through Heathrow. Not only can single malts dazzle with a variety in textures, flavours and finishes, they can also surprise you with provenance. Some of the world’s best malts are not Scottish at all. Indeed, there are enough single malts out there to have you exploring for a lifetime. To get you started on your journey, this is a selection of 20 of the best single malt whiskies from all over the map.

Available in batches and bottled at high strength, this heavily sherried single malt will knock your socks off.

By Joel Harrison

A honeyed dram that is matured in two types of wood—American oak followed by European sherry oak—giving the whisky its name.

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Japan INDIA

Amrut Fusion

Bushmills 16 years old

Dalwhinnie 15 years old

India

Ireland

Highlands, Scotland

Scotland

Made using a mix of Indian barley and Scottish peated barley, this real Indian single malt is rich in flavour with enough of a smoke hit to make the experiment worthwhile.

An Irish single malt, tripledistilled and matured for a minimum of 16 years in three types of wood— American oak, Spanish sherry casks and, finally, port pipes—which lends to a rich, thick and fruity whisky.

The Dalwhinnie 15 years old is a simple whisky with vanilla and wood flavours cutting through to make it more like an India pale ale, or IPA, than a single malt.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Dalmore King Alexander III

Glenfarclas 25 years old

Glenfiddich 18 years old

Glenlivet 21 years old

Highland Park 18 years old

Lagavulin 16 years old

Macallan 18 years old Sherry Oak

Redbreast 15 years old

Yamazaki 18 years old

Islay, Scotland

Highlands, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Orkney, Scotland

Islay, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Ireland

Japan

From the shoreline of Islay comes a heavily peated and smoky whisky with rich hints of sherry. Not for the faint-hearted.

A remarkable offering from Dalmore, a whisky that has been matured in French wine barriques, Maderia drums, sherry butts from Jerez, Sicilian Marsala barrels, port pipes from the Douro, and bourbon barrels from Kentucky. Very rich and full of flavour.

Family-owned distillery Glenfarclas produces consistently high-quality old whisky with its 40 years old being one of the best. But stop that process 25 years in, and you get this, a wonderful dram of spice and fruit.

Glenfiddich is the world’s bestselling single malt and there is a simple reason for that—it’s very good. Works well at all ages, but for me, the 18 years old is the pick of the expressions, with a good balance of all flavours to sooth your palate.

Glenlivet is one of the most recognized brands in the world and rightly so, as its output is high quality and consistently good, especially in the old age. The 21 years old shows how well the spirit lasts with subtle spices, fruits and a lovely wood note.

Only just part of Scotland—it was given to Scotland by Denmark—the Orkney Isles are home to Scotland’s most northerly distillery, Highland Park, whose 18 years old is a wonderfully rich, yet slightly smoky, dram.

For the money, probably the finest single malt around if you like peaty, earthy, smoky whisky. An institution, Lagavulin is sought after the world over, and the rich flavour of toffee and smoke in this bottle shows why.

Macallan makes some of the finest whisky in the world, and the 18 years old Sherry Oak is a fantastic example of why this it is so highly regarded. Packed with fruit, ginger spices and dark sugar flavours, this will really appeal to any palate.

Redbreast 15 years old is made at the same home as Jameson, but is a richer, more mature whisky that shows off what the guys at the Midleton distillery can really do with their highquality spirit.

Yamazaki produces some of the finest whisky in Japan, and their 18 years old expression is rich, oily, dark and rammed with flavours of oak, spices and rich red fruits.

Ireland

The quintessential Islay malt, this whisky is packed with earthy, medicinal flavours, which, if you love, hit the spot. Not for everyone, however.

Sweden

Photographs: iStockphoto and Getty Images; maps by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint; bottle images courtesy respective distilleries

12

INDULGE | December 2011

December 2011 |

INDULGE

13


good spirits

good spirits

Aberlour a’bunadh

Balvenie DoubleWood

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Twenty

Great Single Malts

Mackmyra The First Edition

Springbank 18 years old

Sweden

Campbeltown, Scotland

A whisky from Sweden? Using some Swedish oak casks? Yes, and gives an all-round lovely hint of vanilla and spice. Well, worth trying.

Springbank is always the whisky that, when I see it behind a bar, makes me trust the bartender and his stock. Not widely known, it is a great alternative if the peat of an Islay malt is too much, but you still enjoy the salty, maritime aspects of a coastal whisky.

Laphroaig 10 years old

Nikka From The Barrel

Talisker 10 years old

Islay, Scotland

Japan

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Nikka from the Barrel not only comes housed in one of the most beautiful bottles I’ve ever seen, which is both stylish and practical, but the high-strength Japanese whisky inside is just fantastic and, flavourwise, provides the missing link between a Scotch and a bourbon. A must when it comes to discovering Japanese whisky.

One of the most successful single malts in the world, Talisker 10 years old is heavy on the smoke and the salt, leading to a real seafisherman’s whisky—warming and smoky, but powerful and packed with flavour.

T

here is much more to single malt whisky than those famous brands you stock up on every time you fly through Heathrow. Not only can single malts dazzle with a variety in textures, flavours and finishes, they can also surprise you with provenance. Some of the world���s best malts are not Scottish at all. Indeed, there are enough single malts out there to have you exploring for a lifetime. To get you started on your journey, this is a selection of 20 of the best single malt whiskies from all over the map.

Available in batches and bottled at high strength, this heavily sherried single malt will knock your socks off.

By Joel Harrison

A honeyed dram that is matured in two types of wood—American oak followed by European sherry oak—giving the whisky its name.

feedback@livemint.com

Japan INDIA

Amrut Fusion

Bushmills 16 years old

Dalwhinnie 15 years old

India

Ireland

Highlands, Scotland

Scotland

Made using a mix of Indian barley and Scottish peated barley, this real Indian single malt is rich in flavour with enough of a smoke hit to make the experiment worthwhile.

An Irish single malt, tripledistilled and matured for a minimum of 16 years in three types of wood— American oak, Spanish sherry casks and, finally, port pipes—which lends to a rich, thick and fruity whisky.

The Dalwhinnie 15 years old is a simple whisky with vanilla and wood flavours cutting through to make it more like an India pale ale, or IPA, than a single malt.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Dalmore King Alexander III

Glenfarclas 25 years old

Glenfiddich 18 years old

Glenlivet 21 years old

Highland Park 18 years old

Lagavulin 16 years old

Macallan 18 years old Sherry Oak

Redbreast 15 years old

Yamazaki 18 years old

Islay, Scotland

Highlands, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Orkney, Scotland

Islay, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Ireland

Japan

From the shoreline of Islay comes a heavily peated and smoky whisky with rich hints of sherry. Not for the faint-hearted.

A remarkable offering from Dalmore, a whisky that has been matured in French wine barriques, Maderia drums, sherry butts from Jerez, Sicilian Marsala barrels, port pipes from the Douro, and bourbon barrels from Kentucky. Very rich and full of flavour.

Family-owned distillery Glenfarclas produces consistently high-quality old whisky with its 40 years old being one of the best. But stop that process 25 years in, and you get this, a wonderful dram of spice and fruit.

Glenfiddich is the world’s bestselling single malt and there is a simple reason for that—it’s very good. Works well at all ages, but for me, the 18 years old is the pick of the expressions, with a good balance of all flavours to sooth your palate.

Glenlivet is one of the most recognized brands in the world and rightly so, as its output is high quality and consistently good, especially in the old age. The 21 years old shows how well the spirit lasts with subtle spices, fruits and a lovely wood note.

Only just part of Scotland—it was given to Scotland by Denmark—the Orkney Isles are home to Scotland’s most northerly distillery, Highland Park, whose 18 years old is a wonderfully rich, yet slightly smoky, dram.

For the money, probably the finest single malt around if you like peaty, earthy, smoky whisky. An institution, Lagavulin is sought after the world over, and the rich flavour of toffee and smoke in this bottle shows why.

Macallan makes some of the finest whisky in the world, and the 18 years old Sherry Oak is a fantastic example of why this it is so highly regarded. Packed with fruit, ginger spices and dark sugar flavours, this will really appeal to any palate.

Redbreast 15 years old is made at the same home as Jameson, but is a richer, more mature whisky that shows off what the guys at the Midleton distillery can really do with their highquality spirit.

Yamazaki produces some of the finest whisky in Japan, and their 18 years old expression is rich, oily, dark and rammed with flavours of oak, spices and rich red fruits.

Ireland

The quintessential Islay malt, this whisky is packed with earthy, medicinal flavours, which, if you love, hit the spot. Not for everyone, however.

Sweden

Photographs: iStockphoto and Getty Images; maps by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint; bottle images courtesy respective distilleries

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INDULGE | December 2011

December 2011 |

INDULGE

13


malt profile Photo: Ayack

Great whisky is made everywhere. From the rocky shores of Scotland to Japan’s Kyoto prefecture. We profile five of the best makers of the wee dram in the world.

Scotland

The Ardbeg Distillery By Joel harrison

S

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ingle malt Scotch whisky has developed a burgeoning following over the past 15 years. Within this “religion” there are several sects, the most voracious being the followers of Islay whisky. The Isle of Islay is a small island situated off the western coast of Scotland. Only accessible by ferry or a short flight from Glasgow airport, Islay is often known as the Whisky Isle because it is home to no less than eight single malt Scotch whisky distilleries that are famed for their use of the local natural resource— peat. Peat is a compact, coal-like substance naturally produced over thousands of years. When dried and burnt, peat gives off an aromatic smoke, which the local Islay distilleries use to infuse their barley before making their whisky. This gives a smoky, slightly medicinal, yet earthy quality to the spirit, hints of which can be found in the famous blend Johnnie Walker. All baring one of the eight distilleries on the island,

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INDULGE | December 2011

This peated whisky is strong and full in flavour, certainly worth a try

Bunnahabhain, produce “peated” whisky with three distilleries occupying the small, south-eastern edge of the isle. Known as the Kildalton distilleries, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg lie along a 2-mile stretch of a road leading up from Port Ellen, one of the island’s main docks. Ardbeg distillery is situated at the furthermost end of the Kildalton road, and, with just 1.15 million litres of alcohol produced a year, has the smallest output of the “Kildalton Three”. The boutique nature of their production, coupled with the house style of heavily peated, heavily smoked whisky has created a brand that now holds cult status among whisky drinkers with a palate for the peated product. The demand for Ardbeg was amplified by the closure of the distillery between 1982 and 1996, meaning pre-closure whisky is in high demand and incredibly collectable. Owned by Glenmorangie, which is, in turn, owned by (Louis Vuitton) Moet Hennessy, the company has focused on creating a boutique peated whisky brand with the only current regular age statement release being

The boutique nature of production, coupled with the house style of heavily peated, heavily smoked whisky has created a brand that now holds cult status among whisky drinkers an excellent 10-year-old. Other expressions in the range include the lightly peated Blasda (good for those just discovering smoky whisky), and the expressions named Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, which contain Ardbeg matured in European oak casks, leading to an explosion of rich smoke flavours. Not for everyone, peated whisky is strong and full in flavour, but certainly worth a try. I


Malt profile

Photo: Balvenie

Scotland

The Balvenie Distillery By Joel harrison

S

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cotland is currently at the zenith of single malt whisky production. Over the last 200 years, the country has been at the forefront of honing distillation techniques and embracing experimentation with maturation, using different types of oak casks, which have previously housed all sorts of beverages, from bourbon to beer and from Madeira to Muscat wine. With each passing year, it seems the industry is becoming leaner and more productive with gigantic steps forward in production methods, ethical awareness and ecological advancement. How nice it is then to see a distillery striving to maintain much of the traditional elements of the craft that first helped the industry flourish way back in 1823, when the Excise Act was passed and the making of whisky in Scotland became legal. Until that point, despite a plethora of small distilleries dotted across the countryside, it was illegal to produce whisky in Scotland. However, with the passing of this

Balvenie provides a whisky that is thoughtfully made with tradition at its heart

new law, distillers were able to buy a licence, pay their taxes, and run a legitimate business. As a result, supporting trades such as coopering (barrel-making), the art of the coppersmith (who would make and maintain the all-important copper stills), and the act of growing and malting barley could develop into serious businesses. As the sector grew, these individual skills became outsourced to specialist companies, and today, the majority of distilleries will use one of a selection of large cooperages in Scotland for their barrels, employ the services of a major coppersmith company to maintain their equipment, and will purchase their malted barley from a large factory known as a maltings. At the Balvenie distillery in Speyside, however, the key crafts of malting, coopering and coppersmithing are still employed as part of the core team, giving this small distillery a unique step-backin-time approach in its whiskymaking. The much smaller, boutique, sister distillery to Glenfiddich distillery, the Balvenie handcrafts 5.6 million litres a year of spirit for its range of single malt Scotch

At Balvenie, the key crafts of malting, coopering and coppersmithing are still employed as part of the core team, giving it a unique step-backin-time approach in its whisky-making

whisky, which includes the DoubleWood 12 years old, matured in American oak whisky barrels with additional maturation in European oak sherry barrels; Signature 12 years old, matured in three different styles of oak barrels; and age statement releases ranging from 17 years old up to 30 and 40 years old. Always an assured bet when travelling through duty-free retail zones, the Balvenie provides a whisky that is thoughtfully made with tradition at its heart. I

December 2011 |

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malt profile

Photo: Neil Clifton

The Old Bushmills Distillery By Joel harrison

C

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ommonly regarded as the home of whiskymaking, Ireland’s malt whisky brands have been overshadowed by their neighbours in Scotland for the better part of 100 years. The largest distillery in Ireland is the Midleton distillery in County Cork. With an enormous output of more than 30 million litres of pure alcohol a year, the majority of whisky produced at this giant distillery finds its way into the likes of the Jameson, Redbreast and Green Sport whisky brands. But for a true single malt distillery, one must look to the north of the island, to the Old Bushmills distillery. The first place under the British Crown to be granted a licence to distil in 1608 (the date still appears on all its bottles), the distillery buildings on the current site were built in 1784 and today produce in the region of 4.5 million litres of alcohol per year. Such

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INDULGE | December 2011

The only single malt from Ireland

was the power of the brand in the 19th century that in 1890, the distillery bought a steamship, the S.S. Bushmills, to help distribute its product across the globe and, thus, insure the brand’s place in history. Bushmills adheres to a practice that sets Irish whisky apart from Scotch: triple distillation. Only one distillery in Scotland, Auchentoshan, uses this method, which adds an additional level of purification to the production of the spirit, giving Bushmills a light and fruity character before being matured in oak casks. Now owned by Diageo, Bushmills has seen large investment over the past few years and is helping to regenerate interest in Irish whisky, but it still sits behind Jameson and Tullamore Dew in the sales rankings, despite being the only single malt. The distillery has a hugely popular visitor centre that attracts more than 100,000 tourists a year to the beautiful spot just under two miles from the northerly aspects of the Northern Irish coastline. The core range of Bushmills’

Bushmills adheres to a practice that sets Irish whisky apart from Scotch—triple distillation. It gives an additional level of purification to the product single malts includes a 10-year-old, the 16-year-old matured for a period in barrels once containing port, and a 21-year-old matured partially in Madeira casks. The brand also lends its name to two blended whiskies, Black Bush and Bushmills Original, both of which contain whiskies from other Ireland-based distilleries. I

Ireland


malt profile

Photo: Doug Coldwell

US

The Four Roses Distillery By Joel harrison

T

feedback@livemint.com he US is home to the liquor known as bourbon whiskey. Made using a mixture of at least 50% corn (maize) and other cereals, it must be matured in brand-new, American white oak barrels. The influence of fresh oak mixed with the high temperature levels found in Kentucky—where the majority of bourbon is made—leads to bourbon having an intensely rich, woody and sweet flavour. Perfect for sipping neat or mixing in a cocktail, bourbon whiskey is the byword for bartending when creating classic whiskey cocktails. Established as a brand in 1888, the Four Roses distillery was purpose-built in 1910 in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and forms part of the Bourbon Trail, an initiative to promote the historic distilleries that make the liquor in Kentucky. Other famous names that are part of the trail include the Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark distilleries, with Four Roses being the least-known brand in the pack. In the years immediately after prohibition, Four Roses bourbon whiskey was the biggest selling

This distillery can make up to 10 different styles of spirits and combine them to create unique and distinct products brand in the US. However, the popularity declined in the 1950s and the then owners, Seagram, pulled the product from sale. Since its purchase by Japanese drinks company Kirin Brewery, the brand has found a renewed marketing push that underlines the quality of the liquid in the bottle. Four Roses is made using two unique formulas of cereal, which are, in turn, influenced by five different types of yeast. The result is a distillery that can make up to 10 different styles of spirits and can combine these to create unique and distinct products such as their Small Batch bottlings. The core range of Four Roses

Since its purchase by Japan’s Kirin Brewery, the brand has found a renewed marketing push, which underlines the quality of the liquid in the bottle

bourbon consists of Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel, with Super Premium and Black Label expressions only available in Japan. Each year, master distiller Jim Rutledge uses his 40 years’ experience in the business to create a limited edition expression of the whiskey, which is hugely sort-after among collectors and drinkers alike. Little known, but hugely respected by both whiskey and cocktail experts, Four Roses is a bourbon that should be tried whenever you see it, as it will open your eyes to the quality and flavours available from this category. I

December 2011 |

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malt profile

Photo: Bergman

Japan

The Yamazaki Distillery

By Joel harrison

M

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uch to the ire of Scotland, Japan is fast becoming the byword for single malt whisky, with the two largest distillers in the country—Suntory and Nikka—producing some of the finest whiskies to hit the world in the last 10 years. Suntory was co-founded by Masataka Taketsuru and his business partner Shinjiro Torii in 1924. An organic chemist who spent some time studying in Scotland, part

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INDULGE | December 2011

Situated in the foothills between Kyoto and Osaka, Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest whisky distillery and has a current output of around 3.5 million litres per year

of Taketsuru’s training involved working at a number of Scotch whisky distilleries. On his return to Japan in 1920, he and wineimporter friend Torii established the Yamazaki distillery. Sadly, the two fell out and Taketsuru left to build his own distillery, Yoichi, in 1934, the company now known as Nikka. The increased competition between the two companies has served a vital purpose in pushing the development of Japanese whisky forward and positioning it in a place where it can legitimately challenge the quality of the single malt whisky made in Scotland.

The two largest distillers in the country—Suntory and Nikka—are producing some of the finest whiskies to hit the world in the last 10 years

However, it is not just in the single malt department where the Japanese are excelling; they are doing well in the blended segment too. Suntory produces the awardwinning Hibiki range of blended whiskies using malts produced at their Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries and some aged grain whisky from their Chita distillery. Partially matured in casks that had previously held plum liqueur, the result is a terrific blend packed with flavour and comes in core age statements of 12-year-old, 17-year-old, 21-year-old and 30-year-old. Situated in the foothills between Kyoto and Osaka, Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest whisky distillery and has a current output of around 3.5 million litres (of pure alcohol) per year. Its current range includes the Yamazaki single malt and age statement whisky at 10, 12, 18, 25, 35 and 50 years. Its recent limited edition, the Yamazaki 1984, won the gold medal for the best single malt at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2010 and the Hibiki 21 won the same honour in the blended segment at the World Whiskies Awards the same year. Japanese whisky is certainly one to keep an eye on, and Suntory’s Yamazaki provides a benchmark of quality in this arena. I


Tough questions about the good life 1. What is the best tweed in the world? 2. Does it make sense to invest in some excellent Montepulciano? 3. I think I am ready for my first grand complication watch. Should I go for the minute repeater? Or aim straight for a tourbillon? 4. Ok, I am here at Savile Row. Now what? 5. I want something that is like the Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt. But not the Yamazaki. Help! From the perfect gift to the indulgent holiday, starting January 2012, the Mint Indulge team of experts, columnists and roving reporters will help solve your finer dilemmas. Simply email your queries to indulge@livemint.com


milestones

Dave Broom on...

The Emotions Of Drinking Great Whisky My light-bulb moment, when it comes to malt whisky, happened over a Talisker

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he drams that are memorable are memorable first of all because of the place, the moment and the people I shared the whisky with. Some of the drams are fantastic because of the quality of the whisky. But many are memorable because of the resonance of the moment. This is an important thing to underline about whisky, that it is a sociable drink. Whisky is about sharing. It is not about sitting down and jealously guarding your glass from other people. A large part of what makes a whisky special for me is drinking it with the right people at the right time. I suppose the first most memorable dram is what I like to call the “lightbulb” moment. You know, that moment in those Hollywood cartoons when someone suddenly thinks of something and that light bulb appears above his head. My lightbulb moment, when it comes to malt whisky, happened over a Talisker. An old version of Talisker, the eight-yearold. I was with two friends...in the late 1980s, and we were driving to a dance. This is in the far west of Scotland, a really remote part of Scotland. Typical Scottish landscape. It was a 30-minute drive through some tough roads. So we decided we needed some fortification for the journey. Not for the driver of course, just for us passengers. And Talisker was what we had with us. And it was at that moment; drinking the whisky, and looking out at the landscape... It all just seemed to make sense. The whisky was from this landscape. I, as a Scot, was from this landscape. It all made sense. But also I could make no sense of it whatsoever. I had no idea how these flavours got into the whisky. So that day I decided to learn more about whisky. I originally studied English at university. This was during the recession in the early 1980s. It was hard to find jobs. Eventually, I went to work for a wine merchant. I was still working there when the great Talisker moment happened. I genuinely still see that landscape when I drink whisky. If you remove whisky from its history, its people and its landscape...it just becomes a product. The problem that spirits have worldwide is that people think of them as technological products. They think spirits are industrial, while wine is considered a product of the earth. And people get very excited about things such as terroir. They don’t think about whisky in the same way. But they should. Whisky is absolutely a product of where it is made. And I find it interesting that the more I learn about whisky, and about the chemistry that gives it taste and flavour, the more I learn about the environment in which it is made. The more you look, the more you see how the local culture resonates in the drink. And it is troublesome if people lose sight of that and if industries lose sight of that. Because then, whisky no longer becomes the manifestation of all that is Scotland. It becomes just another product. The magic is gone. And it is the magic that people latch on to. After drinking whisky now for

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If you remove whisky from its history, its people and its landscape...it just becomes a product many years, the experience is still magical for me. Right now, when I look around my cluttered office...at the moment, I have 40 new whiskies waiting to be tasted over the weekend. These are 40 flavours I have never tried before. There are always new products, new people making and drinking it, new iterations...it is always magical. You hear a lot of people talk about how whisky is about much more than just the spirit in a bottle. And this is not bullshit. (Pardon my English, but I am from Glasgow.) There are seemingly endless layers to whisky. It is much, much more than just a product. Talisker is still one of my favourites. It is like how you never forget your first kiss. But I find it funny when people ask me what is my favourite whisky. Right now, any one of these 40 whiskies in my office could become my favourite for the next few days. Another one of my unforgettable drams was in Japan. I’d never drunk a Japanese whisky till I went to Japan.

I land in Japan, take the bullet train up to Kyoto, and then drive up to the Yamazaki distillery. So I am jet-lagged, culture-shocked, all this is going on, and we immediately start off with a tasting. And I get this glass of whisky presented to me. It smells like nothing I’ve ever smelt before. The whisky was brilliant. But the aroma was completely off the wall. So I asked Seiichi Koshimizu, the master blender, how he would describe the aroma. Koshimizu-san immediately says, “Ah! This is the aroma of Japanese temples.” Which was not hugely helpful (laughs), because I’d never been to Japanese temples. He was right, of course. The whisky was aged in Japanese oak that has the same chemical compounds as the material used to make the incense sticks burnt in Japanese temples. At that point, I knew I had to find out about Japanese whisky. These days, I go there a couple of times a year. Then there was the time I went to the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, in the US. And Jimmy Russell, the master distiller, has been making Wild Turkey for some 60 years! It is quite an experience to sit with him, this Buddha of whisky making, and drinking the whisky in the land it comes from. After all these years, I still get surprised by whiskies. For instance, sometimes you come across distilleries

that weren’t well known because they were used mostly in blends. And then suddenly you find whiskies from brands such as Balblair and BenRiach that are excellent. That just comes from nowhere. Also, two casks from the same distillery, filled on the same day, sitting next to each other all the time, and then when you open them they taste very different. They have completely different personalities. If I were to be stranded on a desert island with just five or six bottles of whisky...well, there has to be a Talisker. Then a Redbreast, probably the 12-year-old cask strength. It is higher strength and it’d last a little longer on the island if I kept adding water. I would take a Balvenie, probably the Tun 1401. Definitely a Highland Park 18 years old. I think it is the industry’s second-favourite whisky. It just has this exemplary balance. Then I would take a Springbank 15 years old, an encapsulation of so many whisky characteristics in one bottle. I

Dave Broom has written about spirits for more than 20 years. Besides writing primarily for the Whisky Magazine, Broom contributes to other publications including Malt Advocate and imbibe. He is also chairman of the judging panel at the prestigious annual World Whisky Awards. Respond to this column at feedback@livemint.com As told to Sidin Vadukut.



Indulge dec 2011