Mint Indulge | Editor’s note
Good tipple, bad tipple
The 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.
A global phenomenon
By Neil Ridley
When 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.
How a single malt is made
By Joel Harrison
Single 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.
On a high
By Joel Harrison
Demand 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.
Whisky in food
By Madhu Menon
What’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.
A buyer’s guide
By Joel Harrison
You’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.
Whisky in India
By Joel Harrison
Whisky 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.
By Joel Harrison
THE ARDBEG DISTILLERY | SCOTLAND
This peated whisky is strong and full in flavour, certainly worth a try
Single 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.
Twenty great single malt
By Joel Harrison
There 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.
Dave Broom on...the emotions of drinking great whisky
The 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.