Ian Millar, Glenfiddich’s global brand ambassador and a master distiller with over 30 years experience in the Scotch whisky trade, has worked for a number of distillers in various technical and production roles.
Millar’s mission, while in India, was to pair Glenfiddich’s core range of four single malts—the 12-, 15-, 18- and 21-year-olds—with an array of delicacies in fine-dining hot spots in New Delhi and Mumbai. In New Delhi, the Glenfiddich City Trail took Millar through four of the city’s premier culinary destinations: ITC Maurya Sheraton, Taj Palace, WelcomHotel/Sheraton and Taj Mahal Hotel. Selected chefs from each outlet presented four dishes created taking into consideration the four core variants of Glenfiddich single malt. Miller left his signatures against the selected pairing on the menu for diners.
When we meet Millar in New Delhi, Scottish kilt in place, he is holding on to a narrow-mouthed nosing glass that helps warm the whisky and funnel its aromas. “Simply cup your glass with both hands for a few moments before nosing until the glass starts to feel warm,” says Millar. “By transfering more heat to the whisky the aromas become more pronounced, allowing you to get a proper whiff prior to drinking.”
Millar spoke to us about whisky ettiquette and what to keep in mind while pairing single malt with food. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Ian Miller, global brand ambassador, Glenfiddich at the whisky tasting in Maurya Sheraton. Priyanka Parashar / Mint
Is there a particular age group or segment you’re looking to reach out to in India? How do whisky and food pairing sessions help?
We’ve noticed that the single malt drinker in India is getting younger. It was earlier a 35-plus group, but now people are getting their first taste of single malt in their early 20s. We conduct whisky pairing sessions around the world and the intention is to entice people who’re not in the whisky segment yet. We always place wine on the table to create a safe environment since single malt is an acquired taste.
What is a cardinal rule for single malt and food pairing?
The trick is in pairing complementary flavours. So if the malt has pear notes, the dish should have, say, orange notes.
What works best with Indian food?
Since Indian food tends to be heavier on spices, a 12-year-old single malt would be too mild. The 15- and 18-year-old Glenfiddich single malts would work best with most Indian flavours.
On to the actual consumption of a single malt: How do you prepare for a nosing?
The right mood is important. When you’re nosing, ensure that there are no other smells in the room. Also be sure to rinse the glasses with water before.
There’s much talk and debate on the ideal manner to have single malt. What’s your take on that?
Malt whisky has some really unique subtle flavours which you can enjoy both at bottle strength or with some spring water. Younger palates find it easier to add water to contract the flavours and it becomes easier to consume it this way. There are a lot of malt critics who go about producing diktats but that’s keeping people away. All I’d say is that there are no rules when it comes to malt.
The winning combinations chosen by Ian Millar as part of the Glenfiddich City Trail in New Delhi
• ITC Maurya, New Delhi: My Humble House — Chef Shivneet Pohoja
Glenfiddich 18-year-old — steamed scallops with malted black bean (delicate atlantic scallops enriched with flavour-rich, matured soy bean paste).
• Taj Palace, New Delhi: Blue Bar — Chef Gaurav Tandon
Glenfiddich 12 years old — Thai Chicken Satay (tender chicken supremes flavoured with lemongrass essence, coconut milk and peanut Hoisin sauce, served char-grilled with pickled vegetables).
• WelcomHotel / Sheraton, New Delhi: Pan Asian—Chef Rajkamal
Glenfiddich 15 year old — Asian Salad (salad of assorted greens along with slivers of fresh salmon and tuna), or Soba Salad (a chilled salad made of buckwheat noodles tossed together with crisp vegetables).
• Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi: Grill Room — Chef Nilesh Dey
Glenfiddich 21 years old — Mirabel of strawberry dacquoise, mascarpone, custard apple and candid persimmon ice cream.