Lock, stock, and barrels of Scotch

The fond place that Scotch occupies among tipplers


India’s love affair with whisky is like the rare vintage bottle—nursed and nurtured over time. We boast of the oldest continually used distillery—established by the British in Kasauli in the early 19th century. Need more proof of the romance? India went tipsy by consuming close to 2.6 billion litres of spirits in 2015, making the size of the total alcohol market swell to nearly Rs2.5 trillion, according to Euromonitor’s annual report for 2016.

But whisky is a capricious damsel. She doesn’t even stick to one name. If born in the US, she is bourbon whiskey or Tennessee whiskey. If born out of Scotland’s malted barley, she loses her “e”. She comes in various forms and shapes. There is single malt, blended whisky, single pot still whisky, rye whiskey, corn whiskey and so on. But the single-malt whisky made by the Scots rules above every other variety.

Living in the spirits capital of India, Mumbai, this writer has been witness to the fond place that Scotch occupies among tipplers in the city. While beer and vodka may rule happy hours, the orders for a Jameson, a Johnnie Walker, are rising like the slow burn of the Scotch. Nestled in between these would be one for a Jack Daniel’s straight up.

Indeed, Indian whisky loyalists have stuck to their pegs. But in the minds of all whisky aficionados, there is a rack reserved for the just-beyond-the-fingertips bottles. So as we take the first sip of Ballantine’s or a Chivas Regal, we should think about getting one of these four amazing bottles:

Old Pulteney 1989 Vintage: This one is easy. Winner of the best single-malt Scotch whisky for 2016 at the World Whiskies Awards, this spirit packs an endearing honey and musky floral tone before finishing off with hints of saltiness. Priced at a little over £110 (around Rs9,130), the Pulteney is not over-the-top for serious whisky fans. The trick is to lay hands on one in India.

Redbreast Single Pot Still Whiskey (aged 15 years): This is an Irish whiskey that blends a fruitier taste while retaining the distinct oak feeling of Irish whiskies. It is priced at under £70 and a little over Rs7,000 at duty-free shops.

Nikka Whisky Taketsuru Pure Malt: Japanese whiskies are becoming quite the rage, and with good reason. The whisky is named after Masataka Taketsuru, hailed as the father of Japanese whisky. The palate is gentle, with a flavour of citrus, mature honey and gentle smoke and spices. It’s priced at around $60 (about Rs4,000) for the 12-year-old.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey: A unique liquor blended with Jack Daniel’s Old No.7, the honey gives an unexpected sweetness on top of the smooth sourness that is quintessential Jack. Priced at around Rs7,000, it is a steal for the grand experience it offers.

Whisky doesn’t allow herself many followers. Indeed, Scotch’s enchanting appeal is in making fans drink sip by sip. And we Indians are having one too many sips.

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