“India as a country has a mature population of whisky-drinkers, but the single malt is something that is only catching up now, and the potential is only getting better,” opined Ian Millar.
Global Brand Ambassador for William Grant&Sons’ most favoured and popular product - Glenfiddich, Millar was recently in the city as a apart of the single-malt ‘Glenfiddich City Trail 2012’ across the country. Though Glenfiddich forayed into the Indian market in 2009, this is the first time that the whisky brand is making a personal visit to its patrons down south.
Here for just a day, the ambassador hosted a tasting session, complemented by a food pairing session where patrons were taken on a liquid gold journey through the Glenfiddich 12, 15, 18 and 21.
“As a company policy, we like to keep things personal and intimate. It isn’t just the numbers; if I’ve met 21 new people the last time I was here, I would like to meet them once again the next time I’m here instead of moving on to a newer lot.” And true to his motive, Millar spent the session talking his way through the samples and interacting with his guests.
Science behind liquor
While drinking is essentially a personal habit with preferences specific to the consumer, Millar says that the right pairing goes a long way in making the experience better. “Different ages of whisky have different flavours going from them. The liquor is mostly casked in American Oak wood, but also European wood. Over a period of time, the wood enhances the flavour of the malt, while also diminishing the volatility of the liquor, reducing the volume by a certain percentage,” he explains, continuing, “The flavours that are incorporated are keeping in mind that they are robust enough to enhance the overall taste and quality. So when pairing your food, it’s best to choose something that will set off the flavours in both the food and whisky.”
Thus, in case of the Glenfiddich 12 which has a hint of pear, washing it down with a pear wouldn’t really enhance the taste of the whisky.
“How you drink is really upto you, but the advice is there if you want it,” he gently points out.
The new Indian consumer
While alcohol consumption in has largely been male-driven, Millar says that the Indian woman is turning out to be a fairly confident customer. “In my experience, especially through Asia, the Indian woman is a lot more confident and can be seen opting for whisky more commonly. I see them with their friends, sitting comfortably at the bar, with no qualms.” Sometime around 2002, statistics put the population of female consumers at two per cent. But that number has since become obsolete. Chipping in, Cherryn Rastogi, brand manager for Grant’s, India, who pointed out the statistic, says, “Women are now shopping at liquor stores themselves, and that in itself shows the radical change in times.” Agreeing, Millar opines that the place where Indian women find themselves in today is where women from across the Asia aspire to be. “Women from the other countries, especially Japan, want to be that liberal, but are yet to make it. For Indian women, the growing preference for whisky I think is a way of them standing their ground. They come in, have their fun and few drinks, but know when to stop, unlike men.”
Whisky is best had when...
“The ideal way to drink whisky is to warm it; the temperature brings out essence of the liquor. Which is why we have custom-made stem-less glasses that fit comfortably in your palm, giving one a steady grip and warming the alcohol,” explains Millar. While his personal favourite is the Glenfiddich 15, the 21 is what is largely coveted. “Intense and sweet, the 21 is smooth. The older the liquor, the better.” Contrary to the Indian practice of having whisky with soda or on the rocks, Millar says whisky with a few drops of water is also an effective way of bringing out the flavour.
For smokers, though Millar isn’t one himself, he suggests a cigar would be better suited as a companion to the liquid than cigarettes. “With a cigar, you sniff it first. So the flavours of both mix really well. Though, if you don’t mind waking up with a nasty taste in your mouth the next day, then you’d appreciate the mix of tobacco and liquor,” he winks mischievously.