How to enjoy your whisky

By Vineet Sharma | Last Updated: Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 14:40

Vineet Sharma

Indians love their drinks as much as anyone else on the planet. Despite the archaic rules and regulations of the government concerning the sale and serving of liquor, one knows for a fact that getting your hands on a peg or two in the country is not as tough as the rule books make it out to be.

Now here comes the sad part – we really have not much clue about how to drink the most consumed spirit in the country- whisky. For many experts of the trade, the Indian whisky is not ‘real’ whisky but rather another version of rum. But we’ll still call it whisky because the Indian rum is something entirely different to be compared to. So with any further ado, let’s crack the code of savouring the drink the right way, and that too keeping in mind the different sections of the consumers.

The Young Guns

For many college goers and newly working individuals, the process of drinking and getting tipsy is more important than actually going into the details of the drink. The most popular kind of whisky consumed the group is the ‘Prestige Segment’ of the Indian whisky hierarchy and it constitutes of brands like Royal Challenge, Royal Stag, Aristocrat Black, McDowell`s No. 1 Platinum and the likes.

These whiskies are quite hard on the palate and the olfactory lobes and for that reason, the young drinkers commit the mistake of masking the pungent fumes by adding generous helpings of cola, soda or water and sometimes all in various proportions. The result is an unsavoury concoction of sweet and bitter glass of poison that only serves the purpose of getting one high and the aftertaste often leads to the ungodly sight of puking trippers after just the first ‘hard’ peg.

An alternative to this can be the addition of four cubes of ice and a dollop of water, yes, water. No cola or sweet additives that wreak havoc on the stomach and heighten the next day’s hangover. Soda can also be used, but do it sparingly as it would lead to a dry throat by the third or fourth glass.

Another thing that must be remembered is to snack a bit, but not too much. No food in the stomach will result in alcohol poisoning and can have fatal results on binge drinking nights. Similarly, a heavy dose of fried goodies will only fill up the tummy to an extent that the alcohol won’t break down in the desired amount of time and you might end up throwing up the entire night’s contents of your stomach.

Salads and cheese (the fabled paneer) are the best option as accompaniments and a bit of namkeens will do the trick for the right combo to go with the peg.

The Seasoned Players

Ok, you’ve been drinking for a while now and have developed a knack for the bitter ambrosia. This section has varied tastes and can afford the luxury of jumping up a notch on ‘special’ occasions, celebrating and experimenting with the ‘Premium’ Segment and the much fabled scotch.

The popular brands of this gamut of drinkers are Antiquity Blue, McDowell`s Signature, Blender`s Pride, Vat 69 and Black Dog. The common mistake of this group is that they have been too used to diluting their drink with soda/water/cola from their early days and can’t give it up despite knowing that the usual water and ice would be the best option.

Since the whiskies of this group are usually malt blended and not entirely made out of molasses, braving a ‘neat’ peg or two might not be such a bad option. Also, go easy on the soda and use more water, preferable both in very less quantity so you can feel the flavour of the whisky on your tongue. This ways, you’d be able to classify which ones you like the most.

Eat fruits along with the blended Indian scotch/malt as the sweet flavour will be accentuated. Giving the usual ‘tandoori chicken’ and ‘chilly paneer’ a miss would be an awesome idea and since you’ve hit your middle age, don’t risk not drinking an extra glass of water for every drink you down.

Nursing you drink, taking time with it is key to a gleeful session where you can talk merrily and enjoy the company rather than proving your drinking ‘capacity’ to peers.

The Connoisseurs

There is a sizable populace in India that can be called consumers of the best whisky available across the globe. Testimony to the fact is the record sales of Johnnie Walker scotch, the world over, Indians swear by this brand, so much so that it might be called the Indian Rich Walker.

Red Label, Black Label, Blue Label, Gold Label – You name it, it’s sold here. This is a double edged sword as many a generations of affluent Indians have spent cases of the famous malt without touching any other malt at all!

Single malt whiskies like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan and Laphroaig must be tried by this group. It is definitely worth a change of taste and surely one would like the change in flavour. With options growing by the day, you can even be adventurous and try Japanese malt like Yamazaki and Suntory.

Americans and Irish are not too bad in making whiskies and the affluent youth of the metros is well versed with Jack Daniels and Stranahan`s. If you want to go that extra special bit, try Brogan`s Legacy Irish Single Malt or Clontarf, you’re bound to be delighted.

However, there is a big word of caution. The way fine whisky is consumed by most in India would result in them getting shot in Scotland! There is no way you can pardon diluting malt with water, let alone cola or soda.

Fine whisky must be taken in ‘neat’ or with three ice cubes at the most (anything more ‘waters’ down the malt, robbing it off its essence). Swirl it in your mouth for a bit and then gulp it slowly.

Spicy Indian snacks work with everything, but it is advisable to invest in good cheese and dark chocolate for an unforgettable experience. Again, the importance of crunchy salads dabbed with lime and ‘masala’ cannot be overlooked.

Try altering your drinking habits to the tune hummed above and you’d be on the road of becoming a better taster of whisky than a rouge gulper. Drink responsibly and moderately because as they say, too much of anything can be hazardous and destructive.

Three Cheers!



First Published: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 21:07
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