Nothing delights a whiskey connoisseur like the golden hue of single malt dancing playfully with crystal clear ice cubes. The aroma ranging from smoky, citrusy, fruity, nutty or even toffee seduces the olfactory senses. And just at this moment, one knows there is no exaggeration in saying that this manna from heaven is not to so much to be sipped as worshipped. Often considered a complex spirit, given the multitude of textures, stages of tasting involved, this big brother is second to none in drinking snobbery, confined largely to be consumed with water, soda or neat. However, of late, mixologists and industry experts are warming up to the malt as their favourite spirit to make cocktails. The reason — They find its intricacy challenging and there is also a popular demand to replace traditional bases like vodka, Bacardi, tequila with scotch and single malt.
Unravelling the mystery
“Single malt as a spirit has its own character because of a different style of production and the base grain used. Hence, it is a bit difficult to mix it, and requires a great understanding of flavours and combinations. Making whiskey cocktails is fun because it involves a lot of trials and ‘crazy’ permutations. Each ingredient we select should complement whiskey’s flavour rather than dominate it,” says Nitin Tewari, bar and beverage expert, Baar Baar.
The place serves Whiskey Swizzle, Dewar’s Berry Sour, Nutty’s Old Fashioned — all with single malt as its base, along with classic cocktails. At The Hong Kong Club in Andaz Delhi, Sun Wukong that has Coconut Scotch, Banana Liqueur, Five Spice, Yuzu and Bitters is climbing up the popularity charts while at The Blue Bar, Taj Palace, Dark Empire — a 16-year-old date-infused Lagavulin with dry sherry, spice bitters and syrup, is being sipped admirably by staunch single malt loyalists.
Toasting rare ingredients
Angad Singh Gandhi, brand ambassador, Glenfiddich India sheds light on the new trend. He says, “The love for a good single malt whiskey is not a recent occurrence in India, but rather has been the case for decades. However, consumers are increasingly more aligned towards experimenting, with growing interest to know more about the history and the drinking notes of the whiskey they drink.” In a recent initiative by the brand, ‘Cocktails Reimagined’, bar chefs experimented with unique ingredients handpicked from diverse parts of India to create unusual cocktails. The ingredients included rare findings such as The Silver Tips Full-moon Tea, the Castleton Muscatel Second Flush, premium Kashmiri Walnuts, a bay leaf from Assam and the Gung Giri estate’s premium coffee that enhanced the flavour of the single malt.
“Unconventional whiskey pairings in the form of cocktails prepared with exotic ingredients are being appreciated in India. Unique and innovative production processes to offer a new kind of malt whiskey experience is pushing the boundaries of the new wave,” he adds.
Younger blends and malts are in
Connoisseurs and youth alike are diving into the world of the malt to appreciate the spirit. If the former is unspooling the taste and aroma, the latter is also finding its sweet spot in this ‘adult’ drink. Tanuj Kapur, bar manager, Tipple at Vivanta Dwarka, shares, “The use of single malt in cocktails has resulted in rediscovering the taste of a traditional drink with a new blend. Single malts are easily available today, and the younger audience wants to experiment and engage in a new experience. Younger blends and malts are the trend in bars today.” Tipple has Blue Hawain Scotch made with Peach Schnapps, peach puree and egg white, on its list of cocktails.
Arup Panda, beverage manager, JW Marriott in Aerocity, meanwhile, backs Indian flavours for popularising whiskey as a cocktail spirit. “Diners are loving the infusion of Indian flavours too. It is intriguing to see familiar ingredients teaming effortlessly with scotch or malt and creating blockbuster hits.” He shares bartenders are using essentially Indian ingredients like tamarind juice, aam panna, kokum, masala tea, shikanji, jaljeera, jamun, kalakhatta, sugarcane juice, golgappapani with whiskey. The Imli Sour at the hotel is a mix of JD, tamarind jaggery mix, sugar and lime to balance the taste.
Not a fad
Experts bat for the trend as not a passing fad despite whiskey lovers who enjoy their tipple neat. “There is a growing trend of experimentation among consumers whose varied taste have given rise to the popularity of single malt whiskey. More youngsters are willing to experiment and enjoy a handcrafted cocktail that brings out the flavour of single malt and the ingredients beautifully,” says Gandhi.