A hint of sweet fruit or cake in whisky? The connoisseur may recoil at the thought but whisky manufacturers are warming up to the idea. So you get a surprise treat when you sip on Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple, which has sweet, not tangy, notes of green apple. The flavoured dram from the American brand was launched in India in September, a year after its global launch, joining other global brands that have introduced flavoured whiskies which can be enjoyed as is or as a cocktail.
The same month, Glenmorangie launched A Tale of Cake, a single malt which, as the name suggests, tastes like cake. Two months earlier, the US brand Two Spice had introduced a pumpkin spice peppermint flavoured whisky.
The pandemic lockdowns and restrictions seem to have opened up the world of flavours for whisky drinkers in India; they are more willing to experiment, sealing a trend that has been taking shape for some time, with gin and vodka to begin with. “Unlike the pre-pandemic time when people would visit bars for their favourite drink, millennials now prefer to polish their mixology skills at home. The new generation is experimental and loves to try cocktails or spirits on-the-rocks,” explains Ajay Nayyar, brand ambassador of Diageo India. Brands, on their part, are keen to be more accessible, through dashes of creativity and stories.
That begs a question though: Is it even whisky—malty, smoky and complex—if it’s flavoured?
In the world of whiskies, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The idea is not to overpower the spirit with a fruit or spice, just add a hint of flavour. Jack Daniel’s, for instance, melds its in-house apple-flavoured liqueur with the original whisky No.7. A few years ago, it had followed a similar recipe for Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire—blending in-house liqueurs with No.7.
“I think the popularity of flavoured whiskies lies in bringing together two complementary tastes in a new way. Flavours not only give consumers more choice but also help in attracting newer ones,” says Chris Fletcher, master distiller at Jack Daniel’s.
Traditionally, of course, whiskies shone on their own. But the steady rise of craft cocktails—pioneered by gin—has created a space for spirits that mingle but do not overwhelm.
“The traditional bottles will not go out of style. But brands are introducing small-batch collections or limited editions to stir in some excitement and appeal to niche audiences who like whisky cocktails. Let’s say someone is a fan of Old Fashioned; a spiced honey-flavoured whisky is for them. And a whisky loyalist would add a shining new boutique bottle in his collection,” explains Delhi-based mixologist and beverage consultant Nitin Tewari.
For whisky variations, he says, master blenders had largely been experimenting with barrels so far. The UK brand Glenfiddich has a segment, Experimental Series, for its small-batch collections. Recently, it aged a single malt in IPA barrels as a nod to beer lovers. But experimenting with casks is no longer enough—the thrill lies in discovering flavours.
“Flavoured whiskies like Glenmorangie’s A Tale Of Cake indicate the rising trend of a flavour-first mindset,” says Shehan Minocher, brand ambassador, Moët Hennessy India. The parent company of Glenmorangie is Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton.
Flavours unlock curiosity. So, Glenmorangie’s A Tale Of Cake—best sipped on the rocks, with a splash of water—is focused on storytelling, with the flavour notes mimicking an old-school cake that draws inspiration from the brand’s director of distilling and whisky creation, Bill Lumsden. His fondest memories involve cake—be it baking with his grandmother as a young boy, or the upside down pineapple cake his daughter would make for his birthday.
“We (Glenmorangie) now focus less on talking about the technical aspects of whisky-making as that can come across as intimidating. We talk about creativity, inspiration and unique stories, to connect better with the next generation of single malt drinkers,” says Minocher. In keeping with this, their latest social media campaign comes with the catchy hashtag #MadeToMix, to promote cocktails with single malt. Whisky is all set to be more social.
WHISKY COCKTAILS AT HOME
JACK APPLE MULE
60ml Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple
Top with ginger beer
1 squeeze of fresh lime
1 lime wedge for garnish
Pour Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple over ice. Add a splash of ginger beer and fresh lime and stir. Garnish with lime wedge.
—by Chris Fletcher, master distiller, Jack Daniel’s
JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK & ORANGE
50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 YO
150ml ginger ale Orange peel
Lots of clear ice
Take ice in a tall glass, add whisky, stir. Pour in the ginger ale and stir. Twist the orange peel and place atop the glass.
—by Ajay Nayyar, Diageo India brand ambassador
60ml Jim Beam whisky
5-8 fresh mint leaves
15ml orange syrup
15ml lime juice
6-8 ice cubes
A terracotta glass
In a mixing glass, pour in the whisky, fresh mint, orange syrup, lime juice and ice cubes. Cover and give it a good shake. Pour into terracotta glass, garnish with mint and dehydrated orange and serve. —by Nitin Tewari, mixologist