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Ian Logan: There is no right or wrong way of drinking whisky

Ian Logan, international brand ambassador for the whisky, has been involved in many aspects of the industry

Ian Logan.
Ian Logan.

The Glenlivet, according to the annual report of Pernod Ricard, the French company that owns the brand, sold one million nine-litre cases in 2015-16. The whisky, produced in the eponymous distillery in Scotland’s Speyside, is one of the oldest and best-selling single malts across the world.

In fact, it was the No.1 single malt in India with a 34% market share in 2015, according to a report by International Wine and Spirit Research, a global leader in data and analysis on the alcoholic beverage market.

Ian Logan, international brand ambassador for the whisky, has been involved in many aspects of the industry. He became the brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers (the whisky maker is part of Pernod Ricard and uses whiskies from the Glenlivet distillery to make its blends) in 2004 and has a “particular passion for The Glenlivet". “You become a part of the fabric," Logan says. “When you’re standing at the distillery with John Smith’s pistol in your hand, it is an incredible feeling."

Logan, 48, is quick with a joke and very amiable. “I have so many stories that I tell every second person a different story," he says. “Half the time I don’t know what I am going to tell people myself. And that scares me."

He was in Delhi recently and spoke on the sidelines of The Glenlivet Sensology evening, the first such event in the country. Edited excerpts:

What is The Glenlivet Sensology programme and what is the need for it?

Sensology, when we started it 18 months ago, was to try and make people use their senses to decipher the aromas and the tastes in the whisky they drink. The colour of the whisky can tell you a great deal about it. Smell, or aroma, in particular is the most emotional and evocative of all our senses but we don’t use it enough. We are trying to tell people to do that. The pop when the cork comes out of the bottle is the most amazing sound in the world, especially if the bottle belongs to someone else (laughs).

We are trying to encourage people to use these senses more. I will give you an example. I was recently in Canada and there, during an event, I asked people to think about apples. Then I asked them whether they were thinking about red apples or green ones. Nobody had an answer. Then I told them red apples are sweeter, the green ones, crunchier and sourer. And until you mention it like this, people don’t think about it.

So Sensology is about taking that one step further…

Single malt or blend? And why?

Depends on where I am and what I am doing. When I’m home and relaxed, I’d drink a single malt. That’s where I am in my comfort zone. Sometimes when Jenni (Ian’s wife) and my son are in bed, the cats are inside, I turn the lights off, pour a single malt and settle down and enjoy. If I am in a crazy pub in Hong Kong, the noise is going to overtake all my senses anyway. So, long drink and blended whisky.

Is there a Japanese or Irish threat to Scotch?

No. Well, if you look at Japan, there are probably eight-nine distilleries. In Ireland, only Midleton is of any size. But there are 150 malt distilleries working in Scotland.

As for the whiskies from these regions, well, I would say the more the merrier. It creates interest for all of us. But you know people won’t go to a bar and ask for a Chinese or a Canadian whisky. They will ask for a Scotch. So Scotch is still the most aspirational drink in the world.

How important is ageing and what is your take on no-age whiskies?

I would tweak that a bit and say that the quality of the cask in which the whisky is matured is more important. Arguably, about 60-70% of the aroma and the flavour come from the wood. As for ageing, older doesn’t always mean better. Rarer, sure, but not always better. Different whiskies take to ageing differently. There are many whiskies that drink better when they are young.

When you go to a bar, you don’t think you’ll have a 15-year-old or a 21-year-old whisky but a fruity or smoky one. So I think people are more guided by the taste then they’d like to admit.

Have you tried the single malts from India?

Yes. Amrut is very popular in the UK. I haven’t yet tried the Paul John.

What is the single most common mistake people make while drinking good whiskies?

Not trusting their opinion. Trust your judgement. You drink for your pleasure so buy something that you enjoy and then drink it the way you like.

One of the best pieces on nosing and tasting that I have read is by a guy called Phillip Hills, who is the founder of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. According to him, there is no right or wrong way of drinking whisky. If you are not drinking it the way a whisky writer tells you to drink, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

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