Don’t forget about single malts as the temperature rises. There are a few ways to make them summer-friendly, notes Angad Singh Gandhi. The brand ambassador of Glenfiddich suggests using the dram to make Highballs instead of wondering if it’s the ultimate sin to stir a single malt into a cocktail. All that matters, he says, is to follow your palate. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How does one have single malt during summer?
One of the most refreshing ways to do so is by making a Highball with single malt and aerated soda. The latter could be regular soda, tonic water or ginger ale stirred with a huge chunk or clear block of ice. With this as the base, one can add variations with syrups and cordials, and top off with a citrus peel. For instance, mix in a berry syrup or tea cordial which pairs well with single malts. You can also make a spiked sorbet by pouring single malt over crushed ice.
Are you saying having a single malt in a cocktail is not sacrilege and one can look beyond the stereotype of whisky-on-the-rocks?
Don’t let the age-old adage of whisky-on-the-rocks stop you from enjoying the single malt exactly the way you want to. Traditions of drinking and cocktail-making have transformed globally. People are stepping out of their comfort zone to try single malts in myriad ways.
Have we evolved from Black Label, synonymous to our father’s generation, towards finer bottles?
Back in the day, options were limited and the most readily available brands were Black Label and Chivas. Single malt is not an old category of whiskies and it started to pick up in the sixties with Glenfiddich being the first brand from Scotland to be taken outside of the country. Today the younger consumer is spoilt for choices; from artisanal gins, Indian whiskies and a variety of tequilas or rums. People are cognizant of sustainability, curious about the use of ingredients and know how they want to have their drink. One can’t pinpoint whether millennials or Gen Z are drinking only single malts or a particular type of gin. Think of the world of spirits as a big pie with everyone having their share.
What are your thoughts on whisky trends in 2022?
As I mentioned earlier, there is an openness to experiment, and with newer whiskies coming in, brands are organising experiences like multi-course dinners and pairings with cigars or chocolates. In November, we did a collaboration with the luxury leather label Oblum in Hyderabad and the tasting took place at their studio. Traditionally, events like these were relegated to five-star hotels, but now standalone experiential venues are cooler. Few weeks ago, we collaborated with the chocolate label Mason and Co. for an interactive experience at Soho House, Mumbai. The one thing people are looking for is to know more than merely drinking whisky straight from a glass.
Do you mean that brands need to set the context to enjoy a drink?
Yes, you could look at it that way. Our endeavour is to introduce newer possibilities—be it with products or interesting cocktails—and occasions for drinking whisky. For instance, brands could bring together music or theatre artists to create a whisky experience.
What is happening on the producer's front? How are they innovating while being mindful of limited resources?
In the last five years there has been numerous experiments with cask finishes and barrel-aged whiskies. Back in the day, age made the most noise, and the dram would be left to mature for 21, 26 or 30 years. But, today the focus is on finishes. Last year, we launched Glenfiddich Grande Couronne, which is a 26-year-old whisky finished for two years in a cognac cask. It was an innovative product and the results were mind blowing. These are forward-looking spirits heralding change from the old-school ways of working. The other part of the production aspect is to be aware of waste. Last year, Glenfiddich converted its delivery trucks to run on low-emission biogas made from waste products from our own whisky distilling process . It is part of our closed loop sustainability initiative with the aim to run zero waste distilleries in the near future.
Let me go back to the age factor. Does it no longer hold true?
It holds true; age determines the flavour and the longer a whisky ages, the better it tastes. But, now the determining factor for whiskies is the consumer's experience and not how long it’s aged. There are younger whiskies too offering complex flavours. A premium bottle like Monkey Shoulder makes no statement related to age; it's a marriage of two or more single malts and it’s doing brilliant across markets. This tells us consumers today don’t shy away from paying a premium for an evolved whisky which does not have an age tape. All they do is follow their palate.
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