In a month-long programme to showcase Scotland’s finest single malt whiskies from its four distilling regions, Tim Etherington-Judge of Diageo Reserve Brands is getting consumers to experience and savour single malt in Mumbai.

“The idea is to help educate people with the specific brands that I work with. We take people on a journey around Scotland and show them the flavours. We let them know what makes single malt so amazing,” says Tim.

A ‘mixologist' by profession, Tim is eager to ensure that the single malt whisky progressively transforms into a drink of choice for a number of discerning patrons.

History behind brands

The pre-eminent malts that form the single malts portfolio from the luxury boutique division include Talisker, Laguvulin, Oban, Dalwhinnie, Craggonomore, and Glen Ord’s Glenkinchie and Singleton.

Asked if people know what they are quaffing, Tim says, “Though the names are unpronounceable to some, I spend time with the guests and explain the history behind each brand. We have four different whiskeys from different parts of Scotland. We do a small portion tasting and allow the guests to savour the flavours.”

An annual programme that taps into India's growing thirst, this year the appreciation session is in collaboration with the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.

Guests are invited to savour the single malt and learn to appreciate the honeyed, earthy flavours of the spirit, made from one source of barley. The patrons are educated about the aging process in the oak, and how the best whiskies bide their time for 10, 18 or 30 years before they are consumed.

“The youngest whisky is 10 years old, the oldest single malt is 30. At the Taj, we don't serve the 30-year-old premium (spirit). The oldest (malt we serve) is 16 years old,” says Tim, adding that the inquisitive nature of Indians is what makes his job interesting.

“The Indian consumer is very curious. They want to know how things are made; the history behind the malt; the aging process and why single malt is different from blended whisky. They are eager to experiment with their drinks,” says Tim, who is the brand ambassador of Diageo Reserve Brands. As for the clientele, Tim says, “Though it is an international hotel, we get a lot of local guests, businessmen and prominent personalities. India is the world’s spirit capital and leads as a whiskey drinking country, but few malts are well-known here.” Though the US and France remain the largest markets for scotch, market research group Euromonitor International's research shows the single malt category grew 20.38 per cent in India last year.

Luxury blended Scotch, which is cheaper to make, accounts for 26 per cent of the total whisky consumption in India.

Outperformers

Luxury liquor appears to be outperforming mainstream standard brands, with consumers attracted to its extra smoothness, luxurious taste and seductive aroma.

“Not just spirits, people here have a good taste in food too,” adds Tim. “Indians want something big, powerful, spicy and intense from their drinks. It’s reflective of the Indian palette that enjoys really spicy food,” he says.

Whether it is a smoky single malt, with a terrific after-taste, a peppery and spicy malt or a fruity and woody drink, they don't come cheap. Asked to comment on the price, Tim says a single peg at the hotel costs anywhere between Rs 700 and Rs 40,000, though the promotional effort is at a discount. “We serve four pegs at Rs 2,000. The programme aims to inform and to bring out the intricacies behind the distilling processes,” he adds.

amritanair.ghaswalla

@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 30, 2012)
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