The cask at hand

Published: Aug 30, 2019, 19:05 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi

A New-York-based Scottish whisky ambassador talks to us about the much-loved spirit – where it stands today, what makes a single malt authentic and why whisky cocktails are picking up

Gemma Louise Paterson
Gemma Louise Paterson

Gemma Louise Paterson, the ambassador for The Balvenie’s a premium whisky grew up in Hebrides, Scotland, is now based out of New York City, and travels the East Coast extensively to share her love for whisky. She was recently in Mumbai on her maiden trip to India. Edited excerpts from an interview.

Following the current trends, it seems like mezcal, gin and beer make for the spirits that are “in”. Is this impacting the long-standing position whisky has retained in the alcohol world?

Good question. It really depends on who you are talking to. It’s not the case all over the world. In the UK for example, mezcal is perhaps popular with bartenders and trade but not with consumers. We do have a lot of beer and whisky drinkers and what’s interesting is the transition that many are making from beer to whisky. Gin is definitely big and from my time here in India, which I spent speaking to bartenders, it seems like there’s a definite transition. Old-timers who enjoyed their whisky are moving to gin, as are the younger lot.

Could you elaborate on some cool new trends and experimentations that people are conducting with whisky and which is relevant to the Indian audience?

People are way more open today to experimenting with whisky and cocktails. A lot of bartenders also realise that whisky is an exciting spirit to work with because it has such great depth and is diverse. You have some whiskies that are really light, delicate and elegant and others that are heavy, rich, smoky and spicy. Bartenders in India are waking up to that, too.

How can a layman differentiate between a good whisky from a bad one?

There are very few bad whiskies when looking at single malts. Even though I am the ambassador for a single malt whisky, I can safely say that a lot of the other single malts and blended whiskies coming in from Scotland are good, too. This is due to the fact that we have very strict regulations in terms of what is needed for it to even call a single malt. For example, our whisky is produced entirely at the Balvenie distillery, from only malted barley. The casks have to have a high quality and standard to make the whisky and it has to be produced, matured and bottled in Scotland. So, you cannot really go wrong with single malts. It depends more on one’s personal preference and palate. However, there’s a whole other conversation when it comes to fraudulent bottles, particularly in India. You have to just be a little aware of its authenticity.

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