The true spirit of whisky

Updated: Mar 27, 2020, 10:57 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

On International Whisky Day, emulate the Scots and Japanese, keeping your drink simple when resources are scarce

A whisky-tasting session in Scotland
A whisky-tasting session in Scotland

Easy does it

It's important to remember the person who International Whisky Day is dedicated to, says one of India's foremost whisky experts, Keshav Prakash. That man's name is Michael Jackson. No, we aren't referring to the King of Pop. The musician's British namesake was instead the world's most reputed whisky writer, whose words opened up new avenues for the spirit.

But given the tough times we are undergoing at present, Prakash stresses on the fact that you don't have to leave the confines of your four walls to enjoy a glass of the spirit. All you really need is a bit of water and, if you so prefer, some soda. He says, "Fortunately, whisky is a drink that can stand independently, on its own. So in a situation where commodities are scarce and might be more essential to others, keep it simple." Prakash thus suggests that if you happen to have blended whisky at home, make a highball the Japanese way. If you have single malt, follow in the footsteps of Scottish people and simply add a few drops of water.

Keshav Prakash with global whisky guru Charles MacLean
Keshav Prakash with global whisky guru Charles MacLean

Don't bother with cocktails right now, in other words.

Water way

Scotland is to whisky what Lord's is to cricket — its spiritual home. "But you will never find a person drinking whisky cocktails there," Prakash says. In fact, if you visit, say, the Glenfiddich distillery in Speyside in the Scottish highlands, the person conducting the tasting session at the end of the tour will tell you that the best way to enjoy the tipple is to mix just three drops of water with the drink, to bring out its inherent flavour and aroma. What can be a better method than that at a time when resources are running critically dry? "But do remember to say 'slàinte mhath' [pronounced 'slanj uh va'; Scottish for 'cheers'], which means 'good health for all,'" Prakash says, pointing out how it's an apt toast given the present scenario.

Do it like the Japs

A mizuwari
A mizuwari

In recent years, Japan has given Scotland a run for its money when it comes to distilling whisky. And Prakash says that they have also turned the process of making a highball — a whisky drink made with a precise ratio of the spirit and sparkling water — into a full craft. The Japanese call the drink 'mizuwari', which translates to 'mixed with water.' The process is delicate, but simple. Add ice to a highball glass and stir the cubes with a bar spoon to chill the glass. Discard the melted water. Then add the whisky and stir it clockwise 13-and-a-half times. Now, add two-and-a-half measures of sparkling water compared to the whisky and stir it clockwise again, three-and-a-half times. Make sure you don't spill and spoil the drink, and voila! Your mizuwari is good to go.

Essential reading

  • Prakash suggests you read these books to up your whisky game.
  • Malt Whisky Companion, by Michael Jackson
  • The World Atlas of Whisky, by Dave Broom
  • The Art of American Whiskey, by Noah Rothbaum
  • Irish Whiskey, by Andrew M. Greeley
  • The Way of Whisky: A Journey Around Japanese Whisky, by Dave Broom

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