Skip to main content

A Whiskey Affair


The very first thing I loved about international travelling were the glitzy shopping malls that seem to be a part of every airport. My first trip out of India, I was amazed at how Heathrow mimicked an expensive London high street, with everything from Hermes to Harrods. Many travels and airports later, I still wonder about duty free shopping. Is it really that cheap? Do people really have time to spend wandering the halls full of stuff when there is a flight to catch? And why do we have such huge duty free shops in Indian airports when everyone always talks about bringing cheap alcohol back in, not take it out.

Luckily, all of these questions are about to be answered. Duty Free Shopping (or DFS, as it is called in Mumbai) invited a group of bloggers over to their Mumbai international airport stores last week. We talked a bit about duty free and then, we talked a lot about whiskey. Why whiskey, you ask! Well, they had a whiskey festival on and the Johnny Walker brand ambassador was around to give us a run of the shop.

So yes, duty free shopping is cheap. Alcohol, tobacco and beauty products are the best sellers in duty free shops around the world and our host Nidhi told us that prices in Mumbai are some of the lowest. That still doesn't explain who buys this stuff - surely European travelers are taking back souvenirs from the Culture Shop but I don't see them carrying back bottles of wine. Turns out it's the Indian folks who reserve their shopping on the way out and pick it up when they land back. 

And this being India, most of them pick up bottles of whiskey. Which is why DFS has a whiskey festival on, offering not just discounted whiskeys but also special glasses to drink them in. So let's talk whiskey. Or rather, as someone who doesn't drink it but found the tour by the super cute Diageo brand ambassador Nick fascinating, let't talk Johnny Walker.



One of the most iconic brands in the world, you unconsciously think of Johnny Walker as synonymous with whisky, even if you don't drink it much. But as Nick walked us through the store and spent an hour talking about the brand and the history of the drink, I discovered several nuggets of information I found fascinating. Here are my favourite takeaways:

1. All JW whiskeys are blended. Johnny Walker took inspiration from tea blending to create a new category of product, separate from single origin whiskeys which were the norm way back in the 15th century.

2. Mr. JW was one heck of a traveller. In the time before airplanes, he took ships all over the world, getting inspiration for his blends. JW has these really cool bottles that illustrate his travels. The one for Mumbai is super cool, even though it costs a pretty penny.

3.  It was Mr. Walker's sons who were next in line to be master blenders and they took the brand global. A series of master blenders ensues, all of whom go round buying casks of whiskeys and selecting the ones that go into the blends.

4. Believe it or not, the current master blender is called Mr. Beverage.

5. These things are expensive. You can google all the science and lingo behind single malts and blends and what not. But Nick insists that oldest in not always the best. It's expensive because as the whiskey sits in casks, it loses about 5% volume each year, so you have precious little left at the end of 20 years. But it is on the master blender to find the best tasting 20 years olds of the many he tastes, which is why something like a founder's blend they have gets quoted for around 5000 dollars.

Truly fascinating, ain't it!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Healthy Spinach Rice for Microwave Potluck Party

Is it really two years that Srivalli has been running her innovative microwave cooking event. She's prompted me to try my microwave for more than just heating several times. Just like last year, Srivalli celebrates the event anniversary with a potluck party. I took a dessert to the party last time around, but this time I was rooting for something healthier. I turned to last year's roundup, and there was this spinach rice. Valli, hope you don't mind getting the same dish on the menu again.

To make spinach rice, wash and soak 1/2 cup rice. In a microwave safe dish, heat a tsp of ghee for 30 seconds. Add 5-6 peppercorns and heat for another 10 seconds. Now add a small onion, chopped finely and microwave for another 30 seconds. Add a cup of finely chopped spinach, 1/2 a tsp of garam masala and another 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach wilts. Add rice to the bowl, and a cup of water then pop it back in the microwave for 5 minutes. Bring it out and…

Tales of A Female Nomad

This month, our book club goes on a nomadic tour. We traveled with Rita Golden Gelman, a writer who sold everything she owned after the shock of a divorce and became a nomad. Not a tourist, because Rita stays away from everything that a tourist does and instead, tries to live the lives of people she visits.

From Mexico to Israel to Galapago Islands, Rita goes the way least traveled, always preferring to stay as a boarder with natives. And sometimes, going to places not even locals will go, places so secluded yet beautiful that Rita's description takes your breath away, urges you to become a nomad yourself.

Yet even nomads sometimes find their roots. Rita found hers in Bali where she spent eight years. Starting as a boarder with a prince, she eventually became a part of the family. I instantly knew I wanted to cook something Indonesian. I picked Nasi Goreng, the Indonesian fried rice.



There are as many recipes for Nasi Goreng as there are cooks. Some use tomatoes, others tamarind.…

The Bread Whisperer

What do an electrical engineer, a monk and an IT trainer have in common? These are all the things Abhilash was before he turned his attention to bread baking. Not the one to pick an easy path, Abhilash started with the most temperamental of breads - the sourdough - as his baking adventure. At first, he was baking these loaves for himself. Accolades from friends and family quickly followed and much to the delight of this writer, he turned his passion into a full time career six months back.

For the uninitiated, a sourdough bread is made by fermenting the dough with naturally occurring yeast, making it harder to perfect than the bread made with commercial yeast. The bread's signature tang and the open crumb, with lots of holes, is only made better with a high hydration dough that is super tricky to master. While extremely popular around the world, good sourdough is an elusive commodity in Mumbai and there are only a handful of bakers I would trust when I am looking for bread.

Thoro…