Glenfarclas Tasting @ Nero, Le Meridien, New Delhi

The general trend around town (read India) today, sees those with rustling pockets rushing to replace overworked carthorses such as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker with any bottle that includes the words ‘Single Malt’ on the cover, preferably with a ‘Glen’ included in the brand name. Those with jingling pockets on the other hand, are probably happy to stay with their trusty carthorses, content perhaps with a bottle of single malt tucked away behind hanging silk sarees at the back of a Godrej almirah.

Having poked some fun at our predominantly whiskey-drinking culture, the fact does remain that a progression to single malts is the next logical step for all those who can afford the transition. Whiskeys are the ‘return gift’ of choice at weddings, the most pondered over item at parties, the most commonly stocked spirit in most home bars and the most common consumed beverage most places we choose to observe. We drink it on the go (folks knocking back glasses of the amber liquid topped with sprite), out of the boots of cars at weddings, routinely pair it with spicy chicken or vegetarian kebabs and what have you.

I’m not sure how many of us attending the tasting at Nero, Le Meridian had heard of Glenfarclas before; I certainly hadn’t. Given the very congenial atmosphere that prevailed, with bar staff struggling to keep up with demands and preferences and service staff replenishing mounds of delicious finger foods at tables buzzing with chatter and exchanged knowledge, Delhi certainly isn’t forgetting Glenfarclas in a hurry.

The story of Glenfarclas began in 1836, when John Grant, a successful farmer, took over an existing distillery and began producing Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Success, in the form of recognition came soon after, which saw John Grant start the family firm, J. & G. Grant in 1870, with his son, George Grant. Two George Grants (1874 – 1949, 1923 – 2002) later, who took the company to further heights, we had the pleasure of meeting the very well informed and I must add, humorous George Grant, the current Director of Sales. George took us through the history of the distillery and stayed available throughout the evening to answer any questions guests may have. One particularly interesting, and I daresay funny, factoid stays in my memory. Apparently, when purchasing a new still, the old one is carefully looked over and if the old one has any dents or bents on it, the new one is subjected to being banged around to produce as identical bents and dents on it, just in case they had anything to do with the taste of the final product. ‘Superstition’, one might be tempted to label such practices as. George however, says, it’s very much possible that such dents could perhaps be the proverbial ‘sweet spot’ for the still, where the accumulation of gasses and liquids of different densities may contribute to the final product, affecting it in a way that could well be a distinct trademark!

Some folks chose to try the 12 year old that came with a sweet spiciness and a hint of peat, in the standard way – two cubes of ice and topped up with soda though I did see a few instructing the bar staff to give them a ‘half soda half water’ mixture. Others found their ideal beverage in the 15 year old; perhaps it was the mild aroma of butterscotch and malty tones that worked for them. Simon, my guest that evening, greatly enjoyed and couldn’t stop praising the 105, a 60% cask strength single malt  that was redolent of apples and pears, was distinctly smokey and ever so smooth despite it’s strength. My personal choice, the 25 year old – a blend of the aromas of marmalade, honey, freshly ground coffee with finish reminiscent of chocolate and smoke. My way: a cube of ice, and a tiny splash of water. I’m not much of a whiskey man, but I wouldn’t mind a glass or two of that one every so often.

What do you stock in your bar? Any single malts in there yet? How do you drink your single malts?

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.