A little bit about my journey into the fascinating world of whisky and Whisky Flu.
It all began in the summer of 1998, Mumbai, India. I was at that time an assistant sound engineer working for an audio studio. As luck would have it the studio got booked by a London based musician who was travelling to India to record tracks for his solo album. After about 2 weeks of recordings it was time for a wrap up. There was a small party arranged for all the hard work put in by us at the studio. Now you might say what's all this got to do with Whisky Flu? Good question. At the party this musician walks in with a bottle of The Glenlivet 18yr old single malt whisky. The rest, as they say, is history. It's been 20 yrs now and I still remember that day as vividly as my first date! I was bitten by the whisky bug. The serious whisky enthusiasts and aficionados amongst you might raise an eyebrow or two and even scoff at how Glenlivet of all the single malts out there, could possibly create such an impression on me? Read on.
You need to understand that prior to the economic liberalisation of 1991, India was regressively socialistic. Which meant virtually little or no access to foreign products (not just booze but music, books, gadgets etc) unless you or your family members travelled abroad and shopped which was a rarity in itself. My parents never travelled abroad and even if they did, shopping whisky would be blasphemy as they were teetotallers and the consumption of alcohol was/is a religious-social stigma for them. I never subscribed to that point of view and indulged in social drinking, though only much later in my college years. Till then me and my brother were totally ring-fenced from sin city.
As is usually the case, whisky is rarely your first choice of intoxication. More often than not the on-boarding usually begins with beer and then progresses to clear drinks like vodkas and rums which can be drowned in sweet mixers and cola. Gin, brandy and whisky is what your grandparents had. Not in that order but they did, so everyone steered clear of those options. What about wine you say? Nobody bothered.
As with whisky, back then one had heard of the usual suspects, Johnnie Walker Red & Black label, Chivas Regal, VAT69, Cutty Sark and sometimes although rarely J&B and Haig. Single malts never went beyond Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie. I had no access to any of the above. The pub/bar scene wasn't really buzzing as it does today. Besides I personally hated the smell and taste of whisky. Largely due to the Indian version of what was being dished out as whisky. It was industrial and rancid and still is. Neutral alcohol derived out of molasses to which whisky flavouring and caramel is added. Technically it is rum as per EU norms. But we have very imaginatively classified it as IMFL-Indian Made Foreign Liquor. Utter rubbish. Amrut fusion, Paul John and Rampur didn't exist back then and they don't belong to this category. As far as gaining academic knowledge was concerned the first public internet service started only in 1995 by the state owned VSNL. Home computers were not as commonplace as today. Many of us had no access to the internet unless one went to a cyber-cafe to browse. I think post 2002 with the internet becoming well and truly democratised it opened the floodgates of knowledge and along with liberalisation transformed the entire socio-economic landscape of the country for the better.
So by now you will have figured out why The Glenlivet 18 had such an impression on me. Mind you I'm not trying to take away anything from the Glenlivet. I still enjoy it and I think it's unfairly looked down upon. But there are always moments in our lives which are pivotal in changing our preconceived ideas and notions by exposing us to a new narrative. The chance encounter of 1998 with the Glenlivet 18 did just that. Was it happenstance or was it written? The great Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia said "Nothing is written". I tend to agree. I've embarked on the whisky journey ever since and yet it feels like I've hardly travelled. There is so much to learn and explore. One lifetime is probably not enough.
Just as whisky is ultimately about sharing, at Whisky Flu I'm trying to share whatever little that I've learnt over the years about this fascinating drink. The blog will be divided in two sections, whisky reviews and geeky whisky which is all about the science. I've started with the former as the latter is still WIP. My passion is self funded and the opinions expressed are entirely mine. And you know what they say about opinions! All the bottles that I review are either purchased by me, a part of tasting sessions or sample swaps. Wherever possible I will always disclose the price and the source of the sample. Transparency is the key. I've deliberately chosen not to leave an alpha-numeric rating in the reviews. I honestly can't put a number or a category because there are so many factors involved in the smell and taste, the arrival, development and finish all of which are fluid. Excuse the pun. Instead I've chosen to simply end with my impressions which I feel will be far more reflective of the intrinsic quality than a rating.
Finally a word of thanks. A big thank you to my wife for pestering me to start this blog and for enduring my extra-marital affair with whisky for the longest time. Friends and colleagues for their constant encouragement. A heartfelt thank you to Keshav Prakash, Keeper of the Quaich and founder of The Vault-World Whiskies & Fine Spirits for opening the doors to the world of great whiskies for me. His tasting sessions are a must attend and I can assure you that they will change your perspective on what well crafted spirits are and can deliver. Please do signup to the newsletter on his website link above or follow The Vault on social. Ditto to our very own Carissa Hickling but better known as the Whiskylady. The only other lady whom I obediently follow after my wife! I got my first taste of blogging when she very kindly featured me as a guest writer on her fabulous blog https://whiskylady.co/ . What she has done over the last five years in terms of documenting tasting notes and reviews is simply phenomenal. Just look the gamut of the whiskies sampled. It's astonishing! Highly recommended and do subscribe to her blog. To Krishna Nukala, India's only Malt Maniac for letting me sample money-can't-buy-whisky! Can't thank you enough. And finally to Prem Raheja for being such a fantastic support and a merry maltster on this journey with me.
A very big thank you to Matt Mckay at Dramble. I have learned more from his writing than any other source on whisky. To Ralfy for his infinite whisky wisdom and wit. To Chris Goodrum of Gauntleys whiskies for The GoodDramShow and lovely whisky conversations. He has an excellent and comprehensive blog as well. Do check it out. To Teemu Strengell for his incredible Whisky Science blog and to Rombout Mastenbroek aka iLaddie for the nerdy whisky science. And last but not the least to Whiskyfun (Serge and Angus) and Whiskybase for their seminal contribution to the world of whisky and for being a constant source of inspiration and reference to so many of us.
What else do I need to say? Nothing much. I hope you enjoy the content. I really dig feedback. So looking forward to opinions, criticism and all the rest of it. Ok enough said. I'm going to pour myself a wee dram now and I think you should too. Sláinte!
Disclosure: This might read like a PR piece for The Glenlivet but that's purely unintentional.