“A fine single malt whisky, of course, is purely medicinal – it cures all manner of ailments one may care to imagine.”
– Alex Morrit, Impromptu Scribe
Seated at the side of The Westin Garden City Mumbai’s softly lit pool, we experienced Moritt’s words came to life thanks to a dinner that the luxury hotel recently hosted, marking the start of a Single Malt event through the next month, which offers customers a free single malt on every one they buy.
What ailments did we suffer from, you ask? Ailments that every Mumbaikar is facing right now; a scathingly hot summer which brings with it hot tempers, sweaty commutes and heat induced headaches. Last Saturday night, these ‘ailments’ were chased into a corner, courtesy some fine single malts, some delectable food paired with it and the lazy, relaxed atmosphere that The Westin’s dining experience offers. Before we get into that, however, here’s a little about –
The Single Malt
Unlike other blended whiskeys, single malt whisky is whisky that is made at a single distillery, using malted barley.
Single malt whisky is produced in a range of countries, but has its strongest presence in Scotland, where regulations demand that single malt Scotch whiskey be made from malted barley, distilled using pot stills and aged for at least three years.
The Single Malt Journey
In a tribute to the luxurious single malt, The Westin put together a special menu, featuring five Scotch single malts and dishes that highlighted the flavours of the whiskeys. A collection of food bloggers, critics and connoisseurs gathered together at the hotel’s breezy, tree fringed poolside for a sit down dinner, during which Nicholas Ord, the Brand Ambassador of Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company, enlightened us about the single malts we were tasting.
Tasting a single malt, he explained, is very different from tasting a glass of wine. A taster is encouraged to look at the colour of the whiskey first, which helps determine its age – the darker the whisky, the older it is. Then, the taster is told to take a gentle sniff of it to detect familiar aromas. Then, comes the tasting, where a drinker sips the whisky and allows it to sit and dissolve on his tongue, allowing him to deduce the flavours.
Here, Ord pauses to explain that whisky drinkers come in three types. The first is the ‘neat’ drinker, who prefers his whisky without ice or water and loves the burn at the back of his throat when drinking. The second is the one who mixes whisky with water, which allows the drinker to pick out subtle tastes but diminishes the powerful burn of the whisky. The third is the one who adds ice to the whisky; the ice melts slowly, allowing the drinker to start tasting the whisky in its undiluted glory and then, as the ice melts, be able to pick out subtler notes and flavours.
The Glenkinchie 12 YO
After we guests selected our method of drinking (we went with a couple ice cubes in each glass), we began our tasting with a peg of Gelnkinchie 12 YO, a twelve year old single malt from Glenkinchie. The whisky was light, smooth and creamy with hints of nuts, honey and fruits. Paired with fresh, lightly cooked asparagus stalks and a plump serving of Burrata (an Italian cheese made by stuffing hard mozzarella with creamed mozzarella and fresh cream), this was the perfect entre that hit off all the right light notes.
The Caol Ila 12 YO
Next up was a glass of Caol Ila, paired with morels and mushrooms. Caol Illa is produced at the Caol Illa Distillery near Port Askaig on Islay island, the largest distillery in the area. The whisky had a fresh, citrus fruit filled nose followed by a subtle sweetness followed by a hint of smoke. The whisky was perfectly complemented by the earthiness of the mushrooms and stuffed morels, enhanced by a creamy mushroom puree.
The Talisker 10
As we moved on to the third course of the meal – a dish of scallops wrapped with prosciutto, our glasses were filled with a golden hued Talisker, made at the only distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The Talisker was significantly heavier bodied than the earlier whiskey – it was powerful and smoky with a touch of sea flavours – salt and oysters. The scallops, therefore, went perfectly with the whisky, elevated by the fact that they were wrapped in crispy sheets of salt prosciutto and served with an indulgently rich truffle puree.
The Lagavulin 16 YO
Our main course, an Australian lamb loin, was served with a hearty glass of Lagavulin. The Lagavulin is an intense drink with a large amount of peat smoke; this is one drink you need to pair with either ice or water to pick out the subtler flavours of vanilla, spices and a good amount of figs. The Australian lamb loin was coated with a rich Madeira sauce, a suitable accompaniment for such a strong single malt.
The Singleton by Glen Ord 12 TO
To polish off our meal, we were served a glass of Singleton by Ord; a rich, yet subtle whisky served with some divinely flavoured chocolates.
As you can probably tell, for the Single Malt Journey, the Westin has an extensive range of whiskeys for every taste conceivable. Whether you like it neat, watery, rich, fruity or smoky, there’s a whisky for you.
Since we started with a quote, we think it spproriate to end with a quote – George Bernard Shaw once said “whisky is liquid sunshine.” Not the Mumbai kind of sunshine – the sunshine that makes you race to escape into the AC. The other kind of sunshine. The glorious kind.