Whisky expert Jamie Walker on the best bars, food pairings and more
Last weekend, Diageo Reserve’s brand ambassador Jamie Walker held an evening of whiskey appreciation at an exclusive gathering at the The Dark Room in Indiranagar. At the session, the renowned whiskey expert introduced guests to four single malts, which included Cardhu 12 year old (yo), Singleton 12 yo, Talisker 10 yo and Oban 14 yo. Talking to us on the sidelines of the event, he shared his take on the best distillery to tour to what pairs best with Indian food. Read on for excerpts.
Why did you decide to go with Cardhu 12 yo, Singleton 12 yo, Talisker 10 yo and Oban 14 yo.
I feel these single malts best represent the differences and nuances of different areas of Scotland. The Cardhu is light on the palate and floral with traces of sweetness from American oak barrels. It is a beautiful expression of how a light Speyside whisky should taste. The Singleton of Glen Ord has notes similar to a malt and is slightly sweeter than the Cardhu. As for Oban, it is the gateway to the islands and from one of the smallest and oldest distilleries (opened in 1794). The Talisker 10 is bottled at a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) than the others.
What pairs best with the approachable Speyside Cardhu?
I think the Cardhu would pair quite well with mildly spiced seafood and chicken but the delicacy of the malt can be savoured more with food that is less spicy. I would recommend delicate dishes, possibly based around soft herbs as opp- osed to warm, rich spices, red meat or anything too oily as it would overpower the whisky’s light palate.
How do single malts compete with current trends (crafted cocktails, revival of gin)?
Globally, craft cocktails and gin are catching up to single malt consumption but they will never top it. In India there are limited options in the gin category and the popularity of gin is going down. I see the cocktail culture growing quickly in India. I try to convince consumers to explore local options to get inspired. I recently tried a beautiful cocktail in Hyderabad made with Lagavulin 16 yo which was stirred down with a homemade jaggery and turmeric syrup and citrus oils.
Your personal favourites when it comes to single malts?
Talisker 10 was my first love, but I now find myself enjoying Caol Ila 12 yo when it’s getting cooler outside. I try out slightly lighter East Coast and Highland whiskies like Clynelish 14 yo and Dalwhinie 15 yo when the temperature and humidity are on the rise.
The best distillery tour you’ve had.
I would say Oban in the UK. The history and size of the distillery and interacting with the men and women who operate it make it interesting. The fact that you have the best seafood at the end of Oban pier 100 meters away and that I had my best friend for company added to the fun.
Whisky cocktails that are trending.
I have seen a noticeable movement towards whisky cocktails that are balanced with vermouths, lighter liqueurs and amaros. These aperitif-style cocktails are being championed in Scotland bars, like the Kelvingrove Café, where the idea is for people to drink better and more sophisticated cocktails. In China and Japan, there is a large movement towards balancing single malts with white teas.
Which is your favourite whisky bar? What must a connoisseur order when there?
The Baxter Inn in Sydney, The Pot Still in Glasgow and Boilermaker House in Melbourne immediately spring to mind. What to order is completely up to your own tastes, but I like to look for what I haven’t tried before, rare and old expressions from my favourite distillers and always keep an eye out for independent bottlings.
— Team Indulge