Single Malts to die for
March 16, 2008
India’s only ‘Malt Maniac’ Krishna Nukala on the best whiskies under Rs 4,000.
Several good whiskies are now available in India and gone are the days when you could only pick up a Johnnie Walker Red or Black Label while returning home from abroad.
Small wonder then, that choosing five of the best whiskies in the price range of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 (which are available in established liquor stores in metros) is a really tough call. I believe this is the price range that most discerning single malt connoisseurs are confortable with. If you are a real connoisseur, get these thoroughbreds. After all, the real pleasure lies in enjoying the cask strength and you want to graduate, don’t you?
1. Lagavulin 16 yo
Price: Rs 3,600
If you are looking for a whisky with pedigree, you don't have to look beyond Lagavulin. The distillery of this legendary whisky overlooks ruined remains of Dunyvaig Castle in Lagavulin Bay and it was created by Sir Peter Mackey, the creator of the famous "White Horse". On the nose, the 16-year-old Lagavulin is typically smoky and peaty. The bourbon casks in which it is matured lend a vanilla flavour with hints of citrous notes. Add a dash of water and the bouquet opens up with more complex characters. Lagavulin is a bold Islay malt. Take it to Himalayan slopes or in monsoon to the Western Ghats and the enjoyment is doubled.
Tip: If you are really serious about owning a legend, ask Diageo (the owners) for a 21-year-old, 56.5 per cent abv at ?’110 (Rs 8,800) per bottle.in case they are still available from the 6,642 bottles that were crafted in 1981.
Rating: 5 Stars
2. Glenfarclas 12 yo
Price: Rs 3,800
Glenfarclas (Valley of the Green Grass), lying just beneath Ben Rinnes in Speyside, is one of the most low-profile whiskies of Scotland. A favourite of connoisseurs, Glenfarclas across the world is known by its label No. 105, which is 60 per cent abv.a bomb on the palate with loads of character. To an Indian palate, this is too robust and the much mellowed 12-year-old at 43 per cent abv should be more acceptable. Just like any Glenfarclas, this version is an excellent after-dinner malt with loads of sherry, malty and beef-stock notes.
Tip: If you want to mark a special occasion and the price doesn't bother you, I would recommend the Family Cask Series distilled in 1969 and filled in first fill sherry casks at 56.2 per cent abv. It is priced at ’290 (Rs 23,200).a true masterpiece.
Rating: 5 Stars
3. The Macallan 12 yo
Price: Rs 3,800
This one is often termed the “Rolls Royce of Whiskies”. Until about a dozen years ago, Macallan used only Golden Promise Barley which led to its complex character, and sherry casks specially sourced from Jerez, Spain. A typical Macallan is very fruity, sherried and enjoyable on the nose. This malt is even better after dinner with a nice cigar.
Tip: A serious whisky lover should look for an 18-year -old Gran Reserva. Prices could be upwards of £200 (Rs 16,000)
Rating: 4 Stars
4. Laphroaig 10 yo
Price: Rs 3,500
From the house of Allied Domecq, this classy malt is for the noble-blooded. No wonder, it is patronised by Prince Charles. A typical Islay malt with strong peat, smoke and medicinal tones, there are many versions of Laphroaigs but none can beat the 10-yearold version of green and red stripes, bottled at 57 per cent strength. The red stripes have gone out of stock and the green ones are being greedily hoarded by malt collectors around the world. It is very sweet and syrupy, with lots of oily notes and a huge body that leaves an everlasting finish on the palate.
Tip: If you want to own a masterpiece, I recommend the 27 yo, 1980 distilled, 57.4 per cent abv. It is worth buying. The price is upwards of ’450 (Rs 36,000).
Rating: 5 Stars
5. Talisker 10 yo
Price: Rs 4,000
Talisker comes with higher strength than most other whiskies and this is one of the reasons why it is highly priced. From the rugged Cuillins Range on the remote island of Skye, this whisky displays its individuality with an explosion on the palate. Some even call it the "Lava on the palate". Talisker, due to its use of local hard water and 45.8 per cent abv, is peaty like Islay malt, yet fruity like a Speysider. It is smoky, spicy with lots of island character. Add a dash of water and you have a symphony on the palate. It's a very big whisky with an everlasting finish.
Tip: There are thousands of stupendous Taliskers available, but one of the best is the distiller's version of 30-year-old, 50.7 per cent abv available at £180 (Rs 14,400) from the 2,958 bottles released by Diageo worldwide. Slainte!
Rating: 5 stars
About the writer:
The only Indian member of the Malt Maniacs, a global organisation of whisky enthusiasts, Krishna Nukala has travelled to over 60 distilleries worldwide and tasted more than 500 different single malts. He is one of the best-known single malt experts in India.