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a blog on 'life' and other popular four letter words...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Liquid Gold

Vaibhav, me, Purvi, Anki and Shalini

Considering that booze records are made only to be broken the following year in my home state Kerala (yay! go mallus, go!), it’s no surprise that I’m the type of guy who likes my drink.  And being a mallu, it’d be a shame if I don’t contribute to the mallu preoccupation with staunch alcoholism.

I can’t say I remember my first drink – I was probably too sloshed to register - but I do remember my engineering college days when the only ‘character’ who was willing to have a weekly affair with me was a concoction that other similar luckless students formulated in a bucket – a mixture of all the cheap liquor that could be bought with the paltry monthly budget that our stingy NRI parents allowed us.  But the many bucket parties with this poison led to some of the best memories and life altering experiences of my life - under the influence, many friends have conclusively disproved Einstein’s theories,  some conducted illicit relationships with unfortunate stray dogs that wandered into our party zone and it wasn’t too uncommon to see drunk engineering students find innovative(and painful) uses with beer bottles. This holy water empowered us, liberated us and yup, it gave us wings.

I’m sure every drinker can associate parts of his life to particular brands – in my engineering college days, I attained nirvana with ‘Old Monk’, during my MBA, the healing powers of KingFisher helped us survive the learnt(mostly unlearnt) management fundas;  in my first job,  Bacardi accompanied my lonely nights without a girlfriend; in every job since, SmirnOff+red bull accompanied my lonely nights with girlfriend.  And this went on along with the choicest finger foods like peppered peanuts,  pickle n poppadoms, and my current favorite, grilled chicken with mayo.

So I was invited to a whiskey tasting session last week.

I got an invite cos I’m considered to be a ‘social influencer’(high five to this blog and its awesome followers!)  by the gregarious GingerClap team and they took the trouble of ferrying me to and back to the Black Dog Scotch tasting session at Habenero, a lovely tex-mex place at ITPB, Whitefield.  Habenero is one of those ubercool fine-dining joints that screams ‘sophistication’ and is a perfect place to impress a date.  And our date was set on a Saturday evening and boy, were we impressed!

It’s a strange kinda joy when you meet fellow bloggers of your city – it’s the same feeling that long lost siblings of yesteryear hindi movies who got separated in well meaning melas,  experience when they finally reunite, some bees saal baad kinds.  So I met fellow bloggers Shiju, Indrasish, Ron and Rajani, Shalini and Rahul, Anki, Vaibav, Angela, Purva and Abhishek and minus the hindi phillum ‘song and dance’ routine , it was pretty cool to bump into other Bangalorean  bloggers. 

pic courtesy: anki's blog

Some of my revelations:

Man, I was clueless:- I had no idea what the basics of whiskey are.  All my life, I just referred to any golden liquid in a glass by its very scientific name - ‘daaru’.  So it was pretty difficult for me to converse with the man of the hour, Mohit Nischol from tulleho!, who elaborated on the scotch tasting experience and generously used words like ‘Malt’, ‘blend’,  ‘distillation’…  Of course,  I did improvise by substituting conversation with appreciative moans and appropriate sounds after every sip – sure, people must have thought I was having multiple orgasms but what the hell,  the food was really good.

So what exactly is Whiskey:  So take a bunch of grains (wheat, corn, barley, rye etc), grind & crush ‘em so that the husk gets stripped away (called milling), plunk it into hot water to form a thick and pulpy starchy mixture called wort (process called mashing), cool it all up,  add in yeast, so that the yeastie beasties convert the wort into alcohol (fermentation) and finally it is then steamed with the vapours caught and cooled again (distillation) to get pure colorless whiskey, which is then barreled to mature for years. The whiskey takes the color and flavor of the wooden barrels(casks) it is put into (and of the surrounding air)  to get that gorgeous golden color.

What is Scotch Whiskey: OK, this one I knew – its whiskey made in Scotland. J But scotch takes at least 3 years to make - anything less and it aint scotch, my friend. 

There actually is a way to drink it:  I always used to quickly gulp alcohol and to soothe the following warm after-taste, I’d have a quick lick of lime, pickle or a spicy something.  But if you take a sip of scotch, roll it in your mouth for a minute so that it touches every part of your mouth, you’d find out that scotch actually has a taste and smell to it.  If you put in a spoon of water into it (yes, only a spoon), you can sense the taste actually opening up – pretty cool considering that I never took a minute off to savor scotch during the times I’ve had it all my life.  And remember, whisky has to be always drunk at room temperature to allow all the aroma's to reveal themselves.  Chilling or adding ice effectively kills a single malt whisky.  Who knew?

So what’s with Black Dog:  Well for one thing, I love their tag line – “Let the World Wait” – which was also my ex-girlfriend’s credo whenever we went shopping.  But jokes apart, it’s got attitude.  For me, Black Dog is something I won’t forget in a hurry for it gave me this experience that’s changed my perception to whisky- I mean, seriously, I’ve never actually smelt and tasted alcohol  (Ya, I do that with wine to pretend I know what the hell I’m doing when I actually don’t!) - for me, it’s always been gulp, lick and ‘one again, barman’.   But now, I have a feeling I might just remember to swirl, smell and savor it the next time.  And of their ware – I find myself inclined to the Black Dog Centenary rare premium blended Scotch – it really went down well with cheese, sausages and dark chocolate.

Some fancy whiskey words I’d shamelessly use to appear ‘le intellectual sophisticate’ at snobbish parties are: 
  • “Single Malt” – Whiskey made from 100% malted barley that comes from one distillery; even more exclusive is the single cask single malt - whiskey that comes from the same wooden cask of the same distillery.  
  • "Blended Whiskey" is composed of whiskey from two or more different distilleries. I've noticed that whenever I use this term after using the term 'Single Malt', people around me are effectively fooled into believing that I actually know what I'm talking about. J
  • “Angel’s share” – During casking,  the whiskey evaporates through the cask and this part of the maturing spirit that vanishes between casking and bottling is called the Angel’s share.

Thanks to Ashu, Akshay, Sumath and others from the GingerClap team;  Arjun Batra and Paul George, the brand managers of Black Dog, Kalveer the photographer who took some awesome pics that I shamelessly bombarded on my fb and the new blogdosts I met for an evening par excellence.   Of late when I’m happy, I do the ubercool Gangnam dance to myself – this was definitely one of ‘em.                                                                                                                                                                                
A great man once said – we all have to believe in something; be it God, Love, the greater good, Liberty, Hope … whatever it is, we all have to believe in something.

I believe I’ll have another drink.