If you’ve read my review of The Highlands Whisky Club, you’d know that I’m a fan of the single malts. But, single malts can be an expensive passion to nurture. Blended Scotch whiskys, on the other hand, are more diverse in terms of both price and quality. United Spirits Limited – India’s largest alcoholic beverages company was acquired by the global giant Diageo in 2014 to form USL-Diageo. USL-Diageo has everything from McDowell’s to Black Dog and Johnnie Walker under its umbrella. So I gladly accepted an opportunity to experience the ‘Art of Blending’ event being hosted by United Spirits.
The Art of Blending session was conducted by Mr. Hemant Mundkur, the brand ambassador of USL. The venue for the event was the lawns of Taj Banjara and its cafe – the Chai Shop. We were welcomed with a couple of cocktails based on Johnnie Walker Red Label. One was a fruity concoction, while the other was a take on the Mosco Mule with ginger ale and lime. Also on offer was finger food from the hotel. The drinks were quite decent, but, with the exception of Mushroom Calzone, the food was shoddy. The bread felt stale, and the chicken appetiser was way too dry to be remotely enjoyable.
After a short interaction with local media, Hemant invited all of us to the cafe to begin the session. Hemant is a gifted presenter who effortlessly blended history, trivia, and humour to make the session informative and engaging. After a brief explanation of the stages in preparation of whisky, Hemant walked us through the different regions of Scotland and the traits of the whisky from each region. This was followed by a tasting session.
We began our tasting with Black and White, a blended scotch that traces its origins to 1840s, and was one of the pioneers of the art of blending. It’s a strong yet smooth blend that acts as a great gateway to the world of Scotch whisky. Following up, was Vat69. This is a brand that’s quite popular in India, and was at one point my go-to drink. A simple drink with a sweet profile and a hint of smokiness towards the end.
Black Dog used to be one of my least favourite drinks in its price range. However, the old 8 years and 12 years blends have now been replaced with Black Reserve and Triple Gold Reserve. I was pleasantly surprised by how much better the Gold Reserve was than the previous blends. Wrapping things up was Johnnie Walker Black Label – an iconic scotch that’s created by blending over 40 whisky, each of which is matured for at least 12 years.
The Art of Blending event was informative, interactive, and fun. The session was followed by an open bar where we could request any drink among those that were available in the tasting. The food was a disappointment, but the drinks definitely got us in the right spirit.