India Joins the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) opened its India chapter with whisky evenings in Mumbai and Pune last month. The members-only club, whose only aim is to make sure aficionados enjoy more whisky, plans to introduce Indian drinkers to between 10 and16 exclusive whiskies - these aren't available commercially - a year.
The Society's other USP? They have access to exclusive single cask whiskies from across the world and produce about 300 bottles per cask; making their releases very limited edition.
We spoke to SMWS ambassador Georgina Bell, who was in Mumbai to take drinkers though a tasting, about drinking whisky, drinking whisky in India and Indian whisky.
Can you tell us about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society?
A maverick and eclectic syndicate of whisky lovers joined together in the late 1970s and bought a cask of whisky from a distillery in Speyside: around this time there were limited single malts on offer and having come straight from the cask, at cask strength, they'd never tasted an elixir quite like it. A few casks later they realised that more people should have access to this quality of single cask whisky, and in 1983 they formed The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. From these very humble beginnings we are now able to offer single cask joys from up to 129 malt distilleries to 26,000 members across the world. Not only are we an independent bottler, but also a membership society: with 15 branches spanning all corners of the globe we have become a hugely diverse, international group of whisky loving friends, with the largest selection of single cask, single malt whisky found anywhere in the world. And this year we're 30!
How does one become a member?
We are an inclusive society with the ability to unite discerning drinkers with a fine-tuned palate. We attract the adventurous drinker who's looking for something a little more unique, one-of-a-kind, from the whisky they choose to enjoy. Anyone is able to join, and membership forms can be found at all three of our partner bars - JW Marriott Mumbai, JW Marriott Pune and restaurant Indigo, Mumbai.
How has the response in India been so far?
The response has been far better than I could have ever anticipated! I spent a week in both Mumbai and Pune for the launch parties and also to host training sessions at the venues - it seems as though we've fallen into place very quickly at all three locations. We're able to offer a fresh outlook on whisky - due to our one-of-a-kind single cask nature we focus on flavour and quality rather than origin, moving away from the usual stereotypes of whisky into new avenues.
Can you tell us about the perks available to Indian members?
When you join you become part of a bigger network of whisky lovers - part of the family! Every whisky we bottle has been hand and nose selected by our tasting panel under the motto 'to leave no nose upturned' where only whiskies that promise to 'intrigue, entertain, indulge and delight' our members will be selected, and as a member you have access to these finite bottlings. These will be released four times a year as an 'Outturn' of single cask wonders. We will be hosting a series of events throughout the year that as a member you'll be invited to, alongside a subscription to our award-winning whisky magazine 'Unfiltered'. Having launched through three exquisite venues, you'll be able to enjoy a dram for significantly less than a non-member alongside three fantastic whisky flights to guide your taste buds through the selection.
Is there any particular reason you chose now to launch in India?
The timing and the situation was right. We found someone with an incredible knowledge and expertise in the world of drinks in India, who happens to also have a superior palate for Scotch whisky. His experience in this industry, including his time with Moet Hennessey, gives Ashwin Deo the perfect foundations to make the Society a success in India, and I couldn't be more excited to work alongside him in this venture. Mumbai is the perfect location for the initial proposition, although we will be looking to expand in the near future to other regions, and the venues that we have launched through are dedicated to making the Society a success - proud of the fact that they're exclusive stockists. All of these factors have taken time to get right, but we've now reached the stage of perfect harmony. This follows on from our ethos that we bottle when the whisky is ready, rather than when it should be ready.
India has produced some great whiskies, such as the ones under the Amrut label. How do they compare against international labels?
Personally, I think Amrut is a fantastic whisky, especially the Fusion and Peated expression. International whisky is a field that has been gaining momentum over the past decade, and I believe there is a massive market for it. I like to try as much as I can, as every single distillery and expression gives you a different flavour experience unlike any other. I'll be looking out for more Indian whisky in the future!
For more information log onto the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's India page.