Each spring, whisky lovers from all around the world collect within the Speyside area of Scotland for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Competition. “This is the oldest whisky festival in the world and takes place over six days at the end of April. There are more than 120 distilleries in Scotland and half of them are in Speyside, so it’s the biggest whisky producing region,” says Swati Sharma, co-founder of the Dram Membership. First launched in 1999, the 21st version of the competition this 12 months will rejoice Scotland’s nationwide drink from April 29 to Might 4. And for the primary time, Mumbai will get a style of the competition (and Speyside whiskies) immediately.
Spreading the gospel
Sharma co-founded The Dram Membership in March 2019 together with Vinayak Singh, a fellow whisky lover. “Early last year, we went on a trip to Scotland where we visited quite a few distilleries. What really inspired us was the entire tasting experience, the way they talk about their heritage and philosophy of whisky making, the way they have these small stories about the history of the distillery, etc. It’s not an education, it’s more like storytelling,” says Sharma. The duo wished to duplicate the expertise in India so that they started curating occasions for acquaintances that have been whisky aficionados. “The feedback was really good so we started doing it in a more formal way. We are a neutral platform and we don’t try to push any brand. It’s a more inclusive way of educating people and advocating about whisky rather than any particular kind. We have done 20 events in the last one year,” elaborates Sharma.
Flavour and steadiness
Each Sharma and Singh attended the Spirit of Speyside Competition final 12 months. Over the course of six days, every of the 50-odd distilleries opens its doorways to guests (even these that aren’t usually open to the general public) and curates distinctive occasions.
“For instance, we tried a whisky and beer pairing finished by Gordon & MacPhail Distillery and Windswept Brewery. There have been 5 whiskies and 5 beers that labored very properly with one another by way of flavour and steadiness like a closely sherried whisky that’s candy, wealthy, and creamy was paired with a bitter stout beer that enhances the flavours of the whisky. Or a Sport of Thrones-themed blind tasting that occurred at Cardhu,” explains Sharma.
Many distilleries launch restricted version competition whiskies which you can solely purchase throughout the competition. The Speyside Whisky Awards are additionally held throughout the competition. “There are four categories and each distillery sends in their nominations. Out of the 60-65 nominations that come in, an expert panel shortlists it down to eight finalists. These are voted in a blind tasting globally at different places at different times of the year,” he says.
Elevating a toast
“When we started discussing about bringing the festival to India, the initial thought was to only have the blind tasting (for the awards) because it had never happened here before. As we spoke to brands, the idea emerged that maybe we should create a day that celebrates whisky where people get a feel of the festival itself,” shares Sharma. The competition will kick off with a four-course whisky-paired lunch that includes Glenlivet whiskies of various age statements. “Glenlivet 21 was one of the winners last year and the brand ambassador is coming down. Also, we have got Chef Sarita Pereira (of The Lovefools, a Mumbai-based supper club) on board to curate the lunch,” says Sharma. This will likely be adopted by three whisky masterclasses with Glenfiddich, Amrut, and Paul John. “Amrut and the Dram Club are associating for the first time for this festival. Also Paul John’s head distiller is coming over and will be showcasing two new whiskies that will officially release at the festival,” says Sharma.
There may also be a Glen Grant masterclass pairing whiskies with desserts that complement the flavours. The spotlight of the competition is the blind tasting and voting for Speyside Whisky Awards. This will likely be finished over three periods with batches of 20 voters every.
Spoilt for selection
What’s subsequent for The Dram Membership? Sharma says that the Speyside Whisky Competition will turn into an annual occasion. They’re additionally engaged on curating an Indian model of whisky awards. “Many new brands are exploring the Indian market. With the influx of Taiwanese and Japanese whiskies and also new Scotch whiskies, we are spoilt for choice. The awards will have the Indian consumer voting for whiskies that are available in the country”, explains Sharma. The Dram Membership will proceed to curate whisky experiences and can add just a few women-only occasions. “About 50-60% of our usual event audience is women. The perception that whisky is a man’s drink is changing worldwide. Also, women are more open to trying different things; men sometimes tend to get a bit stuck up saying I only drink an 18-year-old or a 20-year-old whisky or only a particular brand, but there could be better whiskies from independent bottlers”, concludes Sharma.
The Speyside Whisky Competition is immediately at The Park Mumbai, Juhu; extra particulars on insider.in; extra data on thedramclubmumbai.com or on Instagram @thedramclubmumbai.