Beam Suntory’s Master Scotch Ambassador, Simon Brooking, was recently in India to hold whisky masterclasses in Mumbai and Delhi. We caught up with him over a dram. By Kumar Shree
1. Tell us a bit about your flagship single-malt scotch, the Ardmore Legacy.
Ardmore Legacy is the great single malt from the highlands distillery, which has been around for 120 years now, in Scotland. It produces floral honey notes from the heather, the shrub that grows in the highlands. It’s also got spicy notes, and ‘legacy’ represents the legacy of the Teacher family, who started the distillery, and the legacy of the women who have been holding that torch for the last 120 years.
2. What is it about the Ardmore Legacy that appeals to Indians?
Its flavours and the way they can marry with Indian food. I’m [just] realising the wealth and depth of flavours within Indian cuisine… that’s an exciting opportunity to play with whisky. For instance, Gulab Jamun with Ardmore is just beautiful–they highlight each other.
3. Where in the world have you found the most passionate single-malt drinkers?
The Swedes love whiskey, and they sing about it a lot when they enjoy it. The American market is incredibly passionate about scotch as well.
4. Your favourite cocktail?
There are a couple, depending on the occasion. There’s one called Penicillin, which features Laphroaig [and blended scotch, honey-ginger syrup, and lemon juice in one variation].
5. Using single-malt whiskies in a cocktail is quite polarising. Which side of the fence are you on?
Those who think that they should not add anything [to single-malt whiskey]–if they would like to drink it that way, good for them. But I don’t think you should question other people’s choices when they experiment, as long as the cocktails highlight the flavour of the [single-malt] whiskey.
6. Favourite bar in the world?
The one that’s a block away from my house; it’s called Wheated, as in wheated bourbon. They have 800 whiskies and serve sourdough pizza.
7. Takeaways from India?
The welcoming of the people, the smiles, the food, the energy, and the spirit of India. There’s a lot of whiskeys consumed here in India. It bodes well for me and the Ardmore.
8. And how do you like your dram?
Neat, straight up, and with some water on the side; maybe a non-alcoholic ginger beer on the side as well.
9. An interesting anecdote for closing time?
Once, over a dinner for Laphroaig, a family came in honour of the grandfather who was a great Laphroaig fan. In the grandfather’s final days, they were able to secure a 40-year-old bottle of the whiskey, which would sell at $5,000 (INR 3,54,375) in an auction; he was so weak that he could not physically drink it, so they used to dampen a cloth with Laphroaig and touch it to his lips. It was one of the last things this man tasted before he passed away. To me, that speaks of how people connect to it.