Global drinks player International Beverage Holdings Limited (IBHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thai Beverage Public Limited Company ( Chang beer fame), has entered the Indian market with three of its finest single malt scotch whiskies; Old Pulteney, Balblair and Speyburn and a super-premium Scottish gin; Caorunn for Mumbai and Delhi. We at The Happy High were introduced to the same at a tasting Edinburgh based Karen Walker the Marketing Director of the company.
Balblair one of the oldest registered distilleries in Scotland changed multiple hands before coming to Inter Bev group in 1996. Balblair until 2006 was non-vintage single malt with an age statement until a positioning revamp which saw the whisky being released with a vintage year akin to wines. They began with 1979, 1989, 1997 and now the 2003 which we tasted. The vintage year represents the year of distillation and the whisky going into casks. Karen said, ‘ We have stocks of ever year laid down in the barrels since the time our company took over from 1996 till now, however when would the whisky’s be released is completely up to the Master Blender . What we tasted today is a 2003 first release; the second release may happen in the next year or the next decade, only time has the answer’. The Balblair ’03 aged in second fill Bourbon barrels has light golden colour however it is bursting with toffee, orange and sweet spice. It shows good body and has a savoury finish.
The Speyburn 10 years label’s speaks of it as a Highland whisky in bold however it is a Speyside one and this anomaly in nomenclature goes back to the time when Glenlivet had reserved the term Speyside for their malts only. The rules have changed now and Speyburn could be seen with a Speyside label soon! This dram was much lighter in body with vanilla and fresh fruits and had a good touch of smoke to it, surprising for unpeated malt.
The last for the day was their flagship Old Pulteney one the most northerly distilleries in the mainland and situated on the eastern coast. This one they call it the maritime malt and it certainly displays the nuances of the salty air on the nose and the palate. It is quite restrained overall is extremely smooth and balanced. The bottle is designed like the classic onion shaped copper pot stills and their 21 year old was adjudged the best whisky of the world in the 2012 edition of the Whisky Bible.
All three are available in Mumbai and are in the Rs 5400-6700 range