Ian Millar, with close to 40 years experience in the distilling business, explains the benefits of single malt whiskey and how it can be paired with food

After two years, the Glenfiddich City Trail 2012 is being held in South India. The Trail passed through Goa, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. Ian Millar, the global brand ambassador for Glenfiddich — a well-known single malt whiskey — with close to four decades experience as a distiller, argues that India is among the most mature whiskey markets in the world. “Your grandfather’s generation was familiar with whiskey as it has been around for 160 years in India.”

On the occasion of celebrating 125 years of Glenfiddich and Taj West End, Ian together with chef Bharat Kapoor created a distinctive gourmet experience, in which Anglo-Indian cuisine was served with 15, 18 and 21 single malt whiskeys.

Unrivalled Indian flavours

But Ian’s reasons for coming to India were both professional and personal. “My personal reason is to enjoy Indian cuisine because I am a foodie at heart and Indian food is probably the best. You have unrivalled flavours here.”

Ian stumbled into the whiskey business by accident. “I was with engineers in the British army. I left when they changed the contract, and moved to Libya where I took up a job at a local whiskey distillery. Apart from a two year sabbatical I took from whiskey to work with Mr. Heineken in Holland, I have remained loyal to the whiskey business.”

Ian suggests that whiskey is best taken on a full stomach. “It impacts less on your health and stops you from getting drunk. If you drink whiskey on an empty stomach, it goes to your head very quickly.”

“The correct way to savour whiskey,” explains Ian, “is to warm it as it expands the flavour and aroma and then if it’s still too harsh you can put in two drops of water that will simply utilise a bite of alcohol and give you access to the whole flavour. You can use ice, but make sure it’s made of good quality water.”

“Nosing” is another important aspect to enhancing the taste of whiskey. “We reduce the whiskey to 25 per cent alcohol volume before the process of nosing. The aroma can range from fruity to toffee. It’s part of the enjoyment.”

“Single malt whiskey, which consists of 40 per cent alcohol, is lighter than blends. If you add a little water or ice, you can easily match it with your food. Malt whiskey is an older blend, some of the younger blends are quite harsh and it is so difficult to pair it with all kinds of food.”

“Indian whiskey, especially Amrut, is very popular in Scotland,” he says. “Globally the whiskey market has grown to the point that a lot of distillers wished they’d produced more a couple of years ago. We have produced insufficiently for the current growing global demand. I think the market in India is highly profitable,” he concludes.