Sipping the American whiskeys

_MG_9027Words: Ambica Gulati

When you are late for an event at the US Ambassador’s residence, you are a bundle of mixed emotions. And I was in a flurry when I reached Roosevelt House at the Embassy of the United States, Chanakyapuri, Delhi, exactly 30 minutes late for the Great American Whiskey Experience organized by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and hosted by the Hon’ble Ambassador Kathleen Stephens. The programme was also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Luckily, all had kept a margin for the clogged Delhi traffic and I managed a small chat with India’s oldest lady mixologist—Shatbhi Basu who is also the American Whiskey Ambassador in India—before the seminar. Choosing my drink from the range on the bar was not an easy feat, so I just settled for an Old-Fashioned on the rocks and the orange slice added that much-needed tangy calming zing.

(left) Distilled Spirits Council Senior Vice President Frank Coleman and U.S. Chargé d’ Affaires a.i., Ambassador Kathleen Stephens

Living in the north of India, my perception about whiskey is the huge Patiala peg. But this session was not about drinking more, rather drinking better and in moderation. The talk by the Distilled Spirits Council Senior Vice President Frank Coleman was an education on the heritage and kinds of whiskeys the US produces. There are two primary types—Bourbon and Tennessee—and both have their own distinct flavours. Moreover these whiskeys can be used for making some great cocktails, as we discovered at the end.

Coleman added, “The market for U.S. distilled spirits, particularly whiskeys, has been growing rapidly in India. Overall, U.S. distilled spirits exports to India reached almost $4.3 million in 2013, up by 49 per cent compared with 2012. U.S. Whiskeys, primarily Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey, represented the vast majority (97 per cent) of the total.”

His talk, laced with bits about Kentucky and its blue limestone and eventually becoming blue grass good for the horses there, and the whiskey trail, made me long to walk through the distilleries. So the first thing I did on returning home was browse through to experience the American Whiskey Trail. From the China of times none of us were live witnesses to, the Middle East and finally through Europe to the US, that’s the passage of American whiskey. The Trail took me through the colonial era, where Whiskey had an important economic and social function in the community, to the Whiskey Rebellion, through Prohibition and into modern times. The Gateway to the American Whiskey Trail is the reconstructed George Washington’s Distillery at Historic Mount Vernon (VA).This is the only site in North America that can demonstrate 18th-century distilling from seed to barrel. There are many more historical sites such as Fraunces Tavern, Gadsby’s Tavern, West Overton, Woodville Plantation, Oscar Getz.

Just log on to to find all that you wanted to know about American whiskeys.

DSC_0345Now back to the seminar, Coleman educated us on how to taste the five whiskeys on the table before us– Jim Beam Black Label, Bulleit Rye, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels Silver Select. You swirl the whiskey, smell it, better if you do it with your mouth open, add a little water and slowly sip it, swirling it inside the mouth, letting it leave its flavour. Each whiskey has a distinct flavour and each to his own palate. I personally feel each whiskey would suit a different mood, setting and time. That evening, I loved the Jim Beam Black Label, nice and strong.

Most loved the more preferred Jack Daniels Silver Select which had a kind of spicy vanilla flavour.

The Bulleit Rye had a freer, lighter flavour; Makers Mark sweeter and softer and I would let the men go for Woodford Reserve.

_MG_9051Let me share the recipe of the simple whiskey cocktail that
Shatbhi Basu treated us to at the end of this seminar:
Ingredients: Whiskey, sugar syrup, lime, orange juice, ice cubes.

  • Take a mixer, any thing would work if you don’t have a mixer such as coffee shaker or even an empty jam jar.DSC_0347
  • Add lots of ice for that makes all the difference in a cocktail.
  • Put a generous measure of whiskey.
  • Squeeze a dash of lime and add the peel to this for all the oils are in that peel.
  • Now add orange juice and a bit of sugar syrup and shake it hard. Pour in a long stemmed glass and enjoy your evening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s