The (financial) year has ended and while we all wait in anticipation of a new (better) excise policy across the various states, here’s what is going on around the nation.
The last time this column went to press, summer was just around the corner and since then, it has wasted no time in rushing and settling right in. We barely had a spring, which, in my household, normally means time for Pimm’s and other spritzers. Instead, with the scorching heat, we have all shifted to beer almost immediately. One fun find has been the Coast Beer Co Hazy IPA which was hoppy, citrusy, fresh and yet, had one unparalleled and yet must-be-highlighted benefit: it was absolutely alcohol free. Now I would normally eschew such stuff (and the stuff in the market I had tried so far has been mostly in the insipid space) but this here is a product that even a true beer lover wouldn’t mind embracing.
For the staunch ones nevertheless, Kati Patang is expanding its footprint and recently I spotted its entire range on a retail shelf, which means enough choice for beer lovers of all styes. Another beer I have quite enjoyed is good old Bira and the winds have it that they are about the set the market on fire with some truly unique launches. Remember, you read it here first.
Moving on to other spirits, whites seem to be ruling the roost. Vodka is gathering popularity and homegrown brand Smoke will soon be not only crossing international waters but also launching new flavour variants. The gin shelf remains abuzz (as always) but the real action is happening with other spirits, like rum and agave-based ones. Pistola is a 100% agave-based homegrown spirit (which has been gently aged in barrels) and is gaining much fan-following everywhere it goes, especially among the bartender community.
Another category to watch out for will be Bourbon (I probably said this last time too) but what with its creamy vanilla and butterscotch favours, and its propensity to blend easily with mixers to yield some fabulous summer coolers, I think it will play a big part in making daytime whisky drinking a thing.
I also had the chance to try Bootz rum, a local product that blends in some of the Jamaican variants. It’s not as rich as the latter, nor does it display a similar depth of flavour, but it was definitely quaffable and worked well in cocktails. I wouldn’t consider it a sipping rum but it’s still good for the home shelf.
Then there is Highbury Classic, a US-based brand which is a proprietary blend of Scotch whiskies and other spirits that is now being locally bottled in India. In an already crowded whisky market, it remains to be seen how it will fare; the smart branding and the smooth profile will certainly help.
And then there is Estuary water. It’s meant to be water that’s specific to a need, that is blending with spirits, especially whiskies. Now, I won’t say it doesn’t taste different—it certainly does—but then most waters that aren’t RO-processed do. Does it make whiskies or premium spirits taste better? I can’t say for certain. I tried it on a mix of people (and a mix of spirits) and the collated results were, at best, random. There was no consensus, which just goes to show that taste is a subjective thing. However, it is an extremely pretty bottle and that in itself is worth satisfying the curiosity.
As a parting piece of advice (I have two actually), hydrate and use sunscreen. I cannot possibly over-stress the importance of both. Water is the best for the former; no, not just the fancy bottled ones, any filtered version will do. And in case of the latter, I have settled upon Perenne and Arata gel as the ideal ones. Proceeds from their sales will not profit me in any manner, before you wonder.
The writer is a sommelier