The Good Life

Drink life to the lees

Fine spirits connoisseur Jim Murray imparts knowledge on the art of enjoying a single malt

good whisky is a spirit whose distinct flavour and complexity evokes a sense of passion and well-being, according to Jim Murray, touted as the world's leading whisky guru. And he stands testimony to this as he holds his single malt whisky — on the rocks — on a pleasant spring evening at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, and like a young lover, he looks at the glass with much admiration and intensity. 

At the event hosted by Amrut Distilleries on the eve of its 10th anniversary, guests including the city’s glitterati — hoteliers, businessmen, celebrities — gather for a Whisky tasting session with Murray. On each table is placed six small pegs of whisky and a bottle of mineral water. Murray himself has before him whisky glasses, a huge cask filled with his favourite spirit, a decanter and a whisky bible that he swears by. Donning a white cap and a red tie, Murray lectures a rather curious audience about the art of whisky drinking.

Grey-haired and moustached, Murray has a thick British accent; he speaks in a slow, drooling manner, with an authoritative tone on the virtues of single malts. “Treat whisky as an individual. Build a relationship with it. View its multifaceted-ness,” says Murray. And what makes the entire affair all the more fascinating is the fact that Murray himself is not much of an alcohol drinker.

As the audience warms up to their whisky glasses, Murray explains to them how one should hold a whisky glass between one’s fingers, raise it up slowly and observe the moisture forming in the vacuum space inside the glass — that, is the spirit of the drink. According to the whisky guru, one must always devour single malts without mixing ice or water; raise it up, take in the aroma, dab it against either sides of the nose thrice and take a sip, swirl it inside, chew and spit out some of it into an empty glass. And that is how whisky is tasted to enjoy its finesse. It is then time to have some water and move on to the next brand of whisky.

“One can even have a conversation with whisky. Ask it, ‘how are you?’ ‘how have you been?’,” he chuckles. Following his instructions, the audience takes turns to try each of the single malts on the table — Glenmorangie, Talisker, Jim Beam, Bourbon and two brands of Amrut. “Hmmm… it’s peachy, fruity and divine and so soft on the palate,” says Murray getting rather poetic about the varying tastes of whisky. The flavour ranges from being pungently smoky, medicinal to being subtly sweet. And a fusion of vanilla ice cream with 30 ml of whisky, too, tastes divine, according to an official from Amrut Distilleries

According to Murray, whisky is as elegant, balanced and refined a drink as wine. It is also called a mature drink, which can be sold only after being casked for at least three years. So, if any of you want to drink this mature spirit the right way, take a deep breath, grab a single malt, follow Murray’s passionate steps and drink it to its last dreg — in style.