The Little Easy, the popular restaurant in Mumbai recently hosted the city’s maiden Ballantine’s
Bar Takeover – the cult range of blended premium scotch whisky, under the able mentorship of
Lewis Anderson, brand ambassador – north and west of India, Ballantine’s. Anderson in conversation
with Akshay Nayak explains why Ballantine’s is a versatile whisky
An engineer who went on to join the hospitality industry for his love for whisky that grew into him from his days of residing in Scotland, Anderson grew up on farmland in the northeast of Scotland. “My early stint in the hospitality industry started when I was just 16 years. I worked as a waiter at a hotel then. I always loved to converse and interact with people, for which I kept working at the same place. After that, I went on to work behind the bar, which was a different ball game altogether. I have been working with the hospitality industry for the past 12 years in different countries across the world. My interest in spirits started when I started working at a whisky distillery and getting to know more and more about this product got me more interested in it. I left for New Zealand for five years. As people learn that you are Scottish, the first thing that they do is ask about whisky and hence I thought of pursuing a career in it,” he explained.
Speaking about the tasting notes, Anderson said, “Ballantine’s is a great brand which was founded by George Ballentine and handed over to his sons in late 1860s. With over 150 years now, the tasting notes are just as how they used to be back then. We, at Ballantine’s have always believed that if you stick to your principles, success will always follow. The 12-year-old Ballantine’s is one of the oldest created blends in 1810. It is well received by global customers, as well as in India at large. The whisky is incredibly complex, very smooth, with a lot of vanilla notes and creamy fruity notes of red apples, peaches, and pears. Ballantine’s is celebrated for its smooth character and hence in any of its blends, you will never witness a punch of smoky or any other intense flavours. It is a blend of four biggest whisky-producing regions in Scotland, so you will get the neat notes of subtle spices, a little bit of smoke and a sweet finish as well. Our master blender has made it a point that irrespective of where in the world you buy a Ballantine’s 12-year-old, it is going to taste exactly the same. Hence, the consistency of the whisky and its flavours is maintained across the globe.”
Being the first bar takeover by Ballantine’s in Mumbai, replying to a query about the cocktails that he has devised for the patron’s palate, Anderson replied, “Keeping Indian palate in mind and pairing the cocktails rightly with the dishes here, drinks made with Ballantine’s have a great balance, giving flavours of all the ingredients and also the whisky does not have an overpowering effect on other ingredients. Speaking about the Indian food pairing with whisky cocktails, the fresh ones go well with spicy food. Also, it is very much personal when it comes to enjoying a glass of whisky, be it neat or with soda or an old fashioned. Ballantine’s ticks all the boxes for it is really versatile to cater to each palate. We have run a campaign at 16 countries across the world asking them how do they like to drink their whisky. In the US, there is Ginger Ale and other common ingredients predominantly used in Whisky. However, coming to India, there is an abundance of diverse regional herbs that can be paired with the whisky for some extravagant cocktails.”
Speaking about introducing new labels from Ballentine’s in India, Anderson noted that in India each region has its own palate preferences when it comes to whiskies. “Also, the market is price sensitive, which could be a challenge for launching certain products. The main products here are the five-year-old, 12-year-old and then the 17-year-old. You can get other whiskies as well but then they become a lot more expensive,” he concluded.