Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Evening with David Pickerell - Delhi and Mumbai

Mumbai, 24th March 2011
 Master Distiller David Pickerell
It was a tough call for an ardent cricket fan to miss the Indo-Oz encounter however the sheer exuberance of American whiskies was too hard to resist and did me in. I am glad I succumbed.
 Mr. Frank Coleman,conducting Whiskey tasting
It was an American whisky seminar held at a sobo (South Bombay) restaurant by the Distilled spirits council of the United States (DISCUS) .The evening started with a round of refreshing Manhattans, some buttered prawnsJ and then a welcome note by Mr. Frank Coleman, Senior VP Communications at DISCUS. He commented” This event aims at continuing the momentum in educating the industry and consumers about the unique character of American whiskies.” Commenting on their growing popularity Mr. Tyler, acting US consul general said “India is the largest whisky market in the world and U.S whiskies have seen an exponential growth of about 300% in the last decade, despite this there is a lot of untapped potential which they are looking at.”

The highlight of the event was Mr. David Pickerell the Master distiller at the George Washington distillery and his very informative session on U.S whiskies. An old hand in the business; he was at the helm of operation at Makers Mark for 14 years before he took up the new role. He took the audience through a guided tasting of 6 starting with Jack Daniels the lightest to the heaviest being the Jim Beam black .My pick of the lot was Jack Daniel silver select, robust but opulent, bursting with aromas of caramel, vanilla and toast.

Soon he decided to blow us away with a 100% rye, which had travelled with him all the way. It was mellow and fruity (read apples) with underlying notes of caramel and honey.
Twisted whisky sour and Black Gold (Kahlua, Bourbon and Cola) were the potions for the remainder of the night.

The many tipples had started to cause ripples in my inside when the whiff of Balinese curry put me at ease. As I hurried towards the buffet I was happy to bump into Suneeta Kanga from Sommelier India who was accompanied by some friends. David joined us too and we discussed everything from designing sets to enzymes in the rye as we enjoyed the Rocket, fruit and feta salad. The evening ended with a night cap (with a mars bar inside) accompanied by Prune and Armagnac ice-cream and berry mascarpone in filo baskets. I hope I don’t have to make yet another decision for the Indo-Pak “friendly”!!! Well for now I am ok with some Woodford Reserve on the rocks.

Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, conducting Whiskey tasting

Ajit Balgi, Tulleeho, Mumbai

 21st March, Delhi

Dinner with Dave

It's been a fascinating evening, which I've been sorry to see the end of. A combination of many factors, one of the last of the balmy nights before summer takes over in Delhi, Michael Pelletier, the Minister-Councillor, Public Affairs, USA gorgeous house, some amazing American whisky cocktails, and last but not the least, the company of David Pickerell.

David is the ex-master distiller of Makers Mark, an American bourbon whisky, and is here on the invitation of the Distilled Spirits Council of the US, to take us through a tasting of different styles of American whisky, and to share with us some moments of American history, seen through a whisky bottle, cause whisky, has been an integral part of American history.

One of Dave's many assignments at the moment is in fact, to be a part of the resurrection of the George Washington Distillery. George Washington had a canny old Scotsman as his plantation manager, who persuaded him to start making whisky. Well George Washington's rye whisky is back on the American market, and the first 2 bottles sold for $ 100,000! each. GW rye is now a 65% rye whiskey.

There are 4 critical components of American whisky, quality grain, most often, either corn or rye, water, low in iron, American white oak, thin, but still water tight and the diurnal weather - the heat of the day, and the cool of the night. Some things however are pure serendipity, the Reverend Elijah Craig, a whisky distiller himself, had whisky pouring out of his stills, but nowhere to store them. Off he went to the barrel maker, who had none, except for a barrel, which smelt strongly of fish. The good Reverend in a stroke of inspiration burnt the barrel from the inside to get rid of the fish smell. The resulting charred barrels, gave the whisky, a remarkable colour and flavour! Amen to more such mistakes and to a great evening.

Vikram Achanta, Tulleeho, Delhi