One emerging market everyone is keen to get in on is Africa – Nigeria in particular.
With a population estimated at 200 million – making it the 7th most populous nation in the world – and an alcohol sales figure of 2.84 billion dollars in 2014 – who wouldn’t want to have a slice of that cake?
Indian whisky is to the forefront here – at least until Nigeria develops it’s own distilling industry.
India produces mass market blends usually consisting of imported bulk malt from Scotland – augmented with Indian grain – plus a dash of added caramel.
All the big players – Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, United Spirits & others all have their own particular brands in this category. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few here, here & here.
They retail – in Lagos at least – for about €5 per 750ml bottle of Nigerian strength – 43% – whisky.
My latest acquisition – via my Nigerian correspondent – is Black & Blue Premium Whisky.
The name is entertaining.
A play on the successful Black & White Scotch mixed in with the premiumisation associated with Blue (a la Johnnie Walker Blue) – and the unfortunate association attached to ‘battered black & blue.
It’s not clear as to the origins of this brand.
The label has a London address – a rather drab office in Kingsbury NW9 – and oddly a phone number – which rang out when I called.
Oh – I think ROI in this instance means Republic Of India.
I’ve not yet encountered any Irish whiskey in this segment of the market.
So what does ‘the finest oak aged matured malt blended with Indian grain spirit’ taste like?
Well – there is a burnt quality to the nose. I couldn’t describe it as smoky or peaty – yet it’s rather attractive. Mainly as it dampened down the sweet caramel influence.
This followed through into the taste – which didn’t offer much regards depth of flavour or complexity – but it was smooth & approachable.
The burnt note returned on the finish – which along with the 43% strength left a decent degree of heat & warm feeling on the palate.
It certainly didn’t leave my insides black & blue.
Just pleasantly intoxicated.
Sure at only a fiver – what can you complain about!
A good friend brought me back a selection of whiskies from a trip to Lagos recently. I wonder if he flew Afrikan Airlines?
Contained within the group was the delightfully named Best Classic Whisky.
Best is actually a bit of a misnomer. Even among the wider selection of brands in this style of whisky I’ve tasted before – Best is a bit rough & ready.
There is a very big range of locally produced & marketed brands of whisky around the world that generally use imported Scotch – shipped out in bulk – augmented by ‘spirits’ of an undefined source to make these blended expressions.
It’s a big market for Scottish whisky. The volumes these brands sell would be enough to swallow up the entire output of at least a few of the 120 or so Scottish whisky distilleries – even allowing for the possibly small percentage of Scotch in the blend.
Being a self confessed whiskey nut – I get just as excited cracking open a bottle of Best Classic as cracking open a bottle of the latest Irish release or Scottish malt.
It’s the thrill of finding out what’s inside. The taste, the flavour, the mouthfeel and possibly the story behind the brand too.
The Best Classic – to differentiate it from other releases in the Best range – would be their entry level offering.
The nose has that familiar hit of cloying caramel. I don’t believe the dark colour has come about by a long maturation alone.
Heavy caramel on the taste – with a slightly oily mouthfeel – soon morphs into a straight forward high alcohol heat which isn’t entirely unpleasant – just a bit devoid of any real flavours ageing in wood could have added.
The heat slowly fades on the finish with a rather unnatural chemically note.
Not exactly ‘Premium Product’ in my book – but I’ve tasted worse.
It’s an ordinary no nonsense added caramel laden blend that’s only real character is the warming alcohol heat.
So what’s the story?
A bit of digging seems to show BenRiach provide the ‘Finest Scotch Whisky’ element as mentioned in a Kenyan website here as well as Westside Distillers website here.
The ‘Premium Grain Spirit’ is from South Africa. At least that’s what it says on the label.
Now I thought the award winning Sedgwick Distillery – Bain’s Single Grain anyone? – was the only distillery in South Africa. Interestingly they also started out making blends mixing local spirit with imported Scotch. A truly acorns to oaks tale there I think.
But a quick internet search reveals a few other contenders; Durbanville Distillery, Silver Creek Distillery & Qualito Craft Distillery being some I found. There could be more.
Any one of these producers – even the company behind Best Classic Whisky – could go on to win in the international sphere too.
But as it stands at the moment – Best will have to get better.
A land of 190 million souls – 3 Guinness Breweries and a variety of local whiskies.
I say ‘local’ as a quick internet search failed to find any Nigerian whisky distillery. It did find however a selection of whisky brands that are sold in Nigeria – but have been sourced elsewhere – namely India in this instance.
I managed to get my hands on Royal Circle Whisky via a friend who kindly brought me back some samples whilst working in Lagos. A trip to the local Spar shop did the trick.
Packaged in an attractive dumpy bottle with a logo that reminded me of Chivas Regal – Royal Circle is presented at 42.8% and hails from the Khemani Distillery in Daman, India.
It’s a blend of ‘Selected Malt Whiskies’ as it says on the label. Probably imported Scotch and locally produced ethyl alcohol as a lot of these Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brands are commonly made from.
The IMFL category interests me. They represent THE BIGGEST selling whisky brands in the world – they contain Scotch whisky (which must feed back into profits for those involved) – and yet they are mostly ignored.
Meanwhile – I jump straight in.
A healthy dose of caramel assaults the nose along with a rather spirity aroma.
After working through the cloying artificial tasting sweetness, a muted soft malt briefly appears before a rather robust alcoholic hit warms the palate.
The heat – which I must say is the most attractive part of this otherwise characterless expression – slowly fades away.
Nothing unpleasant – just devoid of any real flavours other than the dreaded caramel.
An entry level drinking experience with which I celebrated the New Year.