But living in the global village – I reach out for the biggest selling brand of whisky in the world.
Which I failed to get hold of.
So I give you the world’s 2nd biggest selling whisky in the world.
McDowell’s No 1 Reserve Whisky.
Selling an astronomical 25.5 million 9 litre cases 2016.
Johnnie Walker – the top selling Scotch – comes in at 17.4 million cases.
Jack Daniels – the top selling Bourbon – at 12.4 million.
Whilst Jameson – the top selling Irish – comes in at 6.2 million.
7 of the top 10 biggest sellers in the world are Indian whiskies.
Which considering they aren’t exactly household names in Europe is rather surprising. Especially when for the most part there are very familiar companies behind these brands.
So what does McDowell’s No 1 taste like?
To begin with the nose is rather soft & sweet grainy. None of that over powering added caramel hit I’ve experienced with other mass market blends.
In the mouth it’s also rather easy drinking. No strong flavours or notes. Just a gentle soft heat mixed in with a pleasant graininess & a slight chemically industrial note which doesn’t overwhelm the experience.
What flavour there is fades fast – but the warmth stays for a while.
I’ve had a few whiskies of this style from around the world.
Scotch is imported in bulk, blended with locally produced distillate made from easily available home grown grain/rice/molasses – which are all legally permitted in the country of origin – to make the final product, which is generally only sold in the country of manufacture.
McDowell’s No 1 stands out as one of the finest of these.
A friend kindly brought it back from Nigeria for me. Africa is a market Indian Whisky is expanding into. Which has led to action from the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) which you can read about here.
Maybe I’m missing something though.
Isn’t Diageo a member of the SWA?
And a certain Scottish gentleman by the name of Mr Angus McDowell founded a company in India back in 1898 to service the needs of ex-pats stationed there?
The very company Diageo is now the majority share holder of?
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.
It’s no surprise that the joys of whiskey is a popular theme for many a singer – band – movie around the world.
A cursory scroll through the pages of YouTube throws up many interesting videos – tunes and snippets.
Kicking off in Ireland there is the world famous “Whiskey In The Jar” by Thin Lizzy. It’s a pity that lead singer Phil Lynott’s struggles with drink and drug issues ultimately led to his early demise.
A more traditional tone is set by Shane MacGowan – another person who has a long history of excessive alcohol consumption – and teeth to make a donkey proud. Talking of pride – “nancy” is a derogatory term for a gay man – but I’d like to state I’m proud to have played my part in making Ireland the 1st country to allow gay marriage – by a popular vote! Nancy Whiskey seems to be a song about the darker side of drink.
Drinking and it’s darker side is a universal theme as shown in this tune from Nigeria by Ice Prince.
Moving on to something a little heavier – rock music – where excess is the order of the day – a group of young Germans do a whole album of whisky.
Possibly not to everyone’s taste!
More mainstream rock is represented by this Southern group – Copperhead.
Which leads to Copperhead Road.
Which leads to Whiskey Friends – a lovely little video I enjoyed immensely!
If that’s all a bit too heavy – let Seasick Steve calm you down.
Moving on to a different genre of music – more contemporary and modern – Verse And Bishop.
And on to a different continent. I knew India was a big market for whiskey – as well as being a big producer too. Amrut Fusion being an award winning expression. But I was taken aback by the amount of popular cultural imagery around whiskey. Bollywood certainly does whiskey big style!
I must admit – the gratuitous use and objectification of the female body in this video was something I thought we had moved on from – but when my granddaughters pointed out recent tracks by Miley Cyrus – Britney and others – not to mention Madonna tracks from my youth – maybe it’s just me growing old. Rachana is walking a well trodden path.
Big dance routines seem to be the order of the day in this clip.
But I’ll wind up my Indian trip with this slightly comic track.
And move to Scotland – where Andy Stewart did cheeky songs for his career.
Not forgetting the film Whiskey Galore..The Daddy of a whiskey films. Loosely based on a true event.
Which is an apt spot at which to leave my brief look at whiskey in music – dance and movie.
I hope you enjoyed it.
Please send me your own favourites and suggestions – I had fun searching for the above!