November 29, 2017

The Rs 41,000 Crore Trick Called IMFL

It is a miracle worked by the Bureau of Indian Standards that turns spirit made of molasses­—plain desi daru—into whisky, rum and brandy with a lot of added colour and flavour.

....The actual, scientific truth is this—in India, the world’s largest consu­mer of whisky by volume, whisky is not whisky. It’s daru, made of molasses. Neither is Ind­ian brandy really bra­ndy. Vodka is in a grey territory. And even Indian rum is iffy.

...The tale has a uniquely Indian twist. Much of what is mass-market whisky in India smells, tastes and looks like whisky. The ‘better’ ones can be surprisingly smooth and transport the drinker to an eclectic world flavoured with all those high-sounding descriptions: punchy apple and sour lemon as top notes, anchored on a bed of woody smokiness. Pretty much like the premium stuff—except you’re rea­lly being sold a lemon. Why?

...Because scotch and bourbon, the American variant, are distilled from grains, as they should be. And the base of Indian ‘whisky’ is plain spirit distilled from mol­asses, the dark, viscous liquid that’s a byproduct of the process of extracting sugar from sugarcane.

... The most important stipulation is that the esse­ntial characteristics—flavour, consistency, colour and taste—should not be achieved by additives. .. this distilled alcoholic beverage is to be made from fermented grain mash from any of these grains: barley, corn, rye or wheat. And it has to be aged in charred white oak casks for three years to give it its distinctive characteristics. The norms for bourbon, in fact, are so strict that new oak barrels must be used so that the full bouquet of wood flavours comes in. Scotch matures in used barrels. Japanese whiskys are aged in Mizunara, an oak-like tree. Either way, it’s the communing with the wood that slowly exorcises the sprites and the coaxes the ghosts to inhabit the spirit.


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