I have always been interested in tasting cigars, but unfortunately, after the first or second puff, my throat seizes up, and I face a violent and rather nasty bout of sneezing. But, when The Calcutta Malt and Spirits Club curated a rather intriguing event, pairing The Balvenie with cigars, who was I to refuse? I met with Subhasis Ganguli from The Calcutta Malt and Spirits Club who spoke about the background of the single malt, and then we had a rather lovely conversation about William Grant, the brand which owns The Balvenie. In the event, we were to taste three different kinds of whiskey – The Balvenie Doublewood 12YO, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14YO, and The Balvenie Doublewood 17YO.
A brief introduction about the whiskey discussed its characteristics as a single malt from the Speyside. Now, those who don’t know it, The Balvenie Doublewood is matured in two casks – first, the oak cask, and finished in the oak sherry cask. The Caribbean Cask is matured in an oak cask first, and then finished in an oak cask previously holding West Indian rum.
As we decided to go by the age – starting from the youngest to the oldest, the Balvenie Doublewood 12YO was served first – I have had this one before, and I have been struck by the flavours – with a hint of citrus (mind you, although many talked about oranges, I found this to be more grassy – maybe something like the pink grapefruit?). I liked the fact that it settled into a nice, dark woodsy finish, and had a lingering aftermath which was rather mellow. Something that I would love to settle down with after a day’s work.
To pair with the whiskey, we were introduced to Abhik Roy, who introduced us to the world of cigars. If you check their website, Andre Garcia makes cigar cases that are customized to suit individual tastes and style. The motto of the brand is ‘one size does not fit all’, and when you look at cigars, you would realize that there are a huge number of sizes and types, and therefore, customized cigar cases for those who really love their cigars are a great idea. Abhik Roy spoke about the different kinds of cigars – and unlike the common misconception, the smaller cigars are actually stronger than the larger ones.
To be fair, after the flying start, I found myself facing the Caribbean Cask, and frankly speaking, I was not too sure of it. I found it to be a bit too much – too sweet, too fruity, too much caramel, a bit of coconut (“oh dear, there’s the rum!” I moaned silently while I tasted it first), and even after adding water, it didn’t open up to well. But then, as it settled, it somehow toned itself down and behaved, ending in a rather sweet coherence of vanilla and wood which was nice if unremarkable.
Our last drink was the Balvenie 17YO Doublewood , and this was really worth the wait. The difference in maturation is explained through the rather beautiful floral and vanilla notes, which is heightened with the entrance of honey, which lingers on. This is a whiskey you want to sit down with and probably contemplate having a relationship with. With the addition of water, the flowers and fruits open up, and there is a hit of grass and orange peel in the background which comes across – what a finish! This easily was my favourite and I returned home, trying to smoke a cigar recommended to me by Abhik and failing miserably.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the event by Taj Bengal.