A quick guide for your tipple
What should one look for on the label of a cognac bottle?
It depends on how you like to have your cognac. If you trying to experiment with a cocktail or a longer drink then VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) is okay. For intermediate everyday appreciation, VS can be considered but a cognac is best when matured for a minimum of 10 years. It was six years but now I think it’s 10 years. Also look for cru (growth region). A single cru will, for example, have the words Grand Champagne, meaning it has come from the region of Grand Champagne.
Is it okay if one doesn’t want to drink cognac neat?
Of course, there are some extraordinary cocktails, like Sazerac.
What kind of glass should one use while drinking cognac?
Tulips are the new favourite; these are smaller stemmed glasses, shaped like a tulip.
Your favourite brand?
My favourite type of Cognac are the single group cognacs.
How to store mezcal and what should one look for while buying a bottle?
Mezcal is always made in an authentic manner and is usually not mixed with other spirits, unlike tequila. And just with mezcal, try to buy artisanal brands; it’s not easy unless you have friends visiting Oaxaca.
Unaged versus aged?
Tequila and mezcal need not be aged very long… but rested. There is enough going with both, so it doesn’t require maturation, which is ageing.
How should one drink mezcal — neat or on ice?
Always neat and sipped slowly… rather kissed. If you find mezcal too warm in the bottle, chill it a little but don’t add ice, it has to be served neat.
What is more important on the label — ‘produced by’ or ‘crafted with’?
Produced by, of course, because then it’s very clearly labelled as to who made the product.
How does one know whether the bottle that’s being bought lacks authenticity or not?
Always buy from a credible source or a reliable retailer from anywhere in the world, or you can pick it up from travel retail as well. But do not buy it from unofficial channels.
Does age matter when it comes to whisky?
Older doesn’t automatically mean that it’s better. But sure, well-matured whisky is like a classic book, but not every book is a classic.
Your favourite brand?
I don’t really have a favourite brand but I prefer a peated whisky.
Should a Martini be shaken or stirred?
A classic Martini is made with a lot of time and the ritual of making a martini is just as interesting as the pouring and the savouring of it. I prefer the stirred method.
What should one serve a Martini in?
Only in a chilled Martini glass.
Do garnishes make a difference?
No, I am not really a big fan of olive because it salts the drink. You can remove the lemon; but my preferred garnish is with a twist of lemon.
Is it right to consider Armagnac to be cognac’s country cousin?
Not really, like mezcal is to tequila, Armagnac has its own individual entity and expression. So Armagnac is a category running its show. The ingredients might be the same. For example, in both Mezcal and tequila agave is a common ingredient. At one level, there are many similarities and, at another level, they are completely independent.
What dish is best served with it?
Armagnac itself is complex spirit, so just keep it simple with matured cheese.
How does one taste Armagnac?
Armagnac can be tried in a brandy balloon or a tasting glass, which is usually small and has a little tulip.
What is The Vault?
It is a curator and distributor of fine spirits available around the world to India. We curate everything in our portfolio and sometimes we take months… up to a year… before we include any brand in our portfolio. This is done after a very careful study, survey internationally, visiting the brands mostly where they are made.
What was the idea behind The Vault Biennale, a two-day event that took place in Mumbai’s Tote on The Turf in Mahalaxmi on February 16 and 17...
The idea of The Vault Biennale was to bring together a community of connoisseurs, aficionados and seekers of fine spirits. Most importantly, people who appreciate and want to experience what fine spirits are all about and to listen to storytellers to have a better understanding of the craft and fine spirits.
What does being a member of The Keepers of the Quaich (an international society which was established by the Scotch whisky industry) entail?
This is an induction into a group of professionals. It is basically a mark of acknowledgment of what we have done so far for the Scotch whisky industry. So it is not given out casually; there are only 2,600 members worldwide and, in India, there are 20-odd members.