Black Dog – A Real Indian Scotch Whisky?

One frustrating aspect of living in India is the lack of decent booze. Rum is in abundance, but it can be quite sweet; wine is available with just three labels worth talking about, but their flavour does not justify the price; as for the whisky… The only way I can describe Indian whisky is ‘caramalised fire-water’.

The main problem with Indian whisky is that it is distilled from fermented molasses, so by definition it should be labelled as rum. Indeed this has lead to issues between the EU and Indian distillers over the use of the word ‘Scotch’ (think French protecting the use of the word ‘champagne’). Having sampled Indian whisky I’m not sure you could even label it ‘rum’. ‘Hooch’ just about describes it.

black_dog_whiskyOne way in which Indian breweries have got round these issues is to buy up Scottish distilleries and use proper Scotch whisky to blend it with the Indian firewater. United Breweries, for example, has bought into a number of distilleries and brands including Whyte and Mackay and Isle of Jura. This is supplying the large market of whisky drinkers among the more affluent Indians (a market a lot larger than you’d expect) who are a little bit more discerning than the local drunk I often bump into queueing outside the state-run liquor shops of Kerala.

Having already tried Bagpiper (and liking it) I was pleased to have got hold of Black Dog. Also owned by United Spirits (part of United Breweries) this smartly labelled blended is actually quite pleasing.

71ikfyxsejmjf0dk.D.0.Black_Dog_WHiskyWhen I drink whisky I’ll either mix it if it’s a blended, or drink with an equal measure of water if a malt. Since Black Dog is a blended I was keen to get hold of a decent mixer, but try as I might I simply could not source ginger ale anywhere. Ginger beer would have sufficed but my usual delivery man has only tonic water (and if you’ve tried Indian gin you’ll understand why we stock up on Bombay Sapphire when coming through Dubai airport!). I’d be interested to know how Indians drink their blended if sourcing mixers is this problematic.

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Failing to find a mixer I drank my Black Dog straight, with water. With its amber-colour this Speyside is perfectly acceptable for a blended. It’s still quite sweet, with hints of honey, but this is off-set by a woody flavour. I’d put it above Bagpiper in my preferences, though the recommended retail price of 1835 INR (approx £20) is expensive, which I assume is government tax. This is frustrating and puts it outside my own price range. Since I only ever buy whisky at the airport, I’ll pay up to £35 for a half-decent malt, but £20 for a blended is steep, especially by Indian standards.

If push came to shove, however, it’s reassuring to know that there is a half-decent blended to fall back on should my gin supply dry up. I’d be happier still if I could find a decent mixer.





8 Comments on “Black Dog – A Real Indian Scotch Whisky?”

  1. Now I know what you can bring me back next time-I’m always willing to try something different! I agree it’s expensive but just think of the kudos having that bottle on the sideboard, especially with a name like “Black Dog”.

  2. …whisky drinkers among the more affluent Indians  who are a little bit more discerning than the local drunk….

    A little bit? You and your article is out of touch with reality. I’ve lived near Scotland for 15 years and tried every malt and blend let me tell you that the Indian whiskey drinker is as savvy as the Scots.

     

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mick. I’m not sure living near Scotland can bring you to the conclusion that Indian whisky drinkers are as savvy as the Scots; I don’t understand the relevance of that statement. ‘Near Scotland’ is a long way from India. I’d also question that Indian whisky drinkers (in India) are exposed to even a tenth of all available whiskies. Since you’ve tried every malt and blend you have some idea of how many distilleries and brands there are in Scotland. For those who lack Mick’s experience, see this list to get an idea of how many whiskies he’s worked his way through. I lost count at 200. Kudos to you, Mick.

  3. Jamie, If you’ve not figured it by now let me clarify. I did not like your patronizing and condescending comment towards Indian middle class which you find only ‘a little bit’ discerning than the local drunk. You are out of touch and in a time warp. Instead of visiting local state run liquor shops of Kerala, I suggest you visit some upmarket and high class bars and pubs of Delhi,Mumbai or Bangalore to get a feel of how far the whiskey drinking middle class has evolved in India.

  4. By the way, running a hotel near Edinburgh and having a clientbase essentially of Scots has given me a good exposure to Malts and Scotch. Much more than you can care to imagine.

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