By Rupert Wheeler

Passage to India

A country truly embracing whisky
This time last year I was writing about a trip to Speyside and witnessing the most fantastic Autumn colours. This year in complete contrast I have just returned from a five day visit to Mumbai. No Autumn colours but sights of a much different nature and, in a way, just as rewarding. This is my second visit to India where I help present our Icons of Whisky Awards. I am absolutely delighted to see that whisky is so popular in India and the audience so enthusiastic. I noted a marked difference between the audience in Mumbai compared to the audience we had in Bengaluru in 2014. I was informed that this was because of the vast number of events going on in Mumbai that night. There were at least five other whisky related events happening, whereas in Bengaluru we were the only show in town, which made for a much louder crowd.

Our Battle of the Blends competition has reached a conclusion and the blends are now at Master of Malt being drammed, ie. put into 3cl bottles ready for sending out to our potential judges. Again, this is a call out for those interested in taking part to contact me at giving your full postal address as well. The winner will be announced at Whisky Live London on 31 March 2017.

I am delighted with the Battle of the Blends podcast and, the last time I looked, we had over 190 listeners; whether they listened to the entire 45 minutes, we do not know, but it's a start. Episode two, a continuation of the event at The Soho Whisky Club, will be available on 2 December and I would encourage you to listen. I can also confirm that we will be conducting two more podcasts at Whisky Live London next year and we have plans for a podcast to be released in conjunction with every issue of the magazine next year.

Brexit has created many stories within the press, many of which I consider to be scaremongering, but I was interested to read a recent article about Brexit's effect on JD Weatherspoon, a leading pub owner here in the UK. According to the MD, 'bullying on price' by European wine and lager and spirit producers may result in their products not being sold in JD Weatherspoons. The knock-on effect is that many Scotch whisky companies may well have similar barriers put in their way unless we can negotiate tariff free agreements with our European partners. If barriers are to be put in our way then perhaps, as some have suggested, we need to start creating new industries. Scotch Whisky has, for some time, been our most profitable export, but it has just been proven that if we legalised marijuana (for recreational and medicinal purposes only) as US states like Colorado have done, we could create a business in the UK pulling in £30bn a year, way in excess of what alcohol or tobacco bring in at the moment. I hasten to add that I am not advocating the legalisation of the drug and there are many ethical reasons for maintaining the ban. However, with now 26 states in the US having taken the legalised route, it won't be long before someone in the UK starts banging the political drum.

I have been extremely fortunate to have visited Islay twice in less than a year and I am a massive fan of both the island and, more importantly, the whiskies produced there. On my first trip, I was lucky enough to take a seaplane from Loch Lomond to the island. It's really the only way to travel! A friend of mine recently took me up in his Tiger Moth. Travelling this way, you really do appreciate the journey, unlike modern day aircraft. In this issue, Laura Foster, a new contributor to the magazine and also one of our new tasters starting next year, gives a full lowdown on how to visit and enjoy everything Islay has to offer.

A new feature for the magazine is our whisky related gifts. An ideal opportunity for you to buy that 'special' gift for those interested in whisky. We have tried to avoid specific whisky releases and concentrated on trying to show a wide choice of gifts, (some come with a discount), for the whisky enthusiast.

As we approach the end of the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a rewarding new year.