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Glenfiddich – For Those Who Dare

Sometimes it takes just one quick decision made at the perfect moment to change your life. but very few have the courage, and shall we dd intelligence, to take a risk. Mr Brian Kinsman of Glenfiddich had that audacity, and so did the six pioneers who were honoured by the brand…

Glenfiddich oak casks

As the new and slightly pinkish Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix was poured into my tasting glass, I felt a little thrill going up. Not just on my table, but on others’ as well, since everyone had been waiting the full evening to have a glimpse and sip of this miraculous liquid.

Don’t scrunch your forehead on the word ‘miraculous’. It was used deliberately. 

It’s pretty much well-known that January 2010 saw weeks of heavy snowing and cold temperatures. Hence, four feet of dense snow covered the Glenfiddich distillery roofs, which housed hundreds of casks of fine aged whisky, gently maturing in semi-darkness. Not able to withstand the pressure, a number of warehouse roofs (including that of Chivas Regal even!) dramatically collapsed under the weight of the snow, leaving the maturing oak casks exposed to all elements of nature. 

Although the staff started working immediately to clear the snow and return back to normalcy, the ‘damage’ was done, till Glenfiddich Malt Master, Mr Brian Kinsman, decided to turn things in his favour. “Standing amongst the wreckage and exposed casks, we were working out our next steps and assessing the situation. I was thinking about how the casks, some of which were very old, contained some beautiful whisky and it occurred to me that they would create a fantastic non-aged single malt. A limited edition bottling from the whiskies in the damaged warehouses would be an appropriate way of celebrating the pioneering spirit of the Glenfiddich distillery team.”

The name Snow Phoenix came about when a photographer was shooting the scene. And when the team saw the images, the light shining through the warehouse roofs looked like a phoenix rising. Mr Kinsman defines this moment as the conception of Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix.

Getting back to the first paragraph of this article, the other ‘tables’ were hosting six pioneers, who rose out of adversity (much like the Snow Phoenix) and created a mark in their particular fields. Thus, the beautiful dinner by Glenfiddich was intended to launch the Snow Phoenix and also honour the six pioneers for their efforts and courage.

I sipped on the Snow Phoenix which was paired with the appetizer – spiced litchi, chargrilled vegetables and toasted brie. It had a fiery taste which took a little time to settle down pleasantly on the tongue. The nose was vibrant with a creamy vanilla scent wafting up. The fieriness can be attributed to the taste of apples roasted in embers of a campfire, sweetened with heather honey and accompanied by a piece of chocolate, rich and complex with a whiff of burned sugar, coffee and woodsmoke.

As I was enjoying the mellow, pleasant evening, I noticed the elegant fashion designer, Ms Ritu Kumar, right at the next table. She was one of the pioneers awarded for her never-say-die spirit. Starting the ‘boutique’ culture 40 years ago, when India was still struggling to stand up on its feet, she has been heralded as THE fashion designer of, from and for India. 

Right in front of us was the effervescent entertainer Mr Luke Kenny. Most of us would either recognize him as India’s first Indian male VJ on Channel V or as ‘Rob’ in the movie Rock On! But there is a lot more behind this ‘young chap’ – as one of my fellow journalists called him – than is usually known.

Right next to Mr Kenny’s table was space designer Mr Sumant Jayakrishnan. If you are a part of the Indian fashion industry in any way, it would be a crime to not know about him. He is probably the only accomplished set designer we have in India. He has not only created the ramp sets for many fashion weeks, but also for niche movies and plays, and extravagant weddings at times as well – more than enough reason to be honoured!

Despite all the elegance and beauty around, all eyes kept drifting to the rock n’ roll group of the day – Mr Subir Malik and his band Parikrama. Mr Malik is not only credited with starting India’s most successful band, but also with helping a multitude other bands by giving them direction and business. With all humility, when saying his thanks for the honour, Mr Malik humoured that while they are mainly a beer drinking tribe, they would cheerfully chuck the mug to replace it with whiskey tasting glasses for the night!

Wing Commander Rahul Monga is probably the bravest of all. India’s very own Phyllias Fogg (the protagonist from the book ‘Around the World in 80 Days’), he has single-handedly flown across 21 countries, over 45,000 kms and for 270 hours across 80 days. No amount of logistical or bureaucratic problems could hinder him from his objective. No one deserved a stiff whiskey more than him that evening! 

Standing in the corner, diametrically opposite to us, Mr V Sunil was mulling over his glass of Snow Phoenix as he listened to his companion. The shy Mr Sunil is actually, and ironically, a very effective communication professional. Extremely well known for the Incredible India campaign, which he conceptualised and executed, he has made his mark in the advertising field.

Needless to say, the food was good, the company was supremely sophisticated and the setting was elegant and warm. And I, for one, felt lucky and inspired to be tasting the Snow Phoenix…