On Saturday 16th May we held our first virtual whisky festival, exploring the influence of location on whisky maturation with Dhavall Gandhi and master blenders from across the globe; Tomer Goren from Milk & Honey in Israel & Michael D’Souza from Paul John in India.
Thank you to all who joined us by purchasing the tasting packs and within the call, or through our live Facebook stream.
Throughout the conversation, we were asked some brilliant questions, and unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to get them all answered. However, we collected them and forwarded them onto Dhavall, Tomer & Michael so we could share them with you.
- How do the 3 distillers know each other? Have you any plans to release a mixed whisky with the distilleries?
Dhavall Ghandi: Whisky industry is like a small family and you meet interesting people along the way. I have met both, Michael and Tomer, at industry events and our frequencies matched and we have been friends ever since. I have known Michael for a while now, and if I am not mistaken, I met him in Glasgow when I was working at Macallan. I met Tomer in London several years ago at a whisky show. There are no plans but who wouldn’t want to do some interesting projects with like-minded whiskymakers?
Tomer Goren: I know Dhavall and Michael from the whisky business, we meet mostly in exhibitions and other whisky-related events and talk from time to time about professional subjects.
I never say no to special collaborations between distilleries so it’s something that we’ll not rule out on a professional reason. But I think these things are mostly marketing related. We will make great whisky anyway.
Michael D’Souza: First time I met Dhavall Gandhi during world distillers conference way back in 2013-14, Since then we are in regular touch and became good friends. I met Tomer through Dhavall during the webinar. I’m not a great fan of mixing single malts from different distilleries. Every distillery has got its own identity and hallmark. It’s important to showcase your regional characteristic in your whisky.
- Do you use local waters?
DG: Yes, the water we use for our process is drawn from the Lake District National park. Water is important to us from a process-perspective but not as important from a flavour-perspective.
TG: Yes, we use our local Tel-Aviv municipal water, and treat it with reverse-osmosis system, then adding minerals and salts by our unique recipe.
MD: Yes! Goa is known for quality water, we draw water for the whisky making from two different sources, 80% of the water is drawn from the river Sal and rest from open well and borewell. For mashing, we use soft water (two-stage filtrations through sand and carbon) and for reduction, we use de-mineralised water.
- Would you serve whisky with food? if so, what’s your favourite food to serve with your whisky? & what foods would you pair with the whisky’s in front of us?
DG: Definitely! Whisky is a versatile drink and pairing it with food can bring-out and enhance certain nuances. My favourite foods to have with whisky are sushi (fatty tuna) cheese (Stichelton) and chocolate truffles (Nigerian ginger from Highland Chocolatier)
TG: Whisky-food pairing is a thing that developed a lot in the last few years, so I love involving whisky and food together in masterclasses or dinners.
I’d say that the lightly-peated young single-malt will be well-served side by side with meat, a good steak for example. The Sherry expression will go fine with deserts, sweet foods like sweet potato etc.
MD: For me whisky itself is part of food. It must be subtle or delicate food, or else the strong flavour of the food would impair your palate. I always recommended pairing different kinds of simple grilled meat, chocolate and cheese with Paul John expressions.
- Do you believe in the concept of ‘terroir’ in whisky production?
DG: Yes, I do believe in the concept of ‘terroir’ but more from the sourcing of the oak for our casks and the impact of maturation. The style that I create is focused more on the impact of casks, maturation and blending rather than the source or the variety of barely.
TG: Not in case of manufacturing. Once the liquid is filled in the cask, it not only interacts with the wood but also with the outside world. It starts to absorb smells and substances from its surroundings. This makes each and every whisky different.
MD: It’s not something to believe in, it’s a fact.
Whisky develops differently in different terroirs, so whiskies from different locations will be different.
- I am not keen on whisky colouring and many distillers do use this method. What’s the thoughts on using E150 colouring?
DG: We like our whisky to be natural without any colouring added so all The Lakes Distillery products are non-chill filtered and bottled at natural colour. The colour of the whisky is entirely derived from the bespoke casks we use.
TG: We’re not colouring any of our whisky. All colours are naturally extracted from the casks.
MD: We have got wonderful tropical climate, its warm and humid most of the time. The amount of extraction we get is four times higher than compared to colder regions. E150 tend to reduce the natural flavour of the single malt, especially it masks the maltiness in the liquid. It can be used only to increase the colour.
- If there is any whisky you could try, what would it be? (Price not a factor)
DG: I haven’t made it yet!
TG: Before I consider myself as a whisky maker, I’m a whisky lover. So… I tried a lot of whiskies in a wide prices range.
and the answer will be – any whisky that I didn’t try before.
MD: I am a big fan of Bourbon and Rye whiskies. Sazerac Rye is one of the favourites. I love scotch and Japanese whiskies too. I just love Old Pulteney 17 and Malts from Ichiro and Hakushu. I always love to try different new whiskies.
- Do all the whiskymakers keep the casks lying flat or upright? I’ve seen some warehouses store them upright so just curious.
DG: It all depends on the whisky maker and the warehouse capability. Personally, I am not a fan of palletised warehouses (upright storage). We store all our casks on the bulge (flat).
TG: We are storing the casks lying flat on the side, in 4 levels of traditional wooden rods storage. That way it’s easier to sample the casks constantly.
MD: Depending upon the environment you need to decide whether to keep the casks vertical or horizontal. If its warmer climate, then keeping the cask horizontally on the racks is a much better option as you can draw the casks at any given point of time. If the weather is colder and need longer maturation, then stacking it vertically is better as you can store more casks.
For Michael & Tomer:
- Could you tell something about your fermentation at Paul John and M&H? Your starting and maximum temperature, length, type of yeasts…
TG: The fermentation at M&H is up to 72 hrs. Long, and it depends on the period of the year. In the summer it’s a bit shorter, about 67 hrs. we use Fermentis M-1 distillers yeast and Mauri yeast. The temperatures of the fermentation start below 17 Celsius degrees and are kept, once reached to that point, at 30-33 Celsius degrees.
MD: Primary fermentation happens under controlled temperature; we maintain around 25 degrees centigrade. it takes approximately 60 hours to complete the alcoholic fermentation, once completed, the wash is rested for a few more hours to gain complexity. We use common distiller’s dry yeast from AB Mouri.
For Dhavall & Tomer:
- What’s the highest fill no. of casks that Lakes and Milk and Honey have?
DG: Based on our upgraded production facility, we can fill up to 3, 500 American Standard Barrels a year. However, we use predominantly Sherry casks which are double the size, so the numbers change every year.
TG: Currently we have more than 2500 casks on-site, and we’re filling around 25 casks a week. An expansion of 20% in capacity is planned around October this year.
Any chance Lakes and Milk and Honey whiskies will be making entry into India any time soon?
DG: India is definitely on the list, but we don’t have any plans in the immediate future.
TG: We’re now talking with few importers and distributors in India and I hope M&H whiskies and Gins will be available in this region soon.
And, last not but not least a few final questions for Dhavall:
- I saw a Whisky Maker’s Edition mentioned, what is that and how does it differ from Whisky Maker’s Reserve?
DG: The Whiskymaker’s Reserve is our flagship range that is Sherry-led, flavour-packed and bold. The expressions in the Whiskymaker’s Edition range are one-off playful diversions from our house-style that will showcase interesting flavour profiles. Please watch this space!
- When is Whiskymaker’s Reserve No 3 coming out?
DG: The bottling was delayed due to the current COVID-19 situation, but it is bottled this week and will be available within weeks.
- Do you have any other whiskies planned for the future (One / Steel Bonnets)?
DG: Yes, there are a few existing releases planned for 2020 and 2021. We will be soon bottling the ONE Orange Wine cask expression along with a new profile of ONE Sherry. In addition to ONE, I am also working on something special.
If you have more questions, please feel free to contact The Lakes, Milk & Honey and Paul John via our social media channels and we will all do our best to answer them for you.
If you would like to watch the festival again, please feel free to visit our Vimeo page.
We also will be announcing more events in the upcoming weeks, so keep an eye on our emails and social media posts.