DFS Rolls Out Red Carpet for Whisky Connoisseurs at Changi Airport
WHENEVER I am at an airport suffering a long layover, I remember the Tom Hanks character in Steven Spielberg‘s bitter-sweet film Terminal, who gets stuck at JFK for nine months after his fictional East European country is de-recognised by the United States following a military coup — he can’t, as a result, be allowed into the U.S., nor can he go back, for he’s officially ‘stateless’.
The film was based on the real life story of an Iranian refugee, Mehram Karimi Nasseri, who lived for 18 years (1988 to 2008) at Terminal I of Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, even as his refugee papers got entangled in legal disputes in France and Belgium. I often wonder how it must be to live in an airport, but on my recent visit to Singapore, I re-discovered Changi Airport and arrived at the irrevocable conclusion that you can actually spend a day or two in it without feeling the need to step out.
Of course, I may be a little biased because my impression is largely based on the time I spent at the DFS duty-free shops, which were abuzz with an ongoing Whiskey Festival, on till June 30. If you are a connoisseur of alcoholic drinks, you can spend hours at the stores, especially the one at the new Terminal 4, which is famous for the clover-leaf installations suspended from the vast ceiling — these installations move according to the beat of pre-programmed music.
The picture above shows the view from the second storey of the duplex DFS duty-free store at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2. Even if you don’t wish to shop till you burn a hole in your credit card, you must spare time to immerse yourself in the airport’s retail experience.
It is the DFS store, though, that gets the crowds, thanks to its complimentary bar, where I had a refreshing Hendrick’s gin cocktail with elderflower and cucumber syrups and a slice of cucumber. Also enticing is its collection of craft beverages, including complimentary craft beer on tap, its well-stocked wine and champagne room, and its star attraction, The Whiskey House, where you can taste for free more than 100 different whiskies based on four basic flavour profiles: Floral and Delicate; Fruity and Elegant; Smokey and Intense; Rich and Rounded. If you’re lucky, you may even get to top up the experience with some whisky gyaan from the global brand ambassadors on call.
At Terminal 2, you can match your favourite poison with dark soft chocolates, infused with kaffir lime and red chillies in one, and with onion seeds in another, at The Whiskey House. At Terminal 3, which is where flights from Delhi and Mumbai land and take off, you have the option of either tanking up with a Singapore Sling at the replica of the cocktail’s birthplace, the historic Long Island Bar of The Raffles, made famous by Somerset Maugham, or shopping at the tastefully arranged individual boutiques for nine popular spirits brands — Absolut, Dom Perignon, Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s, Hennessy, Johnnie Walker, The Macallan, Martell and Penfolds. For a curious tippler, there’s this and so much more.
My discoveries of the day were Teeling Whiskey (note that though the English and Scotch spelling is ‘whisky’, the rest of the world prefers whiskey!), the first Irish whiskey to come out of Dublin in 125 years, and Roku Gin from Suntory, the Japanese whisky company made famous by Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, which combines six Japanese botanicals (sakura flower and leaf, sencha and gyokuro teas, sansho pepper and yuzu peel) with the eight that traditionally go into gins, namely, juniper berries, coriander, angelica root and seed, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and bitter orange peel. To each his own taste. I personally would love a whiff of Japanese spring in my gin than the flavours we know too well.
Creating a Storm
BY LAW, Scotch whiskies have to be matured in American Bourbon casks for a minimum of three years. Then, it is up to the imagination of the malt masters to lend their own twist to the bouquet of flavours that defines a single malt. The much-talked-about Glenfiddich Winter Storm, which comes in an elegant white ceramic bottle with smart bronze lettering, was inspired by the January 2016 visit to Canada’s ice wine-producing region by the whisky’s helmsman, Brian Kinsman. When he saw the grapes for the dessert wine being picked well past midnight at temperatures below minus-10 degrees C, he hit upon the idea of finishing one of the rare whiskies in his vast cellar in ice wine casks. The single malt he chose for the venture was the Glenfiddich 21YO and the end result is like nectar, the intense sweetness from the casks balanced by the warm flavours of the rare whisky.
A Japanese Crisis
REMEMBER the Bill Murray character in the 2003 film Lost in Translation flying to Tokyo to work on a commercial for Suntory‘s premier brand, Hibiki 17? Japanese whiskeys didn’t have a global following till the film made Hibiki 17 a cult name, but all that fame has resulted in a problem of plenty for the brand. Suntory doesn’t have the production capacity to cater to the rising demand, so Hibiki 17 will be withdrawn from the market in September, after another brand, Hakushu 12YO, gets the axe later this month. And the chances of them returning is rather bleak. In the changing market, watch out for Chita, a domestically popular Japanese brand that you are not likely to find outside duty-free outlets.
Booze & Botany
A NEW addition to Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub, the watering hole named The Drunken Botanist has got everyone’s attention with its conversation-inducing name. Well, as the restaurant’s co-owner Sahil Sambhi shared with me, the name come from the title of a best-selling book by Amy Stewart on the botanicals that go into the making of cocktails. A delightful book and a must-have that you can order on Amazon, it is packed with information you’ve always wanted to possess. The author, incidentally, is delighted to have a restaurant located in Gurgaon named after her book. She has promised on her Facebook page to visit the place whenever she’s in India.