Master blender Caroline Martin wishes to break the myths surrounding whisky
"It's not just a man's drink," she says
What’s the biggest myth about whisky, we ask master blender Caroline Martin. “That it’s a man’s drink,” she is quick to answer. Based out of Menstrie, Scotland, Caroline was in Bengaluru for Signature Premier to host a food and whisky pairing event with Chef Ranveer Brar. “I’ve been in this business for a long time,” she quips as we sit down for an interview. Caroline completes 31 years with Diageo. Most of those years have been spent as a master blender for whisky. “It has always been a passion of mine. I initially came from a food science background. So I was blending food and flavours. This is how I got interested in flavour profiles,” she adds.
In good spirits
Coming back to our conversation about women and whisky, Caroline says, “It’s a man’s world. But we are trying to change that. Times change, and we change with it.” Caroline wants women and young people to drink more whisky and experiment more with it, as for a long time, it has been thought of as a drink for older men. “While traditionally, and personally for me, whisky has been a short drink, only had neat or on the rocks, we want consumers to experiment with it. Mix it with soda, your favourite mixer and even in cocktails,” she offers. Essentially, Caroline wants to break down the stereotypes around whisky and make it more accessible. The snobbishness around whisky also comes because there is too much technical jargon. This can be solved through educating the consumer, according to her.
Traditionally, tandoori food pairs best with whisky as the smoky notes go well together. But Caroline has a few unusual recommendations. “I quite like smoky drinks with something pungent, like a Stilton cheese because of the way they complement each other.” If you like sweeter flavours, she also recommends cold whisky with a chocolate mousse.
Talking about the Indian palate and choices, Caroline comments that she has noticed that our tastes lie in the more richer flavours. “A lot of smoky and malty whiskies are preferred in India. I see a lot of Highland flavours and deeper notes such as sultanas and currants,” she says.
For the novice whisky drinkers, she says it is best to start with grain whiskey or blended Scotch. “This is a safer place to begin. Start with a mixer if that makes you more comfortable,” she says when asked how to develop your palate for the drink. “Of course, the best way to go about it is to drink a lot of it,” she signs off on a lighter note.