Shatbhi Basu: the Pied Pieper of Kentucky – Chawm Ganguly

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tasting mats

George Washington, one of the founding fathers was a distiller. It is honoured as “America’s Native Spirit” by an Act of the Congress and it is said there are more barrels of it ageing in Kentucky than there are people. Yes, we are talking Bourbon, the “Chosen One” – American Whiskey, to the philistine.

To a vast majority of Indian tipplers who have never ventured beyond their Patiala Pegs of Red and Black labels, and young connoisseurs obsessed with their clear spirits, this American “firewater” holds the promise of opening up a New World – a frontier country where the writ of the “Rule of the meek” does not extend to. And the lady who is doing this Pied Piper act – moving the magic wand of incredible intoxication is Shatbhi Basu.

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She has been there, mixed, sipped and imbibed them all. A pert of the food and beverage industry for more than 33 years now, from bar tender to F&B manager to Bar & beverage Consultant of acclaimed international brands like Skyy Vodka. But what makes her real sought after by liquid gold diggers the world over is the fact that she is an acknowledged expert of the American Whiskey trail – someone who knows her way better than even the Injuns and lead the believer to Nirvana – an unending love affair with a stash of molten pleasure that even a fistful of Dollars cannot buy.

Shatbhi, the American Whiskey Ambassador to India, was in Kolkata – to discuss for DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) the heritage, distinct flavours and true versatility of American Whiskeys. The trade, their plastic smiles notwithstanding, was euphoric and the reasons were not hard to find. For, here was a lady who talked, oozed and poured Booze in a manner the City of Joy had not witnessed before: a lady whose pouring of intoxicants was, almost infectious.

American Whiskeys, as opposed to their illustrious cousins from across the Atlantic are always matured in virgin barrels and because of the weather conditions “down south” have a distinct edginess and depth that is so, oh typically American. Their assertiveness redefines the taste experience and helps them lend a distinct edge to the cocktails that are made with them. Yes, all ye uncouth hear that – American Whiskey based cocktails – Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, Fred & Ginger – to name a few, are legends that light up the night around the world, without having the discerning to choose between the Brit irrelevance of the shaken and the stirred versions! Little wonder they are shooting up the popularity charts, especially among the young and adventurous Indian tipplers.

at Woodford Reserve

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Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam as a matter of fact are THE ruling spirits of the young and the aggressive around the world and young India is not far behind in doing the catching up act. The caramel, toffee, vanilla, coffee and the myriad flavours that a typical American whiskey indulges the imbiber’s palate with, makes whiskey drinking akin to an adventure, as opposed to a mere tippling session, which is another reason for the huge popularity of the drinks.

So what does the lady who takes both the trade and the consumers through the how’s and why’s of American Whiskey drinking, introducing the uninitiated to the high life of taste profiles, nuances, high notes and mixology have to say to the spirited Indians ready to taste the all American dream?

“Taste the drink. Drink slowly, savour (as opposed to gulp). Drink less and drink better. Remember, it is not about having a drink – it is a journey of realisation, of identifying the quirks and idiosyncrasies of each drink, of relating to the uniqueness of their characters, of building lifelong bonds of fraternity and friendship. It’s a journey of realisation – of the self, as enduring and timeless as the Great American Dream itself. ”

I’ll say “Cheers” to that. Long live Bourbonica. If that be your tune, piper, play on!

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 The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is a national trade association representing U.S. producers, marketers and exporters of distilled spirits products (www.distilledspirits.org).  In partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP), the Distilled Spirits Council aims to educate the hospitality industry, adult consumers, and media in key emerging spirits markets on the taste, heritage, and style of American distilled spirits.  The Council’s MAP promotions focus primarily on the history and unique qualities of American Whiskeys, including Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey, which account for the vast majority of U.S. spirits exports worldwide. 

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