Booze Banter

Welcome to Whisky Chat with @WhiskyRaj!


Raj Sabharwal and his Better Half at the 2015 NYC Whisky Jewbilee

Raj Sabharwal and his Better Half at the 2015 NYC Whisky Jewbilee

If you’re a lover of world whisk(e)y and spirits, then you’ve probably heard of Raj Sabharwal. Amrut, Sullivan Cove, Blackadder, The English Whisky Company, and Mahon Gin are just a few of the international spirits that Raj currently imports into the United States via PVI Global. Over the past few years, we’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Raj as he teaches us a thing or two about the multi-faceted world of whisky and spirits.

This past March, the NYC Office and I met up with Raj for a couple of pre-Whisky Extravaganza drinks at The Jeffrey. As we worked our way through a plate of delicious white anchovies and a couple of drinks, I asked Raj if he’d like to take part in a brief Q&A session for the blog. He graciously agreed to do it, but since we ran out of time at the bar, we decided to follow up via email.

Here’s what Raj had to say in response to our questions…

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Q1: You obviously love whisky. Was it love at first sip or was it an acquired taste?

Growing up, my Dad always had bottles of Chivas 12 and 25 and Johnnie Walker Black, so I was weened on Blends. I grew up in Canada, so we drank Canadian Whisky – Canadian Club (CC and Coke or Ginger) and Crown Royal. Glenfiddich was my first Single Malt, which in my 20s, I thought was the best. My first memorable Single Malt experience was at a friend’s (an older gentleman) house in 1987. He poured me a Laphroaig. This excited me because I had never had anything like it before and wanted more! I wanted to know how this was made. That really hooked me to Single Malts.

Q2: You’re sitting at a kick-ass bar in a major city with limited funds ($20) and enough time for just one drink. How do you decide what to drink, i.e. what’s your pecking order?

$20 can buy a lot or little depending on what city/ bar you’re in. I tend to peruse the menu or back bar to look for something different, or one that I haven’t had before. Depending on my mood, it could be a Bourbon or a World Single Malt. I am a fan of tasting flights – being able to experience different flavors. On a few occasions I’ve asked the bartender to surprise me (after telling them what I do for a living).

Q3: What’s your most obscure tasting note?

Interesting question. Obscure means something not discovered or known about. I’ve taken a number of Wine/ Spirits education classes. Being able to drink a variety of wines is great for teaching the palate. Peated whiskies tend to have layers of flavors as do whiskies aged or finished in wine casks. Sorry, I really didn’t answer the question. I guess I’m still trying to find that one obscure note.

Q4: If you could only have five whiskies in your home bar, what would they be?

Is there a size restriction? – LOL! Lagavulin Distiller’s selection, St Magdalena Single Malt, Amrut Spectrum Single Malt, Blanton’s Bourbon, and a Blended Malt of some sort.

Q5: Someone tells you that they only drink Pappy Van Winkle or Johnnie Walker Blue or something along those lines. We say, “Douche!”. What would you say?

I’d ask them why that is their tipple of choice. I’m a big believer in educating people. Bringing in Whiskies from countries like Australia, India, England, etc. is a challenge to get people to try something new. You can always learn from people. Once I’d understand their taste profile I’d try and offer them something different that would appeal. There’s plenty of whisk(e)y choices, so to each their own.

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Many thanks to Raj Sabharwal for the taking the time to answer our questions!

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