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A recent Convert

Rahul Singh of Beer Café, once a beer buff, now has an envious collection of delectable single malts. Vikram Achanta relates how that happened…

Professional turned entrepreneur, Rahul Singh is the Founder and CEO of The Beer Café, India’s favourite beer chain. With 40 locations within a short span of a few years, it has already become the largest, fastest and most awarded alco-beverage service brand in India.

Rahul is the recipient of several awards for business excellence and entrepreneurship, and holds the position of President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI).

A textile engineer, Rahul had stints with Greg Norman Collection and Reebok India. He has undergone training in draught beer technology at Micromatic Institute in Florida, USA. Married to a fashion designer with a teen-aged son, Rahul is a gizmo freak, single malt collector, marathon runner, an avid biker and certified scuba diver too!

Whisky collection

For someone who has more than 150 whiskies in his collection, a large portion of them single malts, it’s funny to hear that up to 2002, Rahul Singh had never really drunk whisky! He had also not made the journey, which most people do, from blended Scotch to single malt.

Beer used to be his default choice – and possibly happily so for the rest of us, as we have The Beer Café as a result. Wine, red (the tannins) or white (the acidity) never appealed to him, nor did he find it cool to drink vodka.

His awakening happened on a trip to the US. A gentleman he used to go out with would always have a cigar and a single malt. Since Rahul neither smoked nor drank whisky, he used to have a beer instead, and felt a bit out of place.

On one such occasion his host pressed him to try some single malt. A 10-year-old Bushmill’s single malt from Ireland, triple distilled and light on the palate, did the trick! The next time Rahul visited the place, it was a peaty Talisker, from the Isle of Skye, which further deepened his love for whisky.

Never one to let the grass grow beneath his feet, Rahul went on a Scotch whisky trail in Scotland, during a holiday there, with a visit to the Isle of Jura and its distillery being one of the hallmarks of his trip.

Rahul has now figured that he prefers Highland whiskies more than the smoky, peaty ones, with the Macallan 18 being a favourite, along with the Balvenie Double Wood series. The Balvenie 30 and the Glenfiddich 25-YO are both highlights of his collection.

Not just Scotch

The flipside of being a single malt collector is that people don’t know what to give him, as they’re scared he may already have it! Now and then, he has a few friends over who enjoy their whiskies, and they crack open 7 or 8 whiskies, a tasting flight with small measures.

He bemoans the high prices of single malts in most bars, and prefers to have something easier like a Jameson when he goes out. He admires how popular this brand has become in India, which he ascribes to how well it mixes with everything.

Single malts from India also make him proud, and he admires what Amrut has done, especially the way the brand has come to life, with a story that excites you.

It’s not just Scotch for Rahul. Of late he’s also avidly collecting Japanese whiskies, whenever he can get his hands on them. The texture of Japanese whiskies is a key differentiator, he says.

He’s appreciative of the quality of whiskies available at Delhi Duty Free, which has made quality whisky more accessible to him, given his frequent travel.

A recent highlight for Rahul was a visit to Scotland, where he was hosted by Pernod Ricard. He stayed in the beautiful Linn house in Keith, which is also a stone’s throw away from the Strathisla Distillery, which was founded in 1786 and is the oldest working distillery in the Speyside region.

Rahul says it’s easy to store whisky as you don’t need temperature control. But he has had a problem with some corks which dried up, forcing him to re-cork those bottles.

However, he discovered the perils of termite infestation recently with some of his more expensive whiskies which came in wooden boxes. Fortunately, termites are not able to penetrate glass! Perhaps he needs to deplete his collection faster by calling me over, I say to him in jest.

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