Picture the greatest hits of Scotland—a banquet in a 13th-century castle with a Bonnie Prince Charlie connection, a giant haggis dismembered with a sword, eloquent recitations of Robert Burns’ poetry, earls, dukes and countesses in their clan tartans, foot-stomping, bagpipes, a grand initiation ceremony and…plenty of Scotch whisky aged between 18 to 45 years. Here, at the 63rd banquet of the Keepers of the Quaich, central heating and cell phones are the only giveaway that we are in the year 2022.
This biannual banquet at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland honours the achievements of those who have served the cause of Scotch whisky over the years around the world. Dating back to 1988, this event is the flagship of the Keepers of the Quaich, a society whose founding partners include some of the biggest distillers of Scotland including Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Edrington, and William Grant & Sons.
Often regarded as the Oscars of the whisky world, the Keepers of the Quaich banquet honours whisky makers, writers, bartenders and distributors who have worked to promote Scotch whisky as a global industry and choice tipple by inducting them into this prestigious society. For Diageo’s Ian Smith who is the current Chair of Keepers of the Quaich, this event distils a quintessential Scottish experience into one evening. This includes the fresh local produce (which makes its way to every course of the dinner from Scottish salmon to seasonal berries), its customs, culture and of course all its whisky! “This event is exclusive because we don’t induct many people but it is also very inclusive because anyone in the world who loves Scotch whisky and works hard to make a career in it, can someday become a keeper!” says Smith. And these are people from over 15 countries who represent every aspect of whisky from grain, to distillery, to glass.
Of the 43 members inducted as Keepers at this edition of the banquet, four were from India. These included Puneet Chhatwal, CEO, The Indian Hotels Company Ltd; Prathmesh Mishra, Chief Commercial Officer of Diageo India; Shatbhi Basu, Partner, Creative Consultants and STIR Academy of Bartending and Manish Pardasani, Director (Chairman), Mumbai Wines & Trades Private Ltd. While Chhatwal is one of the most recognizable names in the Indian hospitality business, his effort to popularise Scotch whisky in India across all the Taj properties has earned him a place as a Keeper. Basu is India’s first female bartender and a beverage consultant who has championed Scotch whisky through her four-decade-long career. Prathmesh has helped Johnnie Walker become the first imported spirit to sell a million cases in India while Pardasani’s Living Liquidz retail outlets have changed the face of alcohol retail in the country and offered people a chance to buy fine Scotch whiskies without having to travel abroad. As members of this society, they will continue to uphold their commitment to fine Scotch and also be able to nominate new members into the society.