‘Whisky Is Made By Nature’ Says Oaksmith Creator Shinji Fukuyo

‘Whisky Is Made By Nature’ Says Oaksmith Creator Shinji Fukuyo

"Whisky is made by nature. We craftsmen make whisky, but it is always supported by nature."

Swarna SrikanthUpdated: Saturday, June 29, 2024, 10:04 AM IST
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Shinji Fukuyo |

Are you a whisky person? So is Shinji Fukuyo, who not only specialises in crafting the fine notes of whisky, but also enjoys sipping a glass of the delectable alcoholic beverage. During his visit to India this June, the world-renowned blender known for gifting Oaksmith (India's first international blended whisky) to the whisky lovers spoke to Swarna Srikanth. As the Chief Blender at Suntory, he shed light on the whisky market in India, health benefits of consuming it, and much more. 

Read Excerpts

What are your remarks about India's alcobev industry?

India is a country where so many whiskies are sold, from IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor) to high-end brands. So, it's a huge market. 

As you come from Japan and have expertise in crafting whisky, could you tell us something about Japanese whiskies, which seem to have gained popularity in recent times? 

For many years, there was only Scotch whisky, Irish whisky, Bourbon and Canadian whisky. Those are all English-based countries. However, we started whisky production over 100 years ago in Japan. Basically, the process involved in crafting Japanese whisky is very similar to Scotch whisky. 

Whisky is made by nature. We craftsmen make whisky, but it is always supported by nature. 

Could you shed light on whisky consumption, how much is too much? And what are the health benefits of alcohol when consumed rightly?

Too much drinking of whisky is not so good. Hangover, and it is bad for our health. But if enjoyed in the proper amount, one can be relaxed and active. Don't drink too much, but enjoy good whisky in small amounts. 

When adding whisky to another alcohol to craft a cocktail, do you see it losing its original flavour, or do you appreciate the beauty of the cocktail that it shapes into?

The concept of cocktail is very popular, particularly in the United States of America. They use some flavours and get it sweetened to create some wonderful cocktails using whisky. I would appreciate it if they can use the aroma and the flavour of whisky itself rather than using any other ingredient. 

What’s your way of enjoying whisky? 

I drink my whisky by diluting it with soda or water. It softens up the spiciness. If consumed neat, it is a bit strong for me. 

During my visit to India, it's 'on the rocks,' which suits the weather here. In Japan, during winter, I consume whisky with hot water. So, whisky is very flexible and that's the beauty that lies in it. And for me, the way of enjoying a whisky to its best mostly depends on the occasion, to be honest. 

People often enjoy their drink with oil-fried snacks - like onion rings, papad, wafers, or sometimes salted peanuts. What snack do you prefer to sip your whisky?

I have enjoyed many Indian snacks with a glass of whisky. Tikka and masala peanuts really go well with the drink. 

I see a lot of alcoholic beverage brands introducing non-alcoholic versions of their drink. We have these non-alcoholic beer and wine which are available, even through an online order. Do you see whisky joining this trend?

Non-alcoholic whisky, huh? Sounds good. However, so many aromas and taste compounds can be dissolved in alcohol. Non-alcoholic whisky probably is difficult to make. It could be made using some of the flavours...but I'm not confident to create good non-alcoholic whisky by myself. 

Do you ever see yourself switching from blending whisky to any other alcohol? 

Oh! I don't know. 

If we see the history, maybe sometimes the whisky is blooming and sometimes instead of whisky maybe it's vodka. We can learn that from the past. I can say that whisky is very flexible among alco-beverages and has a very good taste. So, whisky should survive in the future. 

If not whisky, what's the drink you would like to have? 

I also like having beer and wine. I enjoy Japanese sake as well. 

Is whisky your all-time favourite drink?

I have to say, yes, it's whisky. Hahaha. 

Now, talking about being sober. What's your pick, chai or coffee? 

Ah, good question. (Thinks) It usually depends on the occasion, as I can't take whisky in the morning. Chai…not in Japan, but when I'm in India, I enjoy the taste of the chai—masala chai.  

As the Oaksmith creator concludes, he says “Kaanpai” (Cheers in Japanese). 

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