Taking you on a journey of exotic spirits and their many tales to tell, is Keshav Prakash and his Vault
By: Karishma Suri
Posted on : April 15, 2014.
Taking you on a journey of exotic spirits and their many tales to tell, is Keshav Prakash and his Vault.
If you think you know your spirits, maybe you should think again. Did you know that gin is actually vodka? Or that cognac pairs perfectly with dark chocolate? A thoroughly educating experience for those who appreciate fine spirits, The Vault founded by Keshav Prakash, will bring the world at your doorstep. In general, a vault is a space for precious things. It often contain elements that are very personal and at times of high emotional value for the owner. But for Mr Prakash, The Vault is a notional, intangible space. For the distiller, it houses his attitude, for the consumer it houses their character, their appreciation of fine life. Housing all this and much more, The Vault will soon be a tangible space where some of the finest, handcrafted spirits can be found.
A concierge service that is an exclusive, one-stop portal for the appreciation and education of fine spirits, The Vault also provides bespoke experiences with a focus on handcrafted, boutique spirits from around the world. Mr Prakash, who is India’s only BNIC certified Cognac Educator (BNIC is the official board that represents all cognac producers and is a certification given to handpicked few who become global ambassadors of cognac) and founder of an underground whisky fellowship called The Oak League, says, "The Vault is a bridge for makers of boutique fine spirits from around the world to connect with an audience in India that has a refined taste when it comes to their personal bar collection and choice of gifting."
The drink and drinker
So, how does one get educated and enlightened? There is no formal 'education' per se, but Mr Prakash attempts at inculcating knowledge about the 'good things' by home tasting experiences, home bar management and paired dinners at restaurants. At a personalised tasting at his home in Mumbai, Mr Prakash spoke to LuxuryFacts about his brainchild - The Vault.
An avid traveller, Mr Prakash uses his trips to try new tipples and is a regular at drink expos. It was in Paris that he encountered boutique distillers with a keen eye on the Indian market, which formed the genesis of The Vault. Where others saw fine spirits as a drink to be poured into a glass and sipped, Mr Prakash could hear the murmurs of long forgotten tales that hung in wisps around every single bottle of fine spirit - the stories of its land, its culture, artisans who had slipped in a little bit of themselves into the spirits they had crafted. He has thus far journeyed to far off lands (Guyana, Guadalajara, Haiti, Martinique, Kentucky, France, England and of course Scotland) in search of these fine spirits and their distillers. Perfect for the global Indian, connoisseurs of good life, men, women (28+), weddings, corporate consumers who wish to offer a high end experience as a finish to an important business engagement, or just about anyone with an interest in fine spirits, will appreciate this novel attempt at opening up such a big world to Indians.
During his travels, he also met 'maestros of fine spirits'. Charles MacLean (Whisky guru and the unofficial brand ambassador for Scotch Whisky to the world); Dave Broom (whose forte is world whiskies, cognac and rum); and Tomas Estes (single estate tequila proponent). Considered as legends in their respective fields, they further fuelled Mr Prakash's passion by sharing with him their knowledge of limited edition, rare spirits sourced from the remotest corners of the world. And thus The Vault was born with Mr Prakash at the helm, and three wise men coming onboard as curators. It offers a never before curated collection of artisanal whiskies, rums, tequilas, cognacs, gins and other spirits - handcrafted and handpicked.
While discussing spirits and its vast world, Mr Prakash spoke about the luxury factor in this field and laid emphasis on their curation. "Our curation story involves Charles MacLean, Dave Broom and Thomas Estes and their expertise which makes the experience so unique. The other luxury factor is exclusivity as currently our fine spirits collection is available exclusive via our concierge and nowhere else with the exception of select high end bars at Leela, Taj, Oberoi, J.W.Marriott, Four Seasons, Pali Bhavan, Blue Frog, etc," he said.
The Vault’s current collection is a tightly curated mix of whisky, rum, cognac, gin, vodka and tequila from labels that are independently owned with a small-batch, handcrafted approach. How does that make a difference you may ask? As with any craft, mass production inevitably results in compromises, especially when nature plays an important role in the whole process. Craft distillers, apart from being uncompromising in the distilling process, do not short cut essentials. "For example, the cask quality is important in the process of Malt Whisky maturation, because a weak cask results in poor whisky. Most commercial gins are finished using a multi shot method while Sipsmith uses natural spices in a rare one-shot method (One Shot Method meaning the final distillation uses an infusion of natural spices that is used only once and not added in a concentrate form) and this is evident in the first nosing of the gin," explained Mr Prakash.
The products are imported only from distilleries that Mr Prakash has visited so far. Since his first expedition, he has signed on five of Scotland’s independent single malt makers (there are not more than 12 independent distilleries): Kilchoman from Islay is the youngest and smallest distillery in Islay, Springbank is one of the oldest independent family-owned Scotch producers, the easy-going malt matured in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks from Arran, and a variety of sherried whiskies by GlenDronach.
The Grand Champagne cognacs by Delamain & Leopold Gourmel, rivals popular duty-free brands. Mr Prakash has also sourced a rare rum from Caroni, a distillery in Trinidad that was demolished in 2003, and El Dorado rum from Demerara Distillers in Guyana, a company that’s famous for using the world’s only functioning wooden stills. There’s single farm vodka (regular and an exquisite orange marmalade infusion) from Chase Distilleries, run by William Chase, the founder and former owner of premium snack brand Tyrrells English Crisps, who uses potatoes from his own farm in Herefordshire, UK, to make the spirits.
A more recognizable brand in The Vaults portfolio is Sipsmith, the London-based micro-distillery that produces a trendy London Dry Gin out of a car garage in the city’s suburbs.
Our vault journey
Introducing us to his collection, we sampled a few spirits, some of which were known and tasted by us, while some were novel and oh so inviting! The first spirit we sampled was Sipsmith Gin which had a vibrant, natural palate and finish. Mr Prakash recommends having it chilled and neat or with a dash of tonic water. My personal favourite was, as will be with the entire population of women, Chase Marmalade Vodka which is made with an infusion of all natural marmalade and oranges. An explosion of flavour, literally, it is on my to do list of urgent purchases!
Whisky lovers, if you have not yet gotten yourselves a bottle of Kilchoman 100% Islay, you are definitely missing out on something. The young star, peated to a delicate balance for character without being overpowering, offers a taste that is exhilarating. The barley from which this whisky is made is grown on Islay and that is why you will see a 100% Islay marking on this beauty. Keep in mind that whisky is best appreciated in a Glencairn Glass, a glass that's specially designed to highlight the aromas of a whisky. Another whisky that Mr Prakash recommends is Springbank 18 which is a cult whisky from Campbeltown. A full bodied complex malt, you can pair it well with aged cheese. Highly recommended from The Vault is GlenDronach 21 which is an all Sherry matured, classic full bodied Highland Malt - a perfect post dinner dram.
Elements 8 Spiced Rum was the most impactful for me because of the lingering taste of spices. While consuming tequila, we learnt that we must look out for the 100 per cent agave mark which actually goes to tell about the purity of the tequila. We had the Tequila Ocho- Blanco which is one of the world’s few single estate tequilas with 100 per cent agave.
Lastly I sampled the Delamain Cognac from the Grande Champagne region (the most premier cru), superstar of cognacs. Interestingly enough, Pale & Dry XO has an average age of 25 years and is paler than most Cognacs of its age! Pairing perfectly well with bitter chocolate, Mr Prakash recommends keeping a box of Royce's Nama chocolate for a heightened experience!
Personalised tastings & experiences
In addition to the one of a kind range of spirits, The Vault also offers tasting sessions, held by Mr Prakash himself. A 90-minute session takes you through the sensory experience that drinking should be – from aroma to taste and beyond. Tasting sessions can also be organised for a group as a Masterclass. You can discover, why despite being termed as 'tasting' sessions, your taste buds are only of secondary importance when it comes to the sensory evaluation of any fine spirits, be it whisky, cognac, gin or tequila as Mr Prakash takes his "students" through an entire new vocabulary of fine spirit tasting - winey, woody, sulphury, oaky, feinty, peaty, floral, fruity, cereal.
For details, visit www.vaultfinespirits.com or email [email protected]