Spread the love

Raj Peter Bhakta is the sum of all parts and then some — he is a son of immigrants who ran for US Congress, he was to join US Marines, and his appearance on the hit reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’ with current US President Donald Trump turned him into a star overnight. Recently, Spiritz’s New York-based correspondent Dharmvir Gehlaut caught up with this much-sought-after man to talk about his life, his work, his passion and plans for his farm-to-bottle whiskey WhistlePig which has created ripples .

“I would rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea” seems to be a saying that is meant for Raj Peter Bhakta. The man who successfully married romance with whiskey to create the world’s first ‘triple-terroir’ whiskey has been making waves in the liquor industry for a while now.

A man of mixed heritage — his father is Indian while his mother  is  Irish-English  —  Raj  has  run  for  US  Congress  in 2006, been on the current US President’s famous TV show The Apprentice, and is as eclectic as his whiskey WhistlePig.

Being grandiose is second nature to him: Raj’s campaign for the Congressional seat included riding an elephant across Rio Grande (the US-Mexican border) while a Mariachi band played on. Even though he didn’t win a seat in Congress, he raised more money that election than any other Republican candidate. He likes to think of himself as a cowboy farmer, dresses like one and lives in Vermont on the farm that is also the base for his product whiskey WhistlePig.

He is a thorough American with immigrant roots to boot. And Indians can claim him to be one of them, as he still has family in there and his parents celebrated his first birthday in India when he turned a year old.

He has fond memories of his visits to India, particularly the one trip in 1983-84, when he realised that India was still truly a third world country. “It was hard to make a simple phone call to America in those days. Now telecommunication has transformed India into a giant hub for the world economy,” he said.

A lot has changed for him, too, since then. Raj loves to travel  WhistlePig distillery – promoting triple-terroir concept of growing, producing and aging it at the distillery itself (Image)

and drive, especially in India: “Driving in India is the most exciting activity for me because I love chaos and loose rules. In my youth, I enjoyed chaos, but as a father of three, I am unlikely to drive on the Indian roads now,” he added.

Raj is no stranger to travel in India. He has travelled extensively in India — to Leh-Ladakh, Sundarban in West Bengal, Kerala, across western and northern India, coastal Bombay, across Gujarat on separate occasions.

“Generally, I visit India every couple of years. My grandmother opened a school last year in Nansad — a sleepy little town in the suburb of Surat, Gujarat — which is my father’s ancestral place. Despite my best efforts, I could not attend the opening ceremony of the school,” he recollected. However, he plans to rectify that soon by trying to spend some time with his grandmother.

His  ties  to  India  run  much  deeper than just having family here. During the Indo-Pak battle in Kargil in 1999, Raj offered his services to the Indian Army, while hiking in the area.

Raj recounted his experience: “I was hiking  in  Ladakh-Kargil  sector,  which was around the same time when the unofficial war broke out. At night, we could hear artillery rumble. My American friends and I were in a restricted area. We saw a big military convoy. It must have been a division carrying 155-mm Bofors Howitzer cannons. Prior to this trip, I was all set to join the US Marines. The movement of the Indian Army must have been secret and we were pulled off the road. The military police, along with senior Army officers, enquired about our activities. I even tried to convince the officers to let me accompany them to the front and allow me to fire the cannon so that I could gain some experience before I joined the US Marines. I could have convinced him, too, but all of my friends kept saying ‘Are you crazy? You will get killed there. Don’t go’.”

He  has  stories  galore  to  entertain from personal experiences, to family history, even the story of his business has an entertaining anecdote to it.

His father, apparently caused a scandal in the family when he married his mother — an Irish woman born in England whom he met in the US. Raj’s father, like hundreds of other Indians, had gone to America in the 1960s for a ‘better life’ with less than 100 dollars in his pocket.

Raj is proud of his parents and his heritage. His mother was a housewife who raised four children and his father was a typical immigrant. However that turned out to be a classic immigrant success story — in the beginning the senior Bhakta couldn’t even hold down a job and ended up becoming an auto- mechanic, a bad one at that. The same man ended up owning Chevrolet and Toyota car dealerships, and a hotel business. And from what is seen of Raj so far, he is a chip off the old block ‘never say never’ – a trait held by his father –  is Raj’s motto as well.

Appearing on ‘The Apprentice’ was an amusing experience for Raj as he went from relative obscurity to being a reality TV star in his country overnight. “I received many opportunities to interact with Donald Trump off and on air. Recently, I spent some time with him when he was campaigning in Vermont before the elections,” Raj said.

Following the success of his WhistlePig whiskey, Raj was nearly removed from own company by his board of directors. The topic is a sensitive one, and something that Raj would rather not discuss, but shows what persistence means to this man.

His WhistlePig story is also unique. This amber elixir has earned the reputation of being the ‘only triple-terroir’ whiskey in the world. It is fermented from rye grain and water in oak tree barrels — all three crucial ingredients coming from his farmhouse in Shoreham, Vermont. Raj’s plans include making WhistlePig the most famous farm-to-bottle whiskey made entirely in the United States since Prohibition in the 1920s.

People love to visit the intriguingly –named farm distillery(Image)

Then there is the name, and the mascot  of  two  pigs,  itself.  According to Raj, the name came to him in an unusual  manner.  “It  happened  as  I was  hiking  in  the  Colorado  Rockies. A Frenchman basically popped out of a bush, and started asking me if I had seen a “whistle pig”. It was one of the most  unusual  interactions  in  my  life. I remembered the phrase name and thought it was a special message. After buying the farm in 2007 in Vermont, we named it WhistlePig. We were planning to produce whiskey and this name struck,” he said.

And that name goes with the way the brand conducts itself. Although it is a luxury brand, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. “We were not appointed by Queen Victoria as special purveyors of

 

Raj riding an elephant across the Rio Grande into Mexico, accompanied by a mariachi band, to make a show of border security.(Image)

spirits, nor do we have the desire to be one. We must leave that to the Scots. Yesterday belonged to them, however, the future is our whiskey because of its qualities,” Raj boasted.

Raj Peter Bhakta has had grand plans to enter the Indian market, but they have been on the backburner as the demand for his ‘triple-terroir” whiskey is growing in the US at breakneck speed. The company is finding it hard to meet the demand of brand lovers. The latest WhistlePig’s Farm Stock Corp1 brand has been  more expensive than other whiskeys — a bottle of WhistlePig sells for $100 or more — yet new products from his production are flying off the shelves across the country. “Despite being  expensive,  we  are  unable  to keep enough products in stock in highly sophisticated markets like London,” Raj informed.

Like a proud father showing off his newborn, Raj got excited about his farm produce whiskey. “WhistlePig is unique and the only whisky of its kind in the entire world. We grow our own grain, we distill it in our own barrels made from our own oak trees, and we have our own water, all accessed from the natural

sources  flowing  through  the  fields  at the Shoreham farm  which is why it is called “triple terroir”. Recently, we released our first product and called it ‘WhistlePig Farm Stock’. Of course, I am biased, but it is widely considered to be the pre-eminent rye whiskey in the world,” he claimed.

The whiskey is also exclusive because  of  their  aged  portfolio  line up. Rye, which is a different type of grain, is best in testing. “We scored 96 points  from  Wine  Enthusiasts  for  the last  10  years,  97  points  and  double gold for aged whiskey. If you love whiskey, then WhistlePig offers the best balance   between   character,   flavour and smoothness without a burning sensation,” Raj added.

“I would say that our 10-year-old whiskey is the mainstay of the brand. It is a rich, robust creamy, long finishing whiskey   with   tremendous   balance. The old world whiskey, in a nutshell, is American boldness meeting European elegance,” he proudly claimed.

Even though the business was bought in 2008, their whiskey has been aged 15 years. How?  “Good question! In the beginning, I outsourced whiskey and bought some barrels from Canada.

Our   brand,   WhistlePig   is   my   own creation. We released our first product in 2009,” Raj answered. “If you want to make great whiskey, then it must be aged.”

The exclusivity of production somewhat limits the reach of the whiskey but Raj does not really see it as that. WhistlePig is currently being sold in 30 states within the United States. Internationally, they sell in the UK, France, Australia and Hong Kong. “The clear majority of our products are being sold in the US in high-end restaurants  from New York to San Francisco,” Raj clarified.

This means that they don’t have enough whiskey to enter the Indian market. “We will conquer the Indian whiskey  market  with  force  and  style. We don’t have any immediate plans but when we go there, we will have poise and elegance. We will have enough brands and products for a country as big as India. Maybe I will ride the elephant entering the India Gate with our brand WhistlePig Whiskey,” Raj mused. WhistlePig,   the   company,   sells over US $15 million of products over the year, but they intend to grow at a pace.  “We  are  a  small,  yet  valuable company,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Let the light of the lamps brighten your life,
And give you success and guidance to walk towards your dreams.Wishing you a prosperous Diwali.
  • Anthony Wills, managing director of Kilchoman Distillery is known for its fine blend of single malts across the globe. He says that the Indian drinker loves peated whiskies. As for the Indian single malts, he says that the Indian market is growing at over 20% every year. With more global exposure and overseas travel, the Indian customer is looking for new and interesting brands to enhance his taste rather than to get drunk.

With greater awareness of premium products, including single malts, the urban people are also drinking less and better.  As for availability and growth in the Indian market, Anthony's brands are available in Travel retails like  the  Vault  Collection  counters at International Duty Free shops in Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi.

#SpiritzMagazine #SingleMalts #InterestingBrands #TravelRetail
  • Labrodog Blended Scotch whisky has been declared as the “Emerging brand of the year” in the recently conducted event Goa State Best Brands Awards, organized by Dewan Mehta Foundation. This year the competition was greatest in its history, having more entries than ever where winners represented some of the finest products from around the country. 
The honor highlights the Cheers Group’s commitment to premium products throughout their portfolio of Scotch whiskies and Premium Indian whiskies which makes it standout amongst the most awarded alcobev company in the country.

#SpiritzMagazine #ScotchWhiskies #PremiumIndianWhiskies #AlcobevCompany
  • Rampur Indian Single Malt (RISM) produced by Radico Khaitan Ltd has been awarded gold medal at the Monde Selection 2017. Ever since 1961, Monte Selection has been evaluating, testing and awarding a large number of consumer products with its remarkable quality label. It brings seventy specialists from all over the world to taste and test products in an independent way. RISM is available in more than a dozen countries including USA, Canada, UK, Germany, UAE, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ghana etc. and many new markets in the rest of the world are being opened. 
#SpiritzMagazine #RISM #SingleMalt
  • Silvestris, from Gratavinum, has been chosen as one of the thirty best natural wines in the world by Decanter magazine. The declaration was made on the basis of blind tasting of natural wines, organized in January 2017, with over a hundred distinct wines from around the globe participating. The three eminent wine specialists- Simon Woolf, the honor winning English wine and beverages author; Sarah Jane Evans, an honor winning writer who is additionally the co-seat of Decanter World Wine Awards; and Andrew Jefford, the editorialist for Decanter.com were responsible for the wine assessment. They selected their top 10 natural wines after tasting 122 wines from all over the world. 
#SpiritzMagazine #NaturalWines #WineAssessment #Silvestris
  • A leading player in the international wines and spirits business in India, Aspri Spirits, organized a women only exclusive sit-down dinner in honor of Andrea Freeborough, Cellar Master, Nederburg recently, in Mumbai. Set in the elegant Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai, the lavish specially came up with four-course wine along with Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s menu blended perfectly with ‘Nederburg the Winemasters’ wines. In the ideal setting of dinner, Andrea Freeborough interacted with visitors and took them through a delightful history of the brand, the process of making wines, their best-seller wines and much more. 
#SpiritzMagazine #NederburgWines #AspriSpirits #WineMaking
  • Baptiste Loiseau marked the history by becoming the Cognac’s youngest cellar master three years ago. The 34-years cellar master from the Cognac region is very passionate about the region, products and its terroir. 
This young legend performed the dual task of maintaining the tradition while innovating at the same time. He first created Carte Blanche à Baptiste Loiseau, the exclusive limited edition that has been created last year for the House of Remy Martin and available at Duty Free stores worldwide. The second Carte Blanche is to be launched in October this year as a preview, in the United States.

#SpiritzMagazine #CellarMaster #CarteBlanche
  • In the world of wines, Burgundy is the famous wine produced from the lush eastern France. Mumbai-based Wine Park has brought a range of high quality Burgundies from the label Vincent Girardin in India. 
The addition of Burgundy wines has improved the impressive portfolio at Wine Park— both from old and new wine worlds. The Vincent Giradin Labels in India include 2014 Bourgogne Cuvée Saint-Vincent Blanc, 2011 Chasagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot, 2012 Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières, 2013 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts among many others. 
#SpiritzMagazine #WinePark #Burgundies #WineWorld

Follow Us on Instagram