100 PIPERS SCOTCH WHISKIES
|The Original 100 Pipers NAS|
When alcohol aficionados develop a penchant for identifying and appreciating elements of fine whisky, it’s time for them to graduate to Scotch. And the True Legend in the world of Scotch whiskies in Asia, specifically India, is Seagram’s 100 Pipers – India’s largest-selling Scotch brand. It is the first and only Scotch to achieve the milestone of one million+ cases in sales in India in 2020 and again in 2021.
Seagram's 100 Pipers is the leading introductory Scotch whisky in India and is supposedly also the leading Standard Scotch in many countries around the world, including Thailand, Spain, Venezuela, and Australia. The brand's unique iconography and heritage reflect the essence of a "True Legend". It is available as a NAS 750 ml bottle, a 12 YO 750 ml, The Black Watch and, in its latest avatar, an 8 YO Blended Malt.
The Seagram’s 100 Pipers blend was created by the Chivas Brothers in 1965, and, as was usually the case with Chivas Brothers, first launched in the US. It owes its name and Celtic imagery to the old Scottish tradition of bagpipers who led soldiers into battle. The ‘100 Pipers’ name in particular, literally comes from the famous ballad of ‘The Hundred Pipers’, which tells of the heroic Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 1745 uprising led by a troop of 100 bagpipers. The sound of bagpipes as it cut through the cold, dark, intense and hostile air; the myriad of black polished boots clickety clacking against the earth in unison. White socks, kilts, sporrans, bagpipes – the hundred that marched leading the militia towards war; a piece of history that has inspired and made its way into The 100 Pipers brand.
Four years later, in 1969, the name ‘Seagram’s’ was added to the label (and remains to this day), and the Scottish flag was removed. A 12-year-old extension was added in 1986, by which point 100 Pipers was selling 800,000 cases globally, of which 270,000 were in the UK. A 20-YO version followed two years later. It was claimed to be the fourth best-selling Scotch in Scotland.
In 1992, 100 Pipers became the first Seagram-owned Scotch whisky in Korea and was launched in Thailand a year later. Back in the UK it was decided to co-opt a famous Scottish regiment into the brand and rechristen it the ‘100 Pipers of the Black Watch,’ just in that nation. The more observant consumers may have wondered why there was just one piper on the label, and in due course, the brand became simply The Black Watch blend.
The contents in the bottle hadn’t changed, and Brits drinking Black Watch were enjoying the exact same standard blend as Thai, Indian and other Asian consumers with their 100 Pipers. By the time Pernod Ricard had acquired the lion’s share of Seagram’s spirits business in 2001, the focus was very much on 100 Pipers in Asia. 100 Pipers started bottling in India in 2011 and is reported to be the seventh-largest-selling brand of Scotch whisky across the world.
The 100 Pipers 8-year-old blended malt was launched in Thailand in 2005. All this time, the brand’s spiritual home was Allt-a-Bhainne, the Speyside distillery built by Seagram in 1975. It is also locally bottled in India where sales of 100 Pipers reached 300,000 cases in 2011, never to look back.
The Hundred Pipers family claim that this blend of 25–30 carefully selected malt whiskies from the Speyside region gives rise to an aroma that is sui generis woody and fruity, with a touch of peat oaky fragrance in medium intensity creating an aromatic sweetness. The nose is full and fruity with delicate honey and vanilla notes. The body is heavy, sweet, complex and rounded, leading to a taste that is full-bodied, mellow and sweet, combined with well-balanced notes of fruitiness and soft smokiness. It is rounded off by a finish that is floral and elegant, with subtle oak notes coupled with vanilla. These notes stand out in the 12 YO and The Black Watch.
The 8 YO Blended Malt is
evidently a non-conformist. The nose is biscuit & buttery like Apple jelly.
The palate is oily, thick and very sweet, like autumn fruit syrup. The apples
remain with a touch of quince. The cask wood is well integrated. The finish is sweet,
with a slight dry spiciness. Some nuttiness maybe. Overall, a very gentle and
fruity whisky. Would have benefited from a balancing dryness.
Seagram’s 100 Pipers’ burgeoning popularity has much to do with its unique product range and strong consumer resonance with its purpose-led initiatives due to their uniqueness, authenticity and credibility, like the international award-winning Legacy Project – which showcases endangered Indian artforms via Limited Edition Packs and provides tangible livelihood support to artisans. Recognised internationally and in India by some of the most prestigious awards in the world for creative excellence, The Legacy Project won the Bronze Pencil at One Show Awards (New York), Merit at D&AD Awards (UK), Bronze at Spikes Asia and multiple honours at Kyoorius Creative Awards. Also, the 100 Pipers Play for a Cause platform that has been leveraging music for many years to raise awareness and funds for various social causes like meals for underprivileged, flood relief, etc. in addition to supporting the partnering musicians.
For the price, the 100 Pipers is not a bad buy. However, it does reflect a certain character and profile that is quite similar to blends of a comparable price range with very little that makes it stands out from the rest. The whisky is spirity and young with some of the flavours calling out for attention. This zest can be offset by resting it to calm it down a notch or two. A bit of water would lighten the 40% ABV spirit, hardly elevating it to divine status. However having said that, it isn’t as dull as the ‘Old Smuggler’, nor is it as sweet as the ‘Vat 69‘. And though flawed in its own right, it’s very much an average tipple, one that doesn’t require much thought – pour, sip and gulp as you quietly progress through the night.