Much garlanded master blender, Dhavall Gandhi (formerly of The Macallan and The Lakes Distillery) will launch Kandoblanc, a brand “celebrating the fusion of ideas, cultures and creative influences through exquisitely crafted objects” in October. He talks to Douglas Blyde about inaugural whisky, Aga, and his illuminating journey into dark spirits.
From where does the name “Kandoblanc” derive?
“Kando” is the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of unparalleled beauty. “Blanc” is derived from the elegant French lexicon meaning “white”. The colour symbolises artistic transcendence, purity and excellence.
And what does the name of your inaugural whisky under the Kandoblanc marque, “AGA”, signify?
“Aga” is the first object from Kandoblanc. It is synonymous with “Mountain” in the ancient Indian texts of Ayurveda. Aga signifies enlightenment and the connection between earth (material) and sky (spiritual).
Describe the look and significance of the bottle?
Aga showcases the marriage of understated Japanese aesthetics and bold Italian craftsmanship. The Japanese art of Kintsugi and the Italian technique of Battuto glass are brought together to complete the design. Aga marks the debut of my work as a creative director overseeing every aspect, from the liquid composition to the object design. The object was hand-blown in Murano, Italy.
How many bottles of Aga have been produced?
Aga is a one-of-a-kind handblown object, created exclusively for the Distiller’s One of One auction.
How did the partnership between Aga and Sotheby’s result?
As a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, I decided to donate our first object to the Distiller’s One of One auction which, in partnership with Sotheby’s, brings together an unparalleled collection of one-off, never-to-be-repeated Scotch whiskies from iconic whisky makers across the length and breadth of Scotland. The event will take place on the 5th of October 2023 at Hopetoun House in Edinburgh.
Will profits from the auction benefit charity?
The proceeds from the auction will generously support the meaningful work of various Distiller’s Charities such as the Youth Action Fund which aims to transform the life chances of young people in Scotland aged between 16 and 25.
What components are included in this blend, and how did you orchestrate it?
The notion of duality resides at the heart of this unique composition. Therefore, I’ve handpicked a contrasting duo of rare single-cask Scotch whiskies, distilled in 1979 and bottled in 2023, exclusively for the Distillers One of One auction. One component brings exotic tropical fruit characters, whilst the other contributes a waxy texture and structure.
How does it taste?
Tropical flavours of pineapple, melons and vanilla pods are intricately woven with notes of fresh ginger, fragrant incense and exotic spices. The liquid architecture for all our compositions has three qualities that we hold in high regard: Nazakat (Elegance), Nafazat (Finesse), and Niamat (Texture). The three qualities were inspired by the culinary traditions of the Mughal Empire. We have adopted these as the founding principles for our liquids.
Why did you leave The Lakes Distillery?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Lakes and had lots of fun creating some of the most iconic whiskies coming from a new-world distillery. However, I felt that it was the right time to focus my attention on approaching whisky-making from an artistic perspective.
Which release from The Lakes were you most proud of?
Stylistically, I am most proud of The Whiskymaker’s Reserve series. The series is my interpretation of a contemporary Sherry matured single malt with depth, layers of complexity, and bold character. Technically, it has to be Infinity. It was creatively challenging to create a whisky that was constantly evolving in a glass.
Where did you work before?
I was the whisky maker for The Macallan before I was recruited by The Lakes Distillery as the whisky director. In 2022, I launched Studio Dhavall Gandhi which specialises in whisky creation and portfolio transformation for new and established distilleries worldwide.
What proved your damascene moment in terms of your career change into the world of whisky?
I don’t think it was a single defining moment, but rather a couple that held significance. The first was my visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience in early 2005. It was during this visit that I comprehended the role of a whisky blender and recognised how I could transform my fascination with flavours and fragrances into a career. Second was my visit to the Maker’s Mark distillery in Kentucky.
If not whisky, what else might you have done, career-wise?
Can’t think of anything else. I changed my career from finance to blending because I fell in love with whisky and the opportunity it brings as a medium for expression and storytelling.
What might we expect next from Kandoblanc?
My objective is to collide the worlds of contemporary art and whisky. We are in conversations with private clients and brands for our special order service and artistic collaborations. Watch this space!
Will Kandoblanc be realised as a facility which visitors can frequent, and as a members’ club in terms of future releases?
Connections with our clients are at the forefront of everything we do at Kandoblanc and we have exciting plans for the future.
Do you enjoy drinking whisky, or are you more inclined to taste it?
I always enjoy drinking whisky!
What is the best advice you have been given?
The most valuable advice I have ever been given was to read lots of books. It is amazing that at any moment you can engage in conversations with some of the greatest minds that have ever lived – from Richard Feynman to Leonardo da Vinci.
How big is your team?
I crafted our business model drawing loose inspiration from McKinsey’s unbundled company approach. This approach empowers us to partner with some of the world’s leading artists, producers & studios to create one-of-a-kind objects.
How do you relax?
I cherish moments with my family, reading books, going for a swim and riding my motorcycle.
What is something people might find surprising about you?
During my childhood, I had a fascination with scents, and my sensory abilities were so pronounced that I would be frequently distracted at school and caught daydreaming. Scents have this remarkable ability to rekindle memories or transport you to a different place or moment in time.