An Interview with Mr. Li Chunfeng – Founder of TDM

WhiskyGeeks with Mr Li Chunfeng at The Drunken Master Whisky Bar

WhiskyGeeks readers know who Mr Li Chunfeng is – because we have introduced him in our previous articles. He is the owner of The Drunken Master Whisky Bar (TDM), chairman of the Formosa Whisky Society and an avid, passionate whisky lover. His journey in whisky started as a young man in his university days, but his success today is all due to his hard work and belief in his love for whisky. We sat down with him during our visit to Kaohsiung in early December and understood his passion behind TDM.

Early days in Chunfeng’s whisky journey

Chunfeng had his first brush with whisky in his university days, where he drank a glass of Glenfiddich. In those early days, he did not know whisky and found the drink to be horrible. He confessed that he drank that glass of whisky by mixing soft drinks to it! After a few years, he began working in his father’s company as an advertisement space salesperson, and he had to go out with his clients to drink and entertain. During one of such occasions, his client gave him a glass of Glendronach single cask. He sipped it, and then took a bigger mouthful – wow! What a different whisky! He fell in love with it, and from that day onwards, Chunfeng has never looked back.

Research into the whisky world shown him that whisky is an exciting drink. With so many different varieties, brands and ways of maturation and bottling, Chunfeng soon started collecting whiskies. That was the beginning of the road of no return.

The birth of The Drunken Master

TDM Bar Counter

TDM started as a brand of an independent bottler. Chunfeng’s love for whisky turned his hobby into a business when he decided to share his passion with the people around him. His exposure to the world of independent bottlers made him want to do the same for others. Besides, as the chairman of Formosa Whisky Society, he wanted to have a branding for the whiskies that they bottled for the society. One thing leads to another, and soon, TDM was born as a brand in 2014. The whole process took him three years, but it was a good three years for him.

TDM Whisky Bar was born much later, in October 2016. It has just passed its one year anniversary and is well on its way to fame!

Buying of the Whisky Casks for TDM

Some of us know that buying whisky casks from the distilleries are not easy. The buyer has to head to Scotland and visit the distilleries one by one, sampling the casks before choosing to buy a particular one. More often than not, the distilleries have preset a certain number of casks for the buyer to choose from. In the case of TDM, Chunfeng works with The Whisky Agency (TWA) instead. TWA is a cask reseller – they are the middlemen in which they buy casks from the distilleries and then resell them to buyers. As the middlemen, they helped the buyers to choose the casks in advance.

Chunfeng gets samples from TWA together with the price of the cask. If he likes what he tasted, he will buy the cask from TWA. This method of purchasing cask helps enormously as he does not need to travel to Scotland regularly for cask samples. Instead, he can sample them easily in the comfort of his bar.

The making of TDM Whisky Labels

Label of the latest bottle from TDM

If you read the WhiskyFair TAKAO post, you would know that TDM has amazingly beautiful labels. Chunfeng makes all the labels himself by purchasing artwork online or spectacular photos from his photographer friends. He creates the labels using Photoshop and adds his ideas to every label. Therefore, each label is unique and artfully crafted.

TWA does not demand a lot from Chunfeng to add their name to his labels either. The only restriction they requested is a legal one – Chunfeng has to put TWA’s website – www.thewhiskyagency.com on the labels – because it is part of the regulation from the Scotch Whisky Association in Scotland. By adding the site to the labels, it formalised the whiskies as Scotch.

Chunfeng’s opinion of the whisky industry in Taiwan

We were curious about the whisky industry in Taiwan, as it appears to be vastly different from Singapore. We were surprised to know that it is not too different. They are just faster, perhaps? Chunfeng shared that Taiwanese whisky drinkers are made up of two extreme groups. One group goes for the cheap whiskies while the other group goes for only the expensive ones. Taiwan is a big market, so whisky prices range from 200-300NTD all the way to 3000-5000NTD for the mid-tier whiskies. The high-end whiskies are always above the 10,000NTD mark. He also shared that most Taiwanese prefer to buy a bottle and share it with their friends in the comfort of their home. Unlike the whisky drinkers in Hong Kong and Japan, the Taiwanese are less likely to spend their time in a whisky bar, drinking different whiskies.

Chunfeng hopes that the whisky scene will move towards the style of Japan and Hong Kong as the whisky industry matures in Taiwan. The whole idea of drinking whisky is to taste all the different kind of whiskies, not spending money on bottles and bottles of whiskies to put at home.

The rising prices of whisky

We spoke about the increasing costs of whisky and how everything seems to be getting more expensive (except our salaries)! Chunfeng said that it is evident to him that whisky prices are rising a little too fast for comfort. He shared that a bottle of whisky which he had bought three years ago for 3000NTD has become almost 10,000NTD! The rising price of whisky makes it less appealing to new whisky drinkers as they may not be willing to pay a higher price for a dram of mid-tier whisky if they have no idea how to appreciate it. It is a concern for the whisky industry as the market will one day come to a standstill if the number of new whisky drinkers reduces overtime.

Chunfeng’s opinion of flippers in the market

Our chat brought us to a somewhat sensitive topic about the apparent flipping of bottles in the market. Similar to most countries, Taiwan has a culture of flipping bottles for profit. Some buyers are not whisky drinkers – they are whisky businessmen. They buy bottles for the sole purpose of reselling them at a higher price. We asked Chunfeng if he thinks this is a bad move for the industry.

Chunfeng has a neutral view towards this practice. He said that it is not surprising as whisky is valuable. Each expression and even each bottle (for those with limited quantity) is precious to someone. As long as the buyer is willing to pay for the bottle at the higher price, there is no reason for him to stop the buyer from buying the bottle from an astute reseller. He said that auctions are done in the same way – if the buyer is willing to pay for the bottle, who is he to stop the auction from functioning?

At the end of the day, he feels that it is still a willing buyer, willing seller situation.

Chunfeng’s favourite whisky distillery

Littlemill Distillery – Picture Credits

WhiskyGeeks is always curious about our guests’ favourite whisky distillery. Chunfeng is perhaps, one of the very few, who pinpoints his favourite very quickly. His favourite distillery is the Littlemill. It is a Lowland distillery which was dismantled in 1997 and unfortunately, burned down in 2004. A residential development now stands on the original site.

While there is no favourite expression or bottle that Chunfeng likes from the Littlemill distillery, he said that he dislikes the pot pipes and those distilled with worm tubs (which makes the whisky sulphuric). His love for Littlemill stems from the consistent flavours that he gets from most bottles – rock melon and sweet, white flowers notes.

Chunfeng’s changing journey with whisky

Chunfeng laughingly shared his dislike for peat while we were on the topic of his favourite whisky. He had tried an Ardbeg 10 and did not like the nose or the palate. As he explores more whiskies, he begins to realise that peated whiskies from Islay are just as complex as a Speyside or a Highland whisky! The journey he took is apparent – from a complete ex-sherry cask fan to a hogshead cask fan, Chunfeng is an excellent example of how one’s opinion changes with time. Hogsheads present a certain surprise element as it can be ex-bourbon or ex-sherry. A buyer of a hogshead cask can never be sure if he does not know the history of the cask. The surprising element is the beauty of a hogshead cask.

Advise for a new whisky drinker

As a bar owner, Chunfeng comes across many new whisky drinkers. We asked him what he usually advises his customers. It turns out that he does not recommend or suggest any whisky straightforwardly, but instead, let his customer choose their preferences with his guidance. In TDM whisky bar, there are a group of bottles that are primarily for new beginners. They are younger in age and mellower in taste. What Chunfeng did was to let the new drinker nose the bottles. He would start with extremes – like an Islay and a Speyside. If the customer thinks that the Islay bottle is “smelly”, he will change it to a Highland and the nosing continues until the customer decides on a bottle that he or she likes best.

He is also a considerate mentor. Chunfeng will ask his customer for his or her budget, and if his customer ends up with a bottle that is over the budget, he will inform them and let them change a bottle if they wish to do so.

His final advice for new beginners is simple, “Try as many whiskies as you like – it is for enjoyment.”

 

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Bar in Kaohsiung: The Drunken Master Whisky Bar

The Shop Front of TDM

Our trip to Taiwan in early December had been a fruitful one. Besides attending WhiskyFair TAKAO, we also had the chance to visit The Drunken Master Whisky Bar in Kaohsiung. It is a charming little bar with a shop front and a side door to slip into the bar behind the shop. Hidden in the middle of a row of shops, it is easy to miss this lovely bar if you are in a taxi.
The Drunken Master (TDM) belongs to Mr Li Chunfeng, a young but passionate whisky lover. This bar is also relatively new – the official operation period is about a year. There were two reasons why we went to TDM. 1) We heard excellent reviews from our friends in Singapore and 2) we found out that he is the organiser of the Whiskyfair TAKAO. It was a coincidence that we found out because we messaged Mr Li via Facebook Messenger to find out how to go to his bar. A little chat later, we discovered that he was the man behind Whiskyfair TAKAO. So, it became a must for us to visit TDM.

The First Visit to TDM

We arrived Kaohsiung on Friday morning, 1st December, and after checking in to our hotel, we rested a while before heading out to seek some good food and shopping. In the evening, we took a cab to TDM. Our driver almost missed the bar because it was such a well-hidden gem but we arrived there alright. The scene that greeted us when we opened the door of the bar was what we’d call organised chaos!
People were everything in the tiny bar! Nonetheless, we managed to get our seats from a kind gentleman from Japan who shifted his place to let us have our space. Wow…we were soaked into the jolly atmosphere immediately, even when we knew nobody in that bar! It was only later that we realised that some of the most well-known names in the whisky industry were squeezed in the bar that night!

TDM Bar Counter

We were lucky to be seated in the middle of the bar that evening, right where the TV was. Our inquires for Mr Li did not go unnoticed by many in the bar, and soon we drew a curious group of people who came to chat with us. We found new friends from Taiwan who were regulars of the bar. Then, there were friends from Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Rotterdam and Singapore! Our Singapore friends were none other than the owners of The Writing Club, a bespoke new whisky bar in the Orchard area! Toru Suzuki-san, the owner of The Mash Tun Tokyo, was also amongst the esteemed guests of the bar that night. We spoke to him briefly, and he invited us to his bar! We must save more dough for a visit to Japan again!

The Whiskies We Had

We are sure that you probably are more interested in what we had that night and what we’ll recommend if you visit the bar yourself. Here’s the stuff we drank – in pictures!

Caol Ila Bottles

Due to the chaos in the bar and how shorthanded they were (only one poor guy was behind the bar at first), we waited quite long in between drinks. As Geek Flora is a fan of Caol Ila, we had a few bottles of Caol Ila for comparison. Both Geek Choc and Flora concluded that the XOP Caol Ila 36 Years Old was the best out of the three! Well, it could be due to age, or it could be due to the IB doing an excellent job in choosing the cask! Whatever the reason, if you are a fan of Caol Ila, all three bottles are worth trying to form your conclusion.
Now, we want to draw your attention to both the Bruichladdich 10 Years Old and the Santis Malt Pinot Noir.

Bruichladdich 10 Years Old

The Bruichladdich 10 Years Old is an OB from 1980. When we had the first sip, it was notably different from The Classic Laddie. While The Classic Laddie has a honeyed palate, this one took on a slightly savoury, meaty taste, almost like honeyed ham. The oily mouthfeel helped to make this dram meatier. While it was a somewhat singular dram, it was excellent!

Santis Malt 14 Years Old

The Santis Malt from Switzerland was a surprise. It was a treat on the house by Mr Li. This is one of their oldest whiskies so far – a 14 Years Old. Matured in old beer casks, this 14 years old whisky was finished in a pinot noir cask. The nose, palate and finish of this dram were consistent, reminding us of an aged brandy, and sweet red berries juice. The balance is almost next to perfection!

Highly Recommended Bar

We would encourage you to drop by TDM whisky bar the next time that you are in Kaohsiung. You are sure to find rare gems in this little bespoke bar that draws in well-known whisky experts from around the world! If you happen to drop by, do remember to mention WhiskyGeeks to Mr Li Chunfeng!

Back to the hotel

Time flew by, and before we knew it, it was after midnight. We bid goodbye to Mr Li and his fantastic crew at the bar and headed back to the hotel in a taxi. Before we left, we received more than a couple of invites from our new friends in Japan and Hong Kong to visit them when we can. It was indeed an exciting night and one that we will not be forgetting so soon.

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Taiwanese Whisky: Nantou Winery

The entrance of Omar Single Malt Distillery

Nantou Winery makes Omar Single Malt Whisky in Nantou, Taiwan. It is a combined facility in which they make whisky, Gao Liang Jiu (which is a type of “bai jiu”) and Taiwan oak-aged umeshu. For the sake of easy references, we will call Nantou Winery as Omar distillery whenever we are speaking of whisky-making in this article.

History of Nantou Winery

The history of Nantou Winery started in 1978 where the winery focuses on making wine, blended whisky (Scotch + Taiwanese), brandy, umeshu and other fruits liqueurs. They did not have single malt whisky at all. The winery was owned by the government of Taiwan and operated as a public company.

History of Omar Single Malt

Omar Single Malt was born in 2007. The reason for Omar Single Malt was a humanitarian one – in 2007, the farmers in Taiwan experienced a massive harvest in barley which they have nowhere to sell to. In those days, Taiwan was facing exportation issues, and the farmers found it difficult to sell their harvest overseas. In an attempt to help the farmers, the government started Omar Single Malt as a brand and bought up all the barley from the farmers. At the same time, the government also started buying equipment for single malt whisky distillation. One of the newly-hired distillers was also sent to Scotland to learn the art of distillation necessary for Taiwanese single malt whisky.

By 2008, the distillery started distilling whisky new-make for the Omar brand. The graduated distiller who went to Scotland came back to Taiwan and taught his fellow distillers the art of making whisky. The distillers placed the new-make into both sherry and bourbon casks of varying shapes and sizes.

From left to right: Bourbon Barrel, Hogshead and Sherry Butt

Omar Whisky

Due to the climate of Taiwan, Omar has a high angel share of 6-7% during the maturation period. The typical maturation period is 4 to 5 years. Omar strictly compelled to the Scottish rules of a minimum three years before the liquid becomes whisky. While the whisky did not mature in the barrels for very long, the higher temperature encourages the liquid to interact with the oak in higher intensity, making the liquid aged faster. As a rule of thumb, the distillery counts a year in Taiwan as equivalent to 3 years in Scotland where the temperature is consistently lower.

Omar whisky did not have an aged statement as yet. Their core range includes the regular bourbon and sherry NAS whiskies. The newest single malt whisky in the Omar core range is a peated whisky. The peat is taken from Taiwan and is pleasantly aromatic. Besides that, Omar also has single cask, cask strength whiskies

The birth of the first Omar Cask Strength Whisky

In 2013, two cask strength whiskies matured in a bourbon barrel and a sherry butt respectively were born. Both whiskies received high acclaim from the local market. Omar distillery sent these whiskies for competition in the following year, and both of them did well in those contests. They received gold and silver in ISC and two silvers in IWSC in 2014 amongst others.

In 2015 and 2016, Omar received more awards. Most of them are from the Malt Manics Association (MMA) where Omar won the Best Sherried Whisky and Best Bourbon Natural Casks Whisky for both years. MMA  also named Omar distillery as the Supreme Winner in 2015 and 2016.

Omar Bourbon Cask Strength Whisky

Omar was indeed encouraged by these awards and the distillery strives to create consistent whiskies that everyone will love.

The Distillery Tour

This decorative signage was a gift from the Government in 2008

The tour was fascinating in the sense that they brought us to see the warehouse before the rest of the processes. A large part of the reason was that our tour was a private tour, so the head distiller opens the warehouse just for our visit. To make things easier for him, we were brought to the warehouse first.

Entrance to Warehouse No 1, the only warehouse opened to visitors

Upon entering the warehouse, we felt the immediate drop in temperature. We understood from our guide that the warehouse is opened only on specific days when they conduct distillery tours to large groups of pre-booked visitors.

The warehouse is cleaner and brighter than the ones that we visited in Yamazaki and Hakushu. Perhaps it was due to our impromptu visit, or maybe it was because they are repairing the air-conditioning in the warehouse. It is a small warehouse, and we suspect that much of the stocks here are likely for their blended whiskies instead of their single malt whiskies.

Casks Repairing Work

Interestingly, Omar does cask repairs on its own. Our guide shared that the distillery tries to be as self-sufficient as possible due to the lack of facilities outside the distillery to support the whisky industry in Taiwan. He brought us to the back of the warehouse where we saw a few rows of broken casks.

We found the broken casks rather fascinating. Our guide told us that the casks left out in the sun are those classified as “beyond repair” and these would be re-fashioned into decorative tables for the home and whisky bars in Taiwan. We had the chance to look at an open cask, and to our surprise, we can still smell the vanilla fragrance from the charred insides! Geek Flora was so excited that she took so many pictures of that blackened inside.  ><

Grinding, Mashing and Fermentation

Next, our guide brought us to the barley storage and grinder. We understood from him that Omar only uses Scottish or English malted barley for their fermentation. The malted barley is imported and left in a large storage area. When the distillery wants to make a new batch of new make whisky, an automated transporter belt transports the malted barley to the grinder which grinds them and then fed them to tubes that lead to the only mash tun in the distillery. Fermentation takes 72 hours, and they use whisky yeast from France. 250,000kg of barley yields about 100,000 litres of new make in one cycle. The water source is the underground water from the nearby mountains.

It was an eye-opener to look at how Omar mimic its fermentation process after Scotland even when they have structural challenges in their existing building. In the name of innovation and creativity, Omar fashioned a new method of delivering the wort to the fermentation washbacks that they own. While the delivery is different, it is technically mimicking the Scottish way. That is impressive!

Distillation

Omar has four pot stills that were shipped from Scotland back in 2007. ≈ Their double distillation process makes use of these pot stills. Pot stills 1 and 2 are in-charge of the first distillation process while still 3 and 4 are in-charge of the second distillation. The first distillation yields a new make with 30% abv and the second distillation increase the alcohol content to a range of 60 to 75%. After distillation, the new make goes into the spirit safe where the heart of the distillate is separated. The rest of the rejected liquid goes back to pot stills 1 and 2. The process of using only the spirit-centre of the distillate ensures the quality of the new make. This quality control is vital to keep Omar whiskies consistent.

Omar Whisky Tasting Session

The distillery tour ended with the new make, and our guide ushered us back into the main hall where whiskies were already waiting for us at the bar. We had a total of seven whiskies. Yes, it was scary considering that we were drinking at 10.30 am in the morning, but it was worth the risk of getting drunk with a full day ahead of us!

First up, we had 4 whiskies that were part of our distillery tour package. They are the two regular Omar Single Malt Bourbon and Sherry Cask as well as two Cask Strength Omar Bourbon and Sherry Cask. The distillery also allows visitors to purchase other bottles for tasting at just 100 NTD per 20ml! That converts to less than SGD$4. Our guide treated us to their most popular Omar Single Malt Lychee Liqueur-Finished Whisky, and we purchased two other drams – the Taiwan Red Wine Finished and the Plum Wine-Finished whiskies.

The Omar Whiskies

We had an incredible journey with Omar single malt whiskies. While we had tasted their regular single malt before, the rest of the range was new to us. The bourbon and sherry single cask Cask Strength whiskies are fast becoming a regular feature in their distillery bar. It is a pity that they are only selling the single cask whiskies in their distillery and nowhere else. Nonetheless, it was great to have a taste.

The bottle that is worth a special mention is the Omar Cask Strength Lychee Liqueur-Finished Whisky. This whisky spent most of its time maturing in a bourbon cask and then finished in a lychee liqueur cask. The finish created a sweet lychee nose and palate and lengthed the finish beautifully. It was a limited release of 700 bottles and a one-off experiment from the distillery.

The nose boasts of strong honey notes with some vanilla and lychee notes. The nose continues into the palate, with lychee, vanilla and warm spice in the mouth and throat. Sweet honey lingers at the back of the throat after swallowing. The long finish holds honey sweetness with hints of lychee in the background.

The End of the Visit

Omar is indeed a hidden gem in Taiwan and one which we should pay more attention to. If you are heading to Taiwan and wants to visit the distillery, be sure to call ahead and ask them for their schedule of distillery tours. As they are unlikely to host impromptu tours as they did for us (we were lucky!), it is safer to call ahead if you want to see their facilities. We hope this has been an exciting read for you and thank you for staying with us in this long post!

Until next time folks! We will be back with more!

 

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WhiskyGeeks’ Top 5 Parties Bottles for Christmas 2017

 

Christmas is right around the corner. Have you decided on your Christmas party bottles yet? Parties are an essential part of Christmas celebration and if you are expected to prepare party bottles, here is a list to help you out in your shopping.

The Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse is a favourite party bottle for many of us. The light and yet, sweet blended whisky is a hot item for its easy-to-drink nature. Besides, it goes perfectly well with turkey and the Christmas log cake. You can easily find The Famous Grouse at any major supermarket such as FairPrice, Cold Storage or the MarketPlace. The bottle usually retails at less than SGD$100, so it is friendly on the wallet too!

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Keep walking is a household statement for Johnnie Walker’s fans. While we do not encourage you to keep walking during a Christmas party, the Johnnie Walker Black Label is an excellent bottle to grace a party. One level “higher” than the Red Label, the Black Label is a flavourful whisky that is bound to please most whisky drinkers. You can find the Black Label easily at supermarkets too. Otherwise, your friendly online stores are always ready to deliver! The bottle also retails at less than SGD$100 for most supermarkets and online stores.

Chivas Regal 12 Years Old

The Chivas Regal range is another household name for many blended whisky drinkers. This brand has a reputation for pleasing people in the maritime industry, so if you are inviting some friends working in the maritime sector, do stock up on the Chivas Regal! The 12 years old is the entry-level whisky and hence retails at less than SGD$100. If you are feeling generous, you can up the game and go for the 18 years old, which is a whole lot more expensive. Find the Chivas 12 years old at major online stores, and they will deliver it all the way to your doorstep.

Glenlivet Founders’ Reserve

The Glenlivet Founders’ Reserve is the latest bottle in the Glenlivet range of single malt whisky. There was a 12.12 sale at Lazada recently that featured the Glenlivet Founders’ Reserve! For $80 a bottle, you enjoy a buy-one-get-one-free deal! So that was $80 for two bottles! How neat is that? Got to admit that we bought the bottles too! If you have missed out on the deal, you can still find the bottle in Clarke Quay or major online shops in Singapore!

Glendronach 8 Years Old Hielan

Glendronach has an excellent reputation for all its single malt bottlings, especially those from single casks. Nonetheless, their core range has some pretty decent stuff as well, like this Glendronach 8 years old. Although it is only an eight years old, the whisky displayed excellent depth for one that is so young. You can find the bottle at MarketPlace for less than SGD$100 too!

Have a Great Party

We hope that the list helps you to find the right party bottles with three blended whiskies and two single malts! If you need more advice, feel free to chat us up on Facebook Messenger! Have a great Christmas party!

 

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10 Whiskies to Drink for a Merry Christmas

It is the time of the year to make merry, have fun and enjoy life just a little bit! After all, Christmas is only around the corner! The team at WhiskyGeeks are preparing for the Christmas countdown with some lovely whiskies, and we thought that it is nice of us if we share our list with our readers too!

So, buckle up and go for a whisky ride with us as we go on a journey with these ten different whiskies.

Entry-level Whiskies

Entry-level whiskies are great for trying, especially for people who are not serious whisky drinkers. These whiskies are mostly light and aromatic, with an acceptable alcohol content that is suitable for all. These whiskies are also great for whisky drinkers who are looking for something simple to spend the Christmas holidays. The price range for the entry-level whiskies is below $100 to less than $200 per bottle.

Glenfiddich IPA

The Glenfiddich IPA is a newly launched whisky by one of the most well-known distilleries in Scotland. Finished in IPA beer casks, the whisky is a light, yeasty drink that delights all beer drinkers. The aromas of hops are prominent in the nose of the whisky, and it follows through in the palate and the finish. It is a thoroughly enjoyable drink and one that you can buy easily at duty-free shops. The best part about this whisky is the price tag. It is less than SGD$100 – an attractive price for whisky!

Bruichladdich – The Classic Laddie

The Classic Laddie from Bruichladdich is yet another excellent whisky to choose for Christmas. While it is a NAS, the whisky has proven to match the likes of aged whiskies. Sweet and flavourful, The Classic Laddie is perfect for Christmas! The aromas of caramel and toffee, coupled with the sweetness of candies are bound to please both beginners and experts alike. Most online whisky stores in Singapore sell The Classic Laddie for around $160-$180.

Dalmore 15 Years Old

Another entry-level whisky to try is the Dalmore 15 years old. Slightly older than the Dalmore 12 years old, this whisky is more flavourful than its 12 years old counterpart. The 15 years old is said to spend three years in a 30 years old Matusalum sherry cask, so the end result is a soft and elegant whisky. It is suitable for people who love sweet drinks with its candied orange taste. It is also a duty-free bottle that is selling near $200. Slightly pricey for an entry-level whisky, but worth a try if you have not tried a Dalmore yet!

Glendronach 18 Years Old Allardice

The Glendronach 18 Years Old Allardice is slightly older than the above bottles. Matured in Oloroso sherry casks, it is all sweet toffee and candies. It is a typical sherried-matured whisky which is good news for anyone who is celebrating Christmas! The nose is full sherry with hints of pineapples and rum. The palate reminds us of a Christmas log cake, chocolate and honey! The finish is just as sweet with berries and maple syrup leading the way. While it is not exactly an entry-level whisky, it is so affordable (priced around $160-$180) that we have to label it as one so that you can try it for yourself.

Mid-Tier Whiskies

Mid-tier whiskies are perfect for those who wish to spend a little more during the holidays to enjoy some beautiful expressions. The whiskies showcase here are a bit more complex than what you would expect from the entry-level whiskies, so if you are trying any of these, be sure to spend more time with them to get all the aromas and flavours. These mid-tier whiskies have price tags of $200 to $300 per bottle.

S.M.W.S 35.176 Surf and Snowboard (Glen Moray)

If you have not heard, let us share the good news with you! S.M.W.S is now in Singapore! The first partner bar for the S.M.W.S is none other than The Single Cask! We tried the 35.176 Surf and Snowboard expression at TSC recently, and it just screams “Christmas” in our face! The nose is full of fresh bananas and pineapples. The aromas follow through to the palate, and it feels like you have a mouthful of bananas! Then there are pineapples, sweet pears and a hint of caramel. The finish is delicious candies and lingers for a while. This sounds like a great Christmas whisky, doesn’t it?

The catch for S.M.W.S bottles is that you have to be a member to buy them. The basic membership is not expensive though. At $140 per year, you get to enjoy rebates and discounts when you buy bottles or drink at SMWS Member Bars worldwide. If you do not fancy the membership, all you need to do is head down to The Single Cask and check out the whiskies by the dram! Tell Brendan that WhiskyGeeks sends you and asks him to recommend some of the best S.M.W.S bottles for you!

Santis Malt Snow White No. 5

This is something special. It is not Scotch, not Japanese and not Irish. It is a Switzerland single malt whisky! Santis Malt is a lesser-known single malt as it is not distributed in Singapore yet. As of now, they are looking for distributorship here. Nonetheless, they are somewhat famous in Taiwan. The Santis Malt Snow White No. 5 is their annual winter limited release. Each winter release is matured in old beer casks and finished in special fruit liqueur casks. The Snow White No. Five finished in apricot casks shipped all the way from Austria! Exceptionally balanced, this whisky comes with apricot, hops, sweet pears and tropical fruits.

Currently not released yet, the Snow White No. 5 is a real hit for us! While this is not available this Christmas, you can do something about this and buy it for the next Christmas! If you want to purchase a bottle, send us an email, and we will see what we can do to help you with the purchase!

Mid to High-tier Whiskies

Possibly one level up from the mid-tier whiskies, the mid-to-high-tier whiskies are those that set you apart from your friends. If you are feeling generous this Christmas and wanted to share the joy of whiskies with your friends, these bottles are perfect for an intimate Christmas party. The price range of these bottles is around $300 to $500 per bottle.

The Single Cask Macduff 19 Years Old (1997)

Macduff is not a well-known single malt because it is bottled and marketed as Glen Deveron in the whisky industry. It is part of the blend of the John Dewars & Son blended whiskies too. The Single Cask Macduff 19 years old is a good start for anyone who is keen to explore independent bottlings of Macduff single malt. The nose is herbal, slightly sweet with some pepper and develops some savoury meatiness after a while. The palate is sweet with some heat, almost like a spiced wine on Christmas Day. It is a perfect dram for Christmas! You can find this bottle at The Single Cask or buy it at their online shop! This bottle is retailing at $392.

Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Cask Strength (Exclusive Quaich Bar)

Quaich Bar is the first whisky bar in Singapore, and it celebrated its ten anniversary a few months ago. This Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Cask Strength is an exclusive Quaich Bar bottling to celebrate its anniversary. Specially chosen by the owner, this whisky is full of sherried goodness. It is a sherry bomb and one which aims to please any sherry cask whisky lovers. You can try to find this bottle at Quaich Bar (we are not sure if it is sold out). It is retailing at $398 a bottle.

Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1

This is the second Bruichladdich whisky that we are adding this list, and we are proud to say that the Black Art 4.1 is one of the best drams that we have ever tasted so far. The Black Art 4.1 is a 1990 bottle and one of the “old” bottlings from Bruichladdich. The whisky is an enigma. The nose and palate change every 10-15 minutes, showcasing the deep layers of complexity that represent the Black Art. Crafted with passion and hidden recipe, this is one of the famed bottles from previous whisky master, Jim McEwan. If you did not own a bottle, you should buy one!

Octomore 8.3

Last but not least, here is the only peaty whisky that we added to the list. The Octomores are known as the peatiest whiskies in the market right now, and the Octomore 8.3 is the peatiest of all at 309 ppm! For those who have not tried an Octomore, you would think that this whisky is not for Christmas. Why did we put an Octomore on this list?

Well, the fact is this – Octomore 8.3 is sweet and floral! WHAT?! Yes, it is true! The sweet peat that wafts up the nose is aromatic and so appealing that we just keep wanting more! The high ppm makes the whisky soft and sophisticated, and the high alcohol content is hardly noticeable. This whisky is a mellow, lovely dram that is perfect for Christmas! Retailing around $400 – $425, you can find the Octomore 8.3 in most online whisky stores in Singapore.

 

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The Single Cask Event of the Year: THE LAST CHANCE

From left to right: TSC Linkwood 1984, TSC Glenrothes 19 YO 58.5%, TSC Glenrothes 19 YO 58%, TSC Bowmore #31932, TSC Bowmore #31931

2017 is coming to a close, and The Single Cask had similarly organised its last tasting event of the year. If you had not managed to grab a ticket for the sell-out event on 8 December 2017, you had missed out on the five beautiful expressions that we tasted.

Introducing the Bottles

Brendan, the whisky expert of The Single Cask, had chosen five crown jewels of the bar to share with all of us at the event. The Single Cask bottled every expression.

The five bottles we tasted were:

Linkwood 1984 (26 Years Old) – Bottled 2010
Glenrothes 1997 Refill Sherry #L1097 (19 Years Old) – Bottled 2017
Glenrothes 1997 Dark Sherry #T497 (19 Years Old) – Bottled 2017
Bowmore 2001 #31932 (14 Years Old) – Bottled 2016
Bowmore 2001 #31931 (14 Years Old) – Bottled 2016

Why are these bottles so special? Well, if you consider that they are either sold out or having less than five bottles left at the bar, you would want to hurry down to the bar to taste them by the dram before they are gone FOREVER! Before you rush off to The Single Cask, here’s a little background for the five bottles.

Linkwood 1984 (26 Years Old) – Bottled 2010

TSC Linkwood 1984 was bottled back in 2010 when TSC was not born yet. Back in those days, the bar was operating under the name of “Malt Vault” at Ann Siang Hill. It is also the reason why the shape of the bottle is different from the rest. The round glass represented the legacy of Malt Vault. The Linkwood 1984 is one of the first bottlings by The Single Cask. In the seven years that have passed since 2010, The Single Cask has created 37 expressions. That is not a small feat to be sure!

Linkwood 1984 has a clean citrus nose. Raw honey and herbaceous fruits are also prominent with some oakiness. That citrus note follows in the palate with a tingling sensation on the tongue. Light, fresh honey notes with warm, gentle spice are evident too. The finish is medium with light citrus, oaky notes. There is some bitterness toward the end, likely due to the wood.

It is an easy to drink whisky that is balanced and clean. It is somewhat singular but one which is suitable as an introduction to new whisky drinkers.

Glenrothes 1997 Refill Sherry #L1097 (19 Years Old) – Bottled 2017

The Single Cask bottled the Glenrothes 1997 Refill Sherry in 2017. The yield of 85 bottles was because The Single Cask bought only one-fifth of the whole cask. Glenrothes is well-known for its sherry influence, and we had high expectations for this expression.

TSC Glenrothes 1997 Refill Sherry has a woody, sweet nose. Dark raisins, white peppery spice and sour sulphuric notes are in the forefront. A slightly unpleasant sourish odour appears after a while, reminding us of many sweaty bodies squeezed in a poorly ventilated lift. The sulphuric notes follow in the palate, turning it slightly sourish. The saving grace comes from the dark raisins and hints of roasted almond. Some woodiness can be detected in the back of the tongue too. The finish is relatively long with bits of roasted almonds at the end of the throat. It is also astringent and bitter.

It is an unusual presentation of a Glenrothes. While it may not be the most balanced dram of Glenrothes we had tasted, it is worth trying for its uniqueness.

Glenrothes 1997 Dark Sherry #T497 (19 Years Old) – Bottled 2017

This expression of the Glenrothes 1997 Dark Sherry is not a sister cask of the previous expression. It is an older expression by six months. The Single Cask bottled this version in 2017 as well. The Dark Sherry has a yield of 86 bottles and is a sherry bomb! As we had tried this before, we know that this whisky needs a lot of time to awaken to its complete profile. We recommend that you air this dram for at least 30 minutes before enjoying it.

The Single Cask Glenrothes 1997 Dark Sherry has a sherried, sweet nose with raisins and spice in the background. After airing the whisky for about 20 minutes, the spice mellowed, and the nose becomes sweeter. The sherry influence increases as you air it out. The palate is full of raisins, delicious red wine and gentle spice. Some dustiness coats the tongue. After airing, the taste gets sweeter with the raisins taking the forefront. The dustiness and spice take on a mellow note with the red wine coating the palate beautifully. The finish is medium to long with some dryness that is similar to a red wine finish. It is also astringent. After airing, the sweetness becomes prominent, and the dryness recedes slightly. It becomes herbaceous and bitter (something like an 85% dark chocolate).

This version of the Glenrothes is much more balanced and complex as compared to the previous one. However, it can get a little one-dimensional if you waited too long. It is a challenging dram if you want to catch all its notes within the 30 minutes time frame.

Bowmore 2001 #31932 (14 Years Old) – Bottled 2016

Bowmore is a brand that is well-known to all. It has its ups and downs as a distillery. The 60s, 70s, and 80s were terrific times at the distillery as it was performing at its peak. The 90s were less desirable due to the changing of owners to Suntory. The quality of the liquid produced during the 90s was somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, the distillery bounced back in the 2000s, and this bottle here is from one of its 2001 casks.

The Bowmore 2001 #31932 is one of the two sister casks that The Single Cask bought in 2016. Maturing side by side, these two casks were expected to be similar. However, they proved to be very much different!

#31932 has a light, gentle peat nose, burnt grass, sweet pineapples and hints of bananas. Mellow spice lingers in the background. The light peat follows through in the palate, creating a grassy, citrus, fresh tropical fruit mouthfeel with no spice. The finish is medium-long with sweet pineapples and a lingering light peat at the back of the throat.

It is a balanced expression that is gentle and yet complex enough for a hearty drink.

Bowmore 2001 #31931 (14 Years Old) – Bottled 2016

The last bottle of the night is the Bowmore 2001 #31931. The sister cask of the previous bottle, it proved to be as different as it can be. While the cask #31932 is grassy, #31931 is the mighter of the two.

The nose is meaty like smoky bacon. There is a stronger white pepper spice in the forefront and hints of sweet citrus and sea salt at the back. The smoky citrus (lemon & orange) follows through in the palate, with some hints of sea salt and white peppery spice. The finish is long with the smokiness lingering for a long time.

The Bowmore 2001 #31931 is a lovely, balanced whisky that is complex and yet easy to drink. We can easily guess why Brendan had chosen this expression to be the last bottle of the night. He admitted that this is one of his favourite bottles and he had bought bottle #2 for his collection! WhiskyGeeks has a bottle of the #31931 at home too!

What to look forward to in the remaining month of 2017

While the last tasting event of the year might be over for The Single Cask, there are still two exciting events to look forward to in December 2017!

Whisky hoarders, ahem, we mean, whisky lovers, can look forward to the Christmas Sale (YAY!) at The Single Cask on 15 December, from 5 pm onwards! Expect discounts to go up to 60% off, so be sure to mark your calendar! Moreover, all whisky flights at the bar will be at half price for the night! We will see you there!

The other exciting event is The Single Cask Free Flow Night!! Who can say no to free flow? Happening on 16 December, it will start from 8 pm to midnight. Be sure to go there early if you want to have a seat! 🙂

 

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WhiskyFair TAKAO Debrief – Day Two

We couldn’t resist putting the WhiskyFair TAKAO banner again here because we loved the way it looked. It reflected the sophisticated affair that we attended very well, and we wanted to remind everyone again just how intriguing it had been. If you have missed the article for Day One, click here.

Beginning of Day Two

Day Two began in a frenzy because we were rushing to queue for our Littlemill 1988 and yet having the need to pack up our belongings because we were heading home that evening. The fact that we ran out of Taiwan dollars made things worse as we needed to find a money changer. However, we did manage to complete our tasks in time and reached the fairgrounds at 9.45 am, 15 minutes earlier than the opening hours.

The Anxiety of Queuing for a Limited Release Bottle

To our dismay, there were about 40 people ahead of us. We began to pray that we could still get our hands on Littlemill 1988. We managed to get into the fairgrounds at 10.15 am, and we rushed to the queue! As the line moved sluggishly, we hoped against hope that everyone in front of us was buying the Springbank 1994! Haha…The helpful staff at the counter began to call out the number of Littlemill 1988 bottles left. “Littlemill left 30 bottles…Littlemill left 20 bottles…” The anxiety was great indeed, especially when everyone in the queue began to count if they were still able to get it. When we were the first in the queue, the staff called out, “Littlemill left nine bottles…”

We breathed a sigh of relief because we knew that we could get our hands on the precious bottle after all! When we paid, the staff cheerfully told us, “You are lucky! You got the last 8th bottle!” And so, here it is!

Littlemill 1988

If you wondered why we did not get the Springbank as well, it was because we were only allowed to buy either the Littlemill or the Springbank. Oh, and they did not let Geek Choc buy the other bottle because Geek Flora purchased the Littlemill and it was apparent that we were together. So yeah, we missed that one! We probably need a better strategy next year! Hahaha…

Cuttlefish and three free drinks

After all that excitement, we were both in need of a drink. Right beside the annual bottle sales counter, there was a store selling dried cuttlefish and scallops. We stopped by for some tasting and ended up buying two packages. The generous storeowner gave us a free bag and then offered us a drink, on the house! We would be rude to say no, so we made our choices.

The exhibitor enjoyed talking to us so much that he ended up giving us one extra dram – The Ledaig 11 Years Old! These bottles were good stuff, and seriously, we felt somewhat embarrassed for having so many free drams. Nonetheless, the exhibitor waved away our concerns and told us how happy he was to meet so many foreign whisky lovers who appreciate his offerings.

Exciting Bottles at ARen Trading Co. Ltd

As we had promised Michael Hsieh, the owner of ARen Trading Co. Ltd (and co-organizer of WhiskyFair TAKAO) to visit him at his booth again, we headed over soon after our chat with the generous exhibitor. Michael had kept a bottle of AMAZING stuff just for us. Guess what it was? Let us give you a clue: it was the older sister of the Whisky Bible 2015 Best Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray!

Woohoo! It is the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2009! The first in the batch and the older sister of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, which had won the Best Whisky of the Year in the Whisky Bible 2015. Once the bottle was out, everyone was in a frenzy to get the last bits of the liquid. We bought 40 ml of that last precious liquid, and another visitor bought 20 ml. The last guy who came along only managed to secure the final 15 ml! He was so elated even to achieve that last 15 ml that he did a little dance right at the booth!

More interesting bottles up ahead

As the crowd dispersed after the bottle kill of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2009, we had the chance to check out the rest of the bottle offerings. Geek Flora spied upon the Ardbeg Uigeadail – The Ultimate (first edition) and a TWA bottling of Littlemill 1989. We had to buy both because we wanted to taste them!

As we were going to head to the airport later, we had to buy samples instead of drinking it on the spot. It was a good idea as well since we would be able to review these bottles properly at our leisure. Michael, upon understanding that we were leaving for the airport soon, treated us to a little bit of the Littlemill 1989! “10ml would be fine for you!” he said and poured the whisky into one of our Glencairn glass. The nose was full of floral notes, and hints of sweet, creamy vanilla were apparent. These followed through in the palate and the finish. Notes of fragrant pears and green apples dominated the palate with the floral and vanilla lingering in the back. The finish was long and clean. We went to whisky heaven again after this little taste. It was so good!

The Drunken Master X Pin Xin Wine Shop

Next, we visited Pin Xin Wine Shop. Zhuang Meng is the founder of Pin Xin, and he works closely with Chunfeng from The Drunken Master. They have a range of independent bottling named The Octave. We were attracted by the beautiful labels on their bottles and wanted to find out more about them.

The range of whiskies from PX and TDM (Picture was taken from TDM FB page)

Unfortunately, we were not able to take the whole range of bottles during the crowded fair, so we took a picture of the entire range from The Drunken Master Facebook page. The Drunken Master launched these expressions one day after the fair, and we are proud to say that we managed to try some of them before they launched!

Geek Choc tried the Laphroaig 20 years old, but Geek Flora decided to pass and instead bought a sample of the Huntly home. The Huntly, as we understood from Zhuang Meng, was from The Balvenie. They did not allow the independent bottlers to name the distillery. Hence they had to use the location of the distillery instead.

Time to say Goodbye

After our chat with Zhuang Meng, we had to go. After checking out of the hotel, we went for a quick lunch before heading back to the fair to say bid farewell to everyone. It was a fantastic event and one which we enjoyed tremendously! We understood that WhiskyFair TAKAO 2018 would take place at Kaohsiung on 1st and 2nd December 2018! Next year, we are hoping to plan a trip together with some of our members, and we can all go there together! Until next year, folks! Slainte!

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WhiskyFair TAKAO Debrief – Day One

Geek Choc buying whisky samples at Omar Distillery Booth

We had such a wild time in Taiwan that we were quite reluctant to come home after a week. It has been such a fruitful trip, and we are thankful to everyone who had given us their time in Taiwan. With the excitement and tiredness from travelling behind us, it is time for us to give our field report to our faithful members who are eagerly awaiting our updates on WhiskyFair TAKAO.

A little background about WhiskyFair TAKAO

WhiskyFair TAKAO is the first ever whisky event to be held in Kaohsiung. It marks the start of a beautiful annual event for Asian whisky lovers to come together for a celebration. Held on 2nd and 3rd December 2017, it was the brainchild of Mr Li Chunfeng, owner of Drunken Master Whisky Bar and Mr Michael Hsieh, owner of ARen Trading Co. Ltd, in partnership with The Whisky Agency.  Many others are involved in organising this fair, but Mr Li and Mr Hsieh are the principal collaborators.
This event is also an investment into independent bottlers across Taiwan and the world. All of the exhibitors invited are independent bottlers or whisky bars which stock independent bottles. The exhibitors come mainly from Taiwan and Japan, but there are also a few independent bottlers from the Western world such as WM Cadenhead and Whiskybase.

What we think about the Event

We were impressed with the organisation of the fair considering that it was the first ever event in Kaohsiung. Despite the inexperience of the organisers, the whisky fair was well thought-out. The venue was at 85 Sky Tower, the tallest building in Kaohsiung. The exhibition overlooked the Kaohsiung port, and while visibility was near zero due to thick fog (air pollution), it was still a charming place. The fairground was well laid out, with plenty of space for visitors to stop by the different booths to buy samples of the whiskies on offer.

Whisky Transaction at WhiskyFair TAKAO

The mode of transaction is different for WhiskyFair TAKAO as compared to Whisky Live Singapore. In this event, the entrance ticket is a low 450NTD (SGD$22.50), and you get a Glencairn glass FOC. You will have to purchase coupons to exchange them for whisky samples at the fair itself. Of course, when we pay for the whiskies, the exhibitors brought out their big guns for the visitors to try!

WhiskyFair TAKAO (Day One)

We started the fair innocently enough – we avoided the crowds and only went in at 11 am even though the event began at 10 am. As we were not buying the first-day annual bottles (Bowmore 25 years old + Caol Ila 10 years old), we had the luxury of entering later. The first scene that greeted us at the venue was this.
Neat, artistically-placed tables stood side by side with the exhibitors eagerly engaging the different visitors who came into the fairgrounds. We were overwhelmed by the friendliness of these exhibitors! When they understood that we are bloggers from Singapore, they piled us with drinks – FOC! Their generosity touched us deeply.

Asian Palate Association

We got to taste three different bottles at the first booth. Interestingly, the owner of Asian Palate Association chooses only whiskies which are sherry-based and what he termed as “clean”. He clarified that it meant that he tried to select whiskies that are not sulphuric or tannic. We heard that he is looking for a distributor in Singapore, so if you are interested, contact us, and we can link you up!

Omar Distillery – Taiwan

Next, we headed to Omar where we quickly purchased our lychee whisky bottles! If you followed our Facebook post, you would have known that we visited Omar distillery and were disappointed that the lychee whisky was sold out at the distillery. Miracles happened sometimes, and we found them at WhiskyFair TAKAO! They were the last few bottles too! Yay!
We were so excited, and the exhibitors were rather amused by us. They made us more excited when they offer us a free pour of the lychee whisky! Now, how generous can they be?! We also tried their peated whisky and were genuinely impressed by it.

Omar Peated Cask Strength

The peat is aromatic and the bourbon cask influence that it was in enhanced the floral and fruitiness of the whisky. We will be doing a post or two on Omar, so we will not dwell too much here. 🙂

Swiss Alpine Whisky

After the first two booths, we went straight to whisky heaven. There were just too many to try, and we had to keep up with all the exhibitors looking to pour their whiskies into our Glencairn glasses. Walking deep into the middle of the fair, we found something that we had not try for years – Swiss Whisky!

Santis Malt

If you have not heard about Santis Malt, it is time you try them! We first tasted Santis Malt back in 2010, when we travelled to Switzerland and found a bottle in a tiny supermarket in Interlaken. We were not impressed back then, but we ought to say that the whisky has improved a lot! Santis Malt is matured in old beer casks and usually have a unique finish. To preserve our livers, we tried their most sought-after winter edition – Snow White and another bottle from The Whisky Agency only.

Snow White No. 5 is the latest edition in their winter release. Slated for their 2017 release, the bottles are going to be available in Taiwan only sometime in late January or even February. It is matured in old beer casks and then finished in APRICOT liquor casks! Woot! It was one of the most amazing whiskies we had ever tasted. The apricot aroma engulfed the nose and followed through on the palate and the finish. Wow…it was simply amazing! It was too bad that they were not selling it at the fair.

The Santis Malt from The Whisky Agency was another exciting bottle. Matured in a sherry cask, it had a different character when compared to the standard Santis Malt. Again, the bottle was sold out so we couldn’t bring it home. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic journey with Santis Malt, and we got to admit that they have improved tremendously since the last time we had it in Switzerland.

Rare Whiskies from Japan

When we talk whisky, how can we not think about Japan and their unique offerings? Whiskyfair TAKAO had some distinctive Japanese exhibitors, such as Toru Suzuki-san from The Mash Tun Tokyo. The bar owners in Japan have many rare whiskies, including Port Ellen and Karuizawa. We even had our first Karuizawa, recommended by Suzuki-san!

Since it was our first time tasting Karuizawa, we had to document that sweet moment with a photo!

Geek Flora and Geek Choc with our Karuizawa sample

Taiwan Independent Bottlers

We did not forget the independent bottlers from Taiwan of course. They are the main reasons why WhiskyFair TAKAO could take off. We visited Spirits Salon and Aqua Vitae amongst others. By this time, we were ready to surrender to our alcohol intake, so we took out our trusty sample bottles and bought some samples to bring home instead.

Geek Flora has a special love for Blair Athol, and we had a taste of it. Allen Chen is the founder of Aqua Vitae. He is a passionate whisky lover and entrepreneur from Taiwan. His company is newly set up and currently have only four expressions. We are sure that there will be more whisky expressions from him next year!

Drunken Master Whisky Bar / Independent Bottler

Finally, we are dedicating the last portion of Day One for Drunken Master Whisky Bar – the organiser of WhiskyFair TAKAO. Drunken Master is both a whisky bar and an independent bottler. The owner, Mr Chunfeng, is also the chairman of Formosa Whisky Society. He did the labels for his bottles on his own and managed much of the operation at his bar too.
For WhiskyFair TAKAO, he brought casks for four individual bottles. There is a Bowmore 25 years old, a Caol Ila 10 years old, a Littlemill 1988 and a Springbank 1994. While we do not have the picture for the Springbank 1994, here are the other three bottles!

Besides these bottles, we also bought samples of Drunken Master’s other bottles. Some of you might have seen the first two bottles below. The other two are not yet released as they are bottles for Formosa Whisky Society. We will post our reviews of these bottles once we have tasted them.

End of Day One

It was a fruitful day at WhiskyFair TAKAO Day One! It was a roller coaster journey as we walked through the exhibition hall. We will continue with Day Two in another post for this is already getting too long. Click here for the next one and thank you for reading all the way here!

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017 Debrief

It has been a week since Whisky Live Singapore 2017 came to a close. The excitement has died down, and everyone is happy with their soul filled with precious liquid gold. Now is the time to look back and share our feelings about the event.

What we think about the event

We believe that Whisky Live Singapore 2017 was a great success! The event was well organised, and every exhibitor had their space that allowed visitors to stand around as they sampled the whiskies on offer. The VIP / Collectors’ room was tastefully decorated with natural light to make the whole area bright and cheerful. All of us were comfortable and did not feel the space constraints despite the smaller venue this year. While we had to walk to the masterclasses and the pop-up store, and yes, even climbed a short flight of stairs, it was all acceptable. (We saw some negative comments about the staircase on Whisky Live Singapore Facebook page). The venue is a rustic and charming place, well worthy of the whisky we drank.

The VIP Experience (Day One)

We took the VIP ticket for the first day, where we had a great variety of whiskies. Check out some of the pictures below!

These bottles were incredible! While we did not sample a lot of the whiskies on offer, we picked some of the most popular bottles which were “trending” quickly through the VIP ticket holders.

The Bruichladdich (Octomore) Masterclass

We could not go to all the Masterclasses, so we picked the one that we wanted to go the most. The Bruichladdich Masterclass was the most popular one at Whisky Live – its tickets sold out pretty quickly! The presenter was none other than the newly arrived Brand Ambassador Chloe Wood! Chloe is from Islay, Scotland, and has been part of the Brand Academy at Bruichladdich before coming over to Singapore. While we were sad to say goodbye to Richard (the former brand ambassador), we are delighted to meet Chloe and share Singapore with her!

Chloe presenting Bruichladdich to us at the Masterclass

The Octomore masterclass showcased four different Octomore in Series 8. There were Octomore 8.1 to 8.4. The surprise was the 8.4 because it was hand-drawn from the cask and brought to Singapore by Chloe! The expression was not released yet when we had a taste of it, so technically, we were the first people (about 20 of us) to taste it!

These fellows are top-notched whiskies – every bottle has its character and charm. However, many of us shared the same sentiments when we tried to rank these bottles. We came to a consensus that the ranking is Octomore 8.3, 8.4, 8.2 and 8.1! While this does not mean that 8.1 is not good, it just means that 8.3 has performed better than our highest expectations. We will encourage you to try an Octomore, especially for someone who has not tried.

Octomore has a reputation for being heavily peated, and thus, many whisky drinkers who are not peat heads avoided it. Geek Flora avoided it at first too, until she had her first taste of it. The rest was history!

Whisky Live Cocktail and Food Street

We went for a walk and had some delicious food at the Whisky Live Cocktail and Food Street after the Bruichladdich masterclass. It was crowded and rainy, but people were happy to share tables, and we had a plate of shockingly good pineapple rice and basil leaves fries. We were quite done in by then because the Octomores have high alcohol content. After food, we went back to the VIP room where we had one last whisky before leaving the event.

Scapa 2005 – 12 Years Old

The Standard Ticket Experience (Day Two)

As we wanted to experience both as a VIP ticket and standard ticket holder, we bought a regular ticket for day two. Sunday proved to be less crowded, and we had access to the first floor of the venue only. We had to stop by the Bruichladdich booth first because we wanted so much to try their fabulous whiskies again. Chloe was there at the booth, and so was Brendan, the whisky expert from The Single Cask!

This time, we had the chance to taste some fantastic Octomore 7 Series! We just could not resist the lure of Octomores! There was also a Port Charlotte – Scottish Barley that we had!

The ever-friendly people at Bruichladdich also gave us some premium whiskies that they had hidden under the table. These whiskies are only for people who asked nicely! However, we couldn’t get pictures of them. Anyhow, we tried a Bruichladdich Black Art 5 and the Octomore 7.4!

Oh, we got to chew on the roasted barley that made Octomore, Port Charlotte and the Classic Laddie too! Yums! We love the Octomore barley! Beautifully roasted, the barley was smoked just right for the whisky distillation process.

The Glendronachs and the Glenglassaugh

Moving on, we had our fair share of both the Glendronachs and the Glenglassaugh. Personally, we think that the Glenglassaugh are worth exploring – we tasted some reasonably decent drams! As for the Glendronachs, we already feel that they are great to start with.

Geek Flora thinks that the Evolution is the best out of the three Glenglassaugh that we tasted. It matured in an ex-Tennesse cask, something that was different from the rest. Geek Choc believes that the Revival is excellent though, the colour made us think sherry of course! As for the Torfa, we felt that the peat could be a little more aromatic since it is a peated whisky.

The Independent Bottlers

By now, we knew we had to stop soon, but we couldn’t resist visiting both Gordon and Macphail as well as Sansibar! At G&M, we had some fantastic Bunnahabhain that was only an eight years old, one that is heavily peated. Ohhh…we know that Bunnahabhain does not do peated, so this was something good!

We were quite disappointed with the Macallan though, it felt flat, and the whisky did not impress us the way the other IB Macallan did. As for the Ardmore, we thought it was pretty alright, but the heavily peated Bunnahabhain overshadowed it.

The Sansibar gang was another level yet again. We had everything except for the Sansibar Laphroaig 18 Years Old because it was all gone. We only get to nose the bottle, and we wept silent tears in our hearts that we did not manage to taste it.

Event Wrap Up

After all the whiskies we had, the team had to head home to rest as we were flying off to Taiwan that every night! It was an adventure to be told in another post as we share our experience in WhiskyFair TAKAO. In the meanwhile, we hope you had lived vicariously through our pictures for Whisky Live Singapore 2017. Until the next year! Slainte!

 

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Whisky Review #72 – Bruichladdich Black Art 4 1990

Bruichladdich is a distillery that is full of surprise. They have three different ranges of whisky that covers everyone’s palate. The distillery believes in giving people choices. There are the Laddie and its varieties, which are the unpeated whiskies. They are also Port Charlotte and Octomore, which are peated. Some of these are heavily peated.

The subject of today’s review is the Bruichladdich Black Arts 4, a series of limited release by Bruichladdich. It is part of the unpeated expressions that the brand is famous for. The Black Art Series is mysterious, because, only its creator, Jim McEwan, knew the actual casks used for the creation of the liquid. The only thing that we know is that the liquid is a 23 years old single malt Scotch whisky.

The Black Arts 4 is the fourth incarnation of their Black Art Series. Working with beautiful American and French oak, it explores the intimate relationship between spirit and wood. This liquid is so exquisite that some have been found quoting Shakespeare while drinking this extraordinary whisky.

“Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires,” – Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Regardless if Shakespeare would love this whisky or not, let us dive into the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV:49.2%

Nose: Sweet toffee notes mixed with red apples and berries tingle the nose at first. Soon, we get warm spice that lingers in the background. The nose promises a spicy palate even if the sweetness of toffees and fruits are present. (17/20)

Palate: Predictable spice warms the palate immediately with light sweet berries notes and sticky toffee following right after the spice. Sweet barley sugar appears in the second sip. The palate develops into a sweet medley that reduces the spice. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is medium with sweet berries and red apples lingering on the palate. It is slightly astringent and dry at the end. (18/20)

Body: It is well-balanced but predictable. There is no surprise for this Bruichladdich Black Art, but it is a tasty dram for those who have not try the Black Art Series. (30/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is the first Black Art I had. Even though I could not compare what I had to the other expressions in the Black Art Series, I think this is a good presentation of what classic Bruichladdich is all about.”

Geel Choc: “Wow…I love this Black Art 4. It is also the first Black Art I had, so similar to Flora; I can’t compare it with the others. However, I think it is a level-up from The Classic Laddie with more complexity. Good dram!”

 

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