New Bar Alert: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

There are never enough new whisky bars in Singapore, despite our perceived “smallness” in size and population. The most recent whisky bar that we have been to is none other than The Exciseman. The whisky couple behind this bar are well-known figures in Singapore’s whisky industry, and they are known to carry quality whiskies.

The couple is Lewis Mitchell and Patricia Britton, the owners of Le Vigne Wine and Spirits. After running the shop successfully for 16 years, opening a whisky bar seems to be the next step in the natural progression of things.

WhiskyGeeks headed to The Exciseman to catch Lewis for a drink and a chat about his passion for whiskies and his vision for the bar.

The Exciseman

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

If you think that The Exciseman is yet another “atas”, expensive and intimating whisky bar in Singapore, think again! The interior of the bar is warm and friendly, with a cosiness to it that invites you to melt into the beautiful armchairs and take a break from life itself.

The whisky selection is vast, with a menu that is bound to grow thicker as the bar matures. The quiet atmosphere, the warm lights, and the comfortable armchairs relax us as we waited for Lewis. The friendly bartender also made us some excellent Oolong tea, with the right temperature. 🙂

Inside the bar, there is a fireplace and a 140 years old piano! We were told that patrons who know how to play the piano are welcome to give it a go, but only after they ask for permission. Customers who wish to play the piano are also kindly requested to play only soft music and to treat the piano with care. After all, it is much older than all of us!

It is a Whisky Heaven

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

Most of us know that Le Vigne is the importer for various whisky brands. The most famous is the Douglas Laing (DL) selection. The bar currently stocks many of DL’s collections, including the five popular blended whiskies in cannons! There are also premium whiskies such as the Xtra Old Particular that is sold by the dram. On top of their selection, The Exciseman is also looking at other brands of whiskies that are of excellent qualities. Once Lewis satisfies his strict selection process for each whisky, you will be able to get your hands on more whisky brands at The Exciseman.

Besides the great number of whiskies you can find, I think that The Exciseman satisfies my quest for peace. The whisky bar has on low music and invites its patrons to enjoy their whiskies in peace and quiet. If you do not wish to chat, Lewis and his team will leave you to enjoy your whisky privately.

In fact, the bar even states what it is not in their menu! By doing so, Lewis hopes that he can protect the peace of the bar and allow his customers to appreciate and enjoy their whiskies.

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

In a way, The Exciseman is a whisky heaven and a safe haven for those who wish to get some peace and quiet. Nonetheless, Lewis still encourages his patrons to chat softly amongst themselves and to ask questions about whiskies and spirits.

Charcoal-filtered Water

If you are one of those geeks like us, you may drink some of your whiskies with a few drops of water. At The Exciseman, you do not get the regular tap or distilled water. What you get is charcoal-filtered water. A clean, crisp water that does magic to your whiskies if you so fancy it to be.

However, what I really love is the tap! Just check it out!

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

You can even fill water on your own, without asking them. Just go to the bar counter and operate the tap! Of course, if you prefer to be served, the team at The Exciseman will gladly serve you.

Lewis Mitchell – The Whisky Man

We have a little chat with Lewis while we were there at the bar and this was the result of our chat – an informal interview! We understood from Lewis that opening a whisky bar is the next progression he envisioned for Le Vigne. While the bar has an additional partner, Lewis is the man who oversees and runs the operation of the bar. When I asked him why he opens a whisky bar instead of a wine bar, he answered candidly, “Because I am a whisky man!”

Indeed, Lewis has his passion for whisky for a long time. He revealed that his love for the water of life started in his early days, and the love increases as he tried different whiskies. When he met Patricia, she was just the woman he needed to carry his passion forward into actions. When Lewis and Patricia started Le Vigne Wine and Spirits, both of them are professionals in their individual roles. Patricia is a wine lover and knows her wines; Lewis, the whisky man, knows his whisky!

Lewis is a straight-forward whisky drinker – he loves all kinds of whiskies. He judges whiskies not by the distillery, the brand, nor the age of the whisky. He ranks each whisky by the nose, palate, finish and balance. A good whisky needs not to be an old whisky; a good whisky can be young. The character of the whisky is vital in Lewis’ point of view. Without character, the whisky is boring.

Don’t Judge a Whisky by its Age

Lewis encourages his customers to look beyond the age of the whiskies that he carries at the bar. It is not the age that matters, but what goes on behind the production that matters. The care of each production cycle is crucial for every whisky distillery. It includes the type of barley used, the time for fermentation, the distillation methods, the cask selections and finally, the taste profile of each whisky made. While it is true that some whiskies are better with age, it does not mean that every whisky is better when aged.

Lewis concluded with a call to everyone to try whiskies and other spirits with an open mind. When we do that, we discover new profiles, and who knows, we might just like it better than we thought!

Visit The Exciseman Whisky Bar

If all these chat about whiskies is making you thirsty, head over to The Exciseman Whisky Bar and check them out! The address is 8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade Mall #02-27, Singapore 039802. If you go up the escalator from the mall side, make a U-turn, and walk all the way to the back to find the bar!

Remember to ask Lewis for a recommendation if you are lazy to go through his extensive menu, he is more than happy to do that for you! The Exciseman also offers beer and other spirits such as gin and grappa. Ask Lewis for your favourite drink!

 

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The Glendronach Revival 15 Years Old is Back!

The Glendronach Core Range and Single Cask

Glendronach is a well-known single malt that most of us love. The sherried notes in each of their expressions are a signature to their passion and expertise in their knowledge of using sherry casks; not just any sherry casks though, but excellent and well-made sherry casks.

I was invited to the Glendronach Revival 2018 launch at the Saint Louise House some days ago, and here are some of the highlights.

The Glendronach Revival Event

The Glendronach Revival 2018

As we know, the Glendronach Revival had been one of their most popular expression, and it was met with such an uproar of injustice when the distillery first announced its discontinuation due to stock constraints. Therefore, you probably could imagine the joy of most attendees at the event. The new Revival is still a 15-year-old expression but made slightly differently. While the old Revival aged exclusively in Oloroso casks, the new one aged in a combination of Oloroso and PX Sherry casks. Everyone was excited to try the new Revival to see if it lives up to its name, but there was another distraction – the 1993 single cask bottled for Asia.

The Revival 2018 did not disappoint, but what wowed me was the single cask bottled for Asia. Distilled in 1993, it is a 24-year-old whisky that deserved its reputation. Try it, I’ll say, and you may want to bring a bottle home. The Glendronach Revival is retailing at $299 and the single cask at $1099. You can find them at The Grande Whisky Collection.

Exclusive Chat with Dr Rachel Barrie

Dr Rachel Barrie

Glendronach’s Master Distiller, Dr Rachel Barrie, hosted the event. As you can imagine, it was not every day that we get to meet a Master Distiller of a well-loved distillery. I jumped at the chance of getting an exclusive interview with Rachel when the opportunity presented itself.

We had a good chat about some important things. As a professional, Rachel had worked with many distilleries before she joins Brown Forman as the Master Distiller. Her career is somewhat unique because most master distillers work with only one distillery in their entire career, but Rachel has proved to be different. Working with various distilleries gave Rachel an experience that other master distillers may not get, and that experience has helped her to gain a reputation in the malt whisky industry.

The Greatest Takeaway from Rachel’s Varied Experience

I was curious to know the most significant takeaway from Rachel’s experiences in the various distilleries before joining Glendronach. She told me that Glendronach is an “old-style” traditional distillery, making single malt whisky in the same way for centuries. It is different from some of the more modern distilleries that she had worked with, and the greatest takeaway for her is that in Glendronach, she is not just the Master Distiller; she is the guardian of tradition and the highest quality. She protects the best from the past and ensures that they only use the best and most authentic ingredients to make the world’s most complex single malt.

Gender is Irrelevant in the Industry

Rachel is one of the rare ladies in the whisky industry to hold her position as a master distiller. I asked if gender is an issue in her job. Her robust answer to that was a resounding NO! She said that making malt whisky is a passion. It does not matter whether a man or a woman is doing it. What is important is the teamwork and collaboration that happens inside the distillery. When everyone, both men and women, is committed to what they do best, the team achieves the desired result.

The Challenge of Glendronach

Rachel worked with many distilleries in different roles, but I was curious about her challenges as the master distiller of Glendronach. When I put the question across to her, she paused and then smiled. Rachel’s biggest challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks. She said that Glendronach has a deep and complex character which changes with the seasons. It also matured differently in the various casks left in different warehouses. The robust and fruity spirit of Glendronach created an abundance of intriguing layers when she left them in different casks. Therefore, her challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks as each one is different from the other. In her words, Rachel said, “The challenge is the opportunity”.

A Day in the Life of a Master Distiller

All of us are interested to know the life of a Master Distiller, so I asked Rachel what her day looks like. She said that there is no typical day because she works on different things each day. She works with all three distilleries under Brown Forman – Glendronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh, but she spends most of her time with Glendronach.

Rachel revealed that she spent most of her mornings nosing cask samples to make decisions for vatting of casks. Her day varies between selecting casks for individual bottling, writing tasting notes, and composing the next vatting of the Glendronach core range. She also needs to give her attention to new expressions as well as deciding on the cask fillings.

Some Advice for the Women in the Whisky Industry?

I also asked Rachel for her advice to women who hope to work in the whisky industry – regardless of role. Her reply does give hopes to many, I believe. She said, “Work hard and stay focused on the serious job of making whisky. Learn something new every day, stay curious, be courageous and seize every opportunity to be creative. If you keep trying, stay focused and have a positive attitude, opportunities will come your way.”

So, if you hope to be a master distiller one day – continue to work hard and learn! You never know!

 

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Launch of Bruichladdich Black Art 6.1

Photo Credits: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Bruichladdich has an excellent series of whiskies named Black Art. Starting from Black Art 1.1, the series is as mysterious as the dark arts (hence the name)! As we go through the series, we arrived at Black Art 6.1 – the second Black Art series that new head distiller, Adam created.

There was a Masterclass for the Black Art 6.1 during Whisky Live, where participants get to drink the whisky before anyone else does! However, the real media launch of this mysterious dram happened on 21 Nov 2018, at Jigger and Pony.

Media Launch of Black Art 6.1

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

It was a grand tasting at Jigger and Pony considering how lovely the bar is. Bruichladdich has a small set up near the bar for about 15 pax, and we can all sit comfortably with our drams. The bottles were set up at the bar area (see above), and we even get a delicious dram of Classic Laddie before we start! Well, they offered a highball, but Chloe poured me a large dram of Classic Laddie after she knew that I had a long day ahead and did not want to mix my drinks!

A Tasting of Black Arts

We had the chance to revisit Black Art 4.1 and 5.1 during the session, and of course, we had to compare between the three. Black Art 6.1 is artfully created by Adam to be different from his previous rendition of Black Art 5.1. In my humble opinion, I think that Black Art 6.1 is more similar to the 4.1. The 4.1, of course, was created by Jim Mcewan, Bruichladdich’s previous head distiller.

As usual, Chloe waxed lyrical about Bruichladdich and what the distillery has achieved so far. She knew that most of us probably could repeat what she said since we have been to various media launch, and hence, gave us something new to be excited about besides the whiskies.

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Chloe revealed that Bruichladdich is building new warehouses, and it is currently the most significant construction on Islay! If you are heading that way, remember to visit Bruichladdich Distillery!

Review of the Black Art 6.1

Photo Credits: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Nose: The initial nose is full of mellow toffee, honey, vanilla, cereal, nuts and chocolates, coming in layers by layers. There is a hint of spice hiding behind the sweet nose.

Palate: I get toffee, nuts, chocolates and honey with my first sip. The oily mouthfeel is silky and makes the whisky very approachable. The second sip gets me all the above, in deeper concentration. It also brings out a gentle ginger spice that I did not get on the first sip. Delicious!!

Finish: 6.1 has a long and floral finish, with nuts and gentle ginger spice along the back of the throat.

Compared to the 5.1, Black Art 6.1 is richer and has strong flavours. I prefer this to the 5.1 as I like the richer notes to it. There may be hints of sherry notes as well, but too faint to catch it properly.

It is yet another great whisky from Bruichladdich, so grab your bottle before it is gone!! I understand from Chloe that it is retailing at all major stores in Singapore, so ask, or regret forever!

 

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