Whisky Appreciation

SMWS Bottlings and the Codes They Use

We spoke of the brief history of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) in our previous article, and today, we are exploring the way they choose their casks as well as the interesting codes of their bottles. If you noticed the unique codes for each SMWS bottling and wonder what it all means, let us explore that together.

The SMWS’ Way of Choosing a Cask

Before we delve into codes, let us first look at how SMWS chooses its casks. SMWS appoints a “Tasting Panel” to select what casks to buy and bottle. The society acquires casks only after the tasting panel approved of the cask. In other words, the bottles that we bought off the website are tried and tested by the experts from the tasting panel.

The tasting panel consists of Society representatives who are either directly involved in the whisky industry or those who proved their knowledge of whisky. Besides tasting and approving casks to buy, the tasting panel also gives each expression an unusual and descriptive name. After their 25th anniversary in 2008, SMWS added mouth-watering tasting notes to depict the flavours of the whisky. An example of the unique name will be “Drunken Cherry Coconut Ice Cream”. Someone who is drinking this expression is likely to find cherry and coconut notes in the whisky, and the liquid will be creamy to taste.

The Unique Codes of SMWS’ Bottling

After choosing the cask, the society bottles it and give the outturn of each expression an unique two-part numerical “identity code”. The first part of the code represents the distillery and the second part indicates the number of cask bottled from the said distillery. For example, 54.45 means the 45th cask acquired from distillery number 54. Every society bottling uses this numerical system. The reason behind this system is simple. Every single cask is different, and SMWS did not want whisky lovers to link the whisky to the distillery’s general profile before drinking it. By using a code, drinkers are more willing to try it without judging and in a way, makes every sip a blind tasting.

It is worthy to note that SMWS bottles grain whiskies as well as single malt whiskies. The grain whiskies are denoted by the prefix “G” in their cask number. There is also rum with the prefix “R” as well as American whiskey with the prefix “B”.

The List of SMWS’ Distillery Codes

The list of distillery codes grows ever longer with every new distillery that SMWS adds to its embrace. Here is a list of the codes that we know of.

Single Malts

Single Malt Whisky SMWS Code
Glenfarclas Distillery 1
Glenlivet Distillery 2
Bowmore Distillery 3
Highland Park Distillery 4
Auchentoshan Distillery 5
Macduff Distillery (Glen Deveron) 6
Longmorn Distillery 7
Tamdhu Distillery 8
Glen Grant Distillery 9
Bunnahabhain Distillery 10
Tomatin Distillery 11
Benriach Distillery 12
Dalmore Distillery 13
Talisker Distillery 14
Glenfiddich Distillery 15
Glenturret Distillery 16
Scapa Distillery 17
Inchgower Distillery 18
Glen Garioch Distillery 19
Inverleven Distillery 20
Glenglassaugh Distillery 21
Glenkinchie Distillery 22
Bruichladdich Distillery 23
Macallan Distillery 24
Rosebank Distillery 25
Clynelish Distillery 26
Springbank Distillery 27
Tullibardine Distillery 28
Laphroaig Distillery 29
Glenrothes Distillery 30
Isle of Jura Distillery 31
Edradour Distillery 32
Ardbeg Distillery 33
Tamnavulin Distillery 34
Glen Moray Distillery 35
Benrinnes Distillery 36
Cragganmore Distillery 37
Caperdonich Distillery 38
Linkwood Distillery 39
Balvenie Distillery 40
Dailuaine Distillery 41
Tobermory Distillery (Ledaig) 42
Port Ellen Distillery 43
Craigellachie Distillery 44
Dallas Dhu Distillery 45
Glenlossie Distillery 46
Benromach Distillery 47
Balmenach Distillery 48
St. Magdalene Distillery 49
Bladnoch Distillery 50
Bushmills Distillery 51
Old Pulteney Distillery 52
Caol Ila Distillery 53
Aberlour Distillery 54
Royal Brackla Distillery 55
Coleburn Distillery 56
Glen Mhor Distillery 57
Strathisla Distillery 58
Teaninich Distillery 59
Aberfeldy Distillery 60
Brora Distillery 61
Glenlochy Distillery 62
Glentauchers Distillery 63
Mannochmore Distillery 64
Imperial Distillery 65
Ardmore Distillery 66
Banff Distillery 67
Blair Athol Distillery 68
Glen Albyn Distillery 69
Balblair Distillery 70
Glenburgie Distillery 71
Miltonduff Distillery 72
Aultmore Distillery 73
North Port Distillery 74
Glenury Royal Distillery 75
Mortlach Distillery 76
Glen Ord Distillery 77
Ben Nevis Distillery 78
Deanston Distillery 79
Glen Spey Distillery 80
Glen Keith Distillery 81
Glencadam Distillery 82
Convalmore Distillery 83
Glendullan Distillery 84
Glen Elgin Distillery 85
Glenesk Distillery 86
Millburn Distillery 87
Speyburn Distillery 88
Tomintoul Distillery 89
Pittyvaich Distillery 90
Dufftown Distillery 91
Lochside Distillery 92
Glen Scotia Distillery 93
Old Fettercairn Distillery 94
Auchroisk (Singleton) Distillery 95
Glendronach Distillery 96
Littlemill Distillery 97
Inverleven Distillery (Lomond) 98
Glenugie Distillery 99
Strathmill Distillery 100
Knockando Distillery 101
Dalwhinnie Distillery 102
Royal Lochnagar Distillery 103
Glenburgie Distillery (Glencraig) 104
Tormore Distillery 105
Cardhu Distillery 106
Glenallachie Distillery 107
Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery 108
Miltonduff (Mosstowie) 109
Oban Distillery 110
Lagavulin Distillery 111
Loch Lomond Distillery (Inchmurrin) 112
Braeval Distillery (Braes of Glenlivet) 113
Springbank Distillery (Longrow) 114
Knockdhu Distillery (An Cnoc) 115
Yoichi Distillery 116
Cooley Distillery (unpeated) 117
Cooley Distillery (peated) 118
Yamazaki Distillery 119
Hakushu Distillery 120
Isle of Arran Distillery 121
Loch Lomond Distillery (Croftengea) 122
Glengoyne Distillery 123
Miyagikyo Distillery 124
Glenmorangie Distillery 125
Springbank Distillery (Hazelburn) 126
Bruichladdich (Port Charlotte) 127
Penderyn Distillery 128
Kilchoman Distillery 129
Chichibu (Japan) 130
Hanyu (Japan) 131
Karuizawa (Japan) 132
Westland Distillery (USA) 133
Paul John (India) 134

Grain Whisky

Grain Whisky  SMWS Code
North British Distillery G1
Carsebridge Distillery G2
Caledonian Distillery G3
Cameronbridge Distillery G4
Invergordon Distillery G5
Port Dundas Distillery G6
Girvan Distillery G7
Cambus Distillery G8
Loch Lomond Distillery G9
Strathclyde Distillery G10
Nikka Coffey Grain (Japan) G11
Nikka Coffey Malt (Japan) G12
Chita (Japan) G13
Dumbarton Distillery G14

American Bourbon Whiskey

American Bourbon Whiskey  SMWS Code
Heaven Hill B1
Bernheim B2
Rock Town B3
F.E.W Distillery B4

Rum

Rum  SMWS Code
Port Morant (Jamaica) R1
Demerara El Dorado (Guyana) R2
Mount Gay (Barbados) R3
Angostura (Trinidad) R4
Appleton (Jamaica) R5

We hope the list will help you to know more but do remember, do not judge the whiskies by the general characteristics of their distilleries, as it can be very different from what you expect. Instead, read the tasting notes and taste the whisky to find out if you love it!

 

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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS)

 

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) landed on Singapore’s shores some time ago. It was a joyous moment for many of us as we finally get a chance to be a member of this esteemed whisky society. As we journey along with SMWS for these months, we discovered that not everyone knows how or when SMWS started. So, today, we are sharing a brief history of SMWS for all to enjoy.

The Birth of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

When we speak of SMWS, we think of Phillip “Pips” Hills and his travels around the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s. Due to his experience of tasting whisky directly from the casks during his visits, he fell deeply in love with whisky. His experiences changed his life forever, especially after he convinced his whisky-loving friends to jointly buy a cask of whisky from Glenfarclas distillery in 1978.

As the years passed, the group expanded into a syndicate where more people joined the group and purchased casks together. As the members continued to grow, they bought and bottled more casks from different distilleries and distribute these bottles to all the subscribing members. After five years, the Society is large enough to purchase their first property – The Vault – in Leith. The Vault comes with a set of vaulted wine cellars said to be from the 12th century.

The year 1983 marked the closure of many whisky distilleries in Scotland. It was a low point in the history of whisky. Many great distilleries like Port Ellen, Glenugie and St Magdelene closed down in 1983. It was this year that the founding members of SMWS decided to open their membership to the wider public as they can finally welcome more members with their ownership of The Vault. Therefore, SMWS was founded in 1983, as it was the first year that the society opened its doors to the general public.

The Ups and Downs of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

After the founding of SMWS in 1983, the society grew by leaps and bounds as more people joined the community. The Vault serves as the member’s second home, where several members’ rooms are available for use by only the members of SMWS. In 1996, the society launched a share scheme to purchase a second property in Greville Street, London. After that, SMWS bought a third property – a Georgian townhouse on Queen Street, Edinburgh in 2004. With three venues, the society grew strongly in numbers, and they purchase more casks than ever before. SMWS then caught the eyes of Glenmorangie PLC, which bought the society in 2004.

2008 marks the 25th anniversary of SMWS. The guiding members of SMWS decided to celebrate the occasion by redesigning the label to include more information and tasting notes on the front of the bottle. Things continue to run smoothly, and by 2015, SMWS was once again, acquired by private investors. SMWS remains as the property of these private investors today.

The Membership of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Only members of the society can purchase SMWS’ bottlings. Becoming a member is easy. Choose from the basic membership at SGD$140 or the membership pioneer at SGD$320. Both memberships come with the following benefits:

  • Exclusive access to purchase whisky and spirits from SMWS.sg
  • Members rates for all SMWS events
  • Members rates at all partner bars across Singapore, UK & Europe
  • Advanced access to all new whiskies (Outturn)
  • Exclusive access to member venues
  • Free subscription to our award-winning magazine
  • Membership Card

The membership pioneer has the additional exclusive welcome pack:

  • Three limited release SMWS 10cl bottles
  • SMWS Journal
  • Club lapel badge

If you are happy to get the membership without the welcome pack, the basic membership is good enough for you to gain access to the SMWS bottlings. However, the exclusive welcome pack is choked full with goodies, so if you are keen to explore SMWS and have a deeper pocket, why not try the membership pioneer?

Locations of SMWS Bars in Singapore

There are currently two SMWS member bars in Singapore – The Single Cask and The Wall SG. If you want to check out new bottlings from SMWS, visiting either bar will be a good choice for you to taste some excellent whiskies from SMWS. New members can also head over to The Single Cask to collect your membership card and pick up any bottles that you purchase online.

Members can access SMWS bars in other countries. Besides the three member-bars in the U.K, there are bars in Australia, Austria, Benelux, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the U.S.A.

SMWS Moving Forward

We hope to see more bottlings from SMWS coming into Singapore in the future as we move forward together as a nation to appreciate whisky. We believe that with SMWS coming onboard in Singapore, more people will get to try whiskies straight from the cask and at cask strength too!

In our next article, we will speak more of SMWS bottlings and the codes on their bottles.

 

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How to remove a broken cork from your whisky bottle

All of us are victims of this age-old problem – the cork breaks when we are opening a bottle of our favourite whisky. This issue is especially prevalent in older bottles simply due to age. Needless to say, we are all frustrated with this recurring challenge! What are some of the best ways to remove a broken cork from our whisky bottles?

Using a corkscrew

If the broken cork is just slightly below the open neck of the bottle, it is easiest to use a corkscrew to remove the broken piece. Use the corkscrew the same way that you would when opening a wine bottle, and you should have the broken cork out of the bottle soon enough!

Using a long nail and a piler

Sometimes, the corkscrew is not delicate enough to do the job, and you will need a better idea. Find a long nail (as long as possible) and make sure it is clean. Screw it slowly into the broken cork, just like how you operate a manual corkscrew. The trick is to pull the long nail a little after screwing it into the cork so that you get a tight grip. Then use piler to slowly but steadily remove the broken cork out of the bottle.

Using a flat blade

When a corkscrew or a nail is not available, grab a flat blade knife from the kitchen. This is an operation only for the nimble fingers, so be safe when you are doing it. Insert the flat knife into the cork near the cork’s edge and the neck of the bottle. Be careful not to stick the knife into the centre of the cork as you need the neck of the bottle as some form of leverage. Once you insert the blade reasonably deep into the cork, start turning the knife in circular motions. The trick here is to pull upwards as you turn so that you pull up the cork even as you turn the knife in circles. Once you can grip the cork with your fingers, stop using the knife and pull the cork free with your hands.

Push the broken cork into the whisky bottle

If there is no way for you to remove the broken cork from the bottle, the next best thing is to push the cork into the bottle. This method requires you to have a spare glass bottle to house your whisky. To use this method, clean the debris of the broken cork so that small particles will not fall into the whisky. You may want to check the integrity of the cork as well because you do not want it to disintegrate when it falls into the bottle. Once you are sure the cork will stay in one piece, go ahead to push the cork into the bottle. After that, follow the next step.

Decanter your whisky

If parts of the broken cork fall into the whisky or you push the broken cork into the whisky, you have to decanter it. Grab a clean, empty glass bottle and decanter your whisky using a sieve or strainer (for bigger debris) or a coffee filter (for tiny particles). After that, the big challenge comes – removing the bigger piece of broken cork from the newly empty bottle. One of the best ways is to use a clean plastic bag. Insert a clean plastic bag into the bottle, with the open end facing the neck of the bottle. Overturn the bottle so that the broken cork falls to the neck of the bottle. Next, blow air into the plastic bag so that the cork remains at the neck of the bottle. Then, delicately pull the plastic bag and cork out of the bottle.

Using a wire

For those with a steady hand and a steely gaze, you can consider using a stainless wire fashioned into a hook to remove the larger pieces of the broken cork. Ensure that the wire is hard, and use it like a fishing hook to puncture and lift the debris gently out of the bottle. It requires a ton of patience and a whole lot more skills!

 

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How to Store Whisky for the Long-Term

 

Whisky drinkers do not usually have a hard time storing whisky as compared to wine drinkers. As our precious liquid stops ageing once bottled, whisky drinkers can keep their whiskies indefinitely. Well, as a broad-based theory, of course. Temperature and storage methods do affect whiskies, unfortunately, so we are here to look into how we can avoid doing the wrong things.

Storing sealed and full bottles

We need to look out for two things when storing sealed bottles. The first is temperature and the second, sunlight. Both of these affect whisky by causing chemical reactions in the whisky compounds and degrade the flavours over time. While this does not happen within a few years, but it will alter the taste after ten years or more.

The best way to store sealed bottles is in a cupboard when the light is minimal, and temperatures do not fluctuate like the stock market. Having a constant room temperature between 15 to 18 degrees Celcius is ideal. Nonetheless, we know that it is impossible for us in this part of the world to get that temperature, so keeping your whiskies in the dark cupboard is the next best thing. Otherwise, make sure that your open shelf is not facing the window to avoid heat and sunlight.

Storing opened bottles

An opened bottle of whisky requires a lot more attention and careful storage as compared to a sealed one. If your bottle is more than 2/3 full, it is entirely possible that the flavours will not change for the next one year or so. What you can do is to use some parafilm to create a seal on the bottle cap or cork to preserve the flavours as much as possible.

The challenge hits when your bottle is about 1/3 full. With that much air in the bottle, the whisky will begin to oxidise. Once oxidisation starts, the whisky will change and no longer taste the way it was. For some expression, oxidisation improves the flavours, but for most others, it degrades the whisky instead.

The best way to prevent oxidisation is to invite a few friends over to your house and finish the bottle on a glorious night. If you want to keep it for yourself, you may want to drink it as quickly as you can. Alternatively, pour the remaining whisky into a smaller glass bottle with a good seal. You can then parafilm the smaller bottle after that.

Using inert gas

You can use inert gas to remove the oxygen from the bottle before storing it for a long time. However, there is no study to verify if the inert gas will change the whisky. By theory, the inert gas will not cause any changes since they are not reactive, but nobody has verified it (at least I did not find any scientistic study on it). Some whisky drinkers in our community use inert gas, and they have not complained about taste alteration so far!

 

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A Visit to Pernod Ricard’s Office Bar

The new Reception at Pernod Ricard Singapore

Geek Flora and Geek Choc visited Pernod Ricard Singapore recently for a drink with their Assistant Brand Community Manager, Denis English. It was our first time to the office bar, and we were excited to find out how it looks like. When we reached the office lobby, we found Denis patiently waiting for us outside the office! That was a great welcome!

The Walk to the Bar

Denis walked us into the office, and the first thing that greeted us was the magnificent reception that you see at the top of this post. We understand that Pernod Ricard renovated the office and they have just recently reopened the bar as well. At one corner of the large reception area, there is a sofa with some splendid posters. This is the waiting area.

Pernod Ricard’s Waiting Area

 

Check out the posters. They are gorgeous!

We turned into a corridor where there is a wall filled with their products. There is a selection of fine wines, cognac, whiskies, gins, vodka, tequila and rum. Here’s a picture to show you how the wall looks like.

 

The Whisky_Cognac Wall

Pernod Ricard’s Office Bar

This beautiful corridor leads to a vast, open space that house the Pernod Ricard’s office bar. This is how it looks.

Denis behind the bar counter

Pernod Ricard uses the bar for training within the company and industry. Denis shared that the company trains bartenders, bar owners, bar managers and their trade partners in the bar. Of course, employees have access to the bar and they can “drop-by” after work for a drink or two.

Besides the bar counter, there is an open area that can hold up to say about 30 people by our judgement.

Appealing Open Area in the bar

The office bar is a good place for employees to relax after a hard day’s work with some whiskies, cognac or gin. The bar is well-stocked, and there are various delicious blended and single malts that we spy from our seats at the counter. We spent a long time here to understand more about the whisky range of Pernod Ricard and of course, chatting about whiskies!

The Tasting Session

Denis filled the evening with lovely whiskies and his generosity as we sample drinks after drinks. We started with two special bottlings of the Chivas Regal – the Extra and the Mizunara. We then moved on to the Royal Salute 21 Years, Ballantine’s and the single malts.

The range of whiskies we tasted

The Chivas Range

Those of you who know me (Geek Flora) personally will know that I am not a huge fan of the Mizunara cask as I am not fond of incense in my whisky. The Chivas Regal Mizunara is of course, not something I am so keen to try. It is finished in Mizunara casks for three to six months, so I am wary of the incense notes when I nose it. Interestedly, the incense here is fragrant and well, not so intense! I get the vanilla more than the incense. You could say that it is a welcoming change, but it is still not as outstanding as the Chivas Regal Extra.

Now, the Chivas Regal Extra is made up of mostly sherry-cask whiskies. That shows up quickly in the nose and palate where sherry notes and caramel fight for the limelight. Although it is a 40% blended whisky, it holds up to the test when we leave the whisky in the glass to air. After about 45 minutes of airing in a Glencairn glass, the whisky opens up beautifully with deep sherry notes, caramel, hints of vanilla and gentle spice. It does not taste like a 40% anymore. It is fantastic! What is even better is the fact that the whisky costs only SGD$85. Perfect for a party, don’t you think so?

The Royal Salute 21 Years is a famous expression that many whisky drinkers enjoy. It is easy to drink and looks royal sitting in those ceramic decanters. We had more than just a sip of the Royal Salute 21 years and enjoyed the oily, sweet palate as the whisky slid gently down the throat.

The Ballantine’s 17 Years Old

We want to highlight the Ballantine’s 17 Years Old here because it is not a popular brand in Singapore. It is well-loved in Taiwan, and our Taiwanese friends love the brand. We requested to have a taste of it, and Denis generously opened a new bottle just for us to try.

Ballantine’s is spicier than the Chivas, which makes us think that the blend is likely to contain more whiskies aged in ex-bourbon casks. There is also a possibility of having some rye in it. The flavours are also more prominent. Slightly grassy, with green fruits such as apples, pears and even some grapes in it. Even the finish is longer than the Chivas, with dry sweetness leading all the way till the end.

The Single Malts

Pernod Ricard carries many single malts that go into their blends. Some of the single malts include The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Strathisla, Allt-a-Bhainne and Braeval. Glen Keith, Longmorn, Glenburgie and Glentauchers are also part of their portfolio. With so many single malts under their belt, Pernod Ricard’s position as the second largest company of wine and spirit in the world is not at all surprising.

We tried the Aberlour 12 and the Stathisla 12. Interestedly, we had tried whiskies from both distilleries before, but never an official bottling. It was a perfect chance for us to try them out indeed!

The Aberlour 12 is delicious with plenty of sherry and caramel notes. What is unique about this expression is the grape notes that I picked up on the palate, almost like red wine. We found out later that this expression is not the usual 12 years old, but one of the limited editions. Talk about it being a special one!

The Strathisla 12 has more bourbon influence, and the oak is stronger too. Perhaps the distillate is lighter and takes in more influence from the cask. Nonetheless, it was a lovely dram that speaks of creamy vanilla, mild oak and a little spice.

A Tour around the Office

After some drams, Denis invited us for a tour around the office. They have themed meeting rooms which impressed us very much with the beautiful decorations and practical use of the various items within the rooms. They have a Perrier Jouet room, a Chivas Room, a Monkey 47 Room, a Jameson Room and a secret Martell Room! Outside the rooms, there is also an open area where employees can discuss matters over a cup of coffee or a game played in a sandpit!

Open Area and Sandpit

 

Perrier Jouet Room

 

Monkey 47 Gin Room

 

Jameson Room

 

Display at the Martell Secret Room

It was a pity that I failed to take a full picture of the secret Martell room, but well, it was a thrill to find it! Haha!

The Last Drop before Leaving

As we headed back to the bar to pick up our things, Denis found an open bottle of the Chivas Royal Salute – The Polo Collection. As it is a special edition, Denis invited us to sit down again for a taste of it. It is different from the usual Royal Salute. The Polo Collection has a spicy tinge to it and opens up a delicate, floral flavour. The nose is perfumey and gentle, almost like a soft touch from a rose petal.

Royal Salute Polo Collection

It was time to say goodbye after the last drop as the night was deepening. We bid good night to Denis and thank him for the wonderful evening. We look forward to seeing Denis again and hope to work with him in future!

As for you, our dear readers, we hope to bring you some superb deals from Pernod Ricard too!

 

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Big Boss is Hosting a CNY Party! What should You Bring?

The Lunar New Year is all about feasting and visiting relatives and friends while feasting…Hmm…that explains the growing waistline, doesn’t it? Well, that’s not all! The Lunar New Year is also a time when all young people play dodgeballs. What? Yes, dodging questions about marital status and baby-making plans!

You may think that this is all that is about the Lunar New Year, but wait, how about that awesome party that your big boss is holding? Some of these parties are not just a party, my friends; it could be a party that every department, or perhaps every colleague tries to outdo one another based on what they bring to the party!

So, if you are heading to one of these parties, what should you bring?

Oranges and Red Packets

Oranges and red packets (ang baos) are two of the most vital things to bring when heading to such a party. This is essential if your boss is old-school and believes in a traditional set-up for the party. Even if you are heading for a pool-side party, the oranges and red packets will still do a lot of good! Well, unless you are single, then be prepared to receive red packets!

Whisky

If you want to impress your boss, whisky is one of the best choices you have. It might be cool to bring a bottle of wine to the party, but nothing impresses more than a bottle of whisky. The question is, what whisky should you bring? Let us share some suggestions with you!

Macallan Edition No. 3

The Macallan Edition No. 3 is a sweet and floral whisky that is easy to drink. It is also an affordable bottle that doesn’t break your pocket. Besides, Macallan is a famous brand, so even the uninitiated, non-whisky drinkers will recognise the brand. This bottle is going to help boost your reputation, especially if your boss loves whisky!

Taketsuru 21 Years

Next in line is a Japanese whisky that is so popular that prices are shooting higher and higher. The Taketsuru 21 Years Pure Malt is a blended whisky with some of the best Japanese single malts in it. It appears that both Yoichi and Miyagikyo are both parts of the blend! While this bottle may be a little more expensive, you can share the cost with a small team if you want to impress the big boss that your team knows what to bring for a CNY party!

Glenfiddich IPA

You have probably tried the Glenfiddich IPA and love the way the gentle and malty whisky sways its way down your throat in the sexiest of ways. We think that this bottle is perfect if the gathering does not require you to bring a big gift along. It is also ideal if you want to bring a bottle on your own and do not want to spend too much money. Glenfiddich is a big brand name with the best-selling whisky in the world. Bringing a bottle from a famous distillery can earn some brownie points too!

Glenlivet 12 Years Old

If you think that an aged Scotch is necessary, bring along the Glenlivet 12 Years. It is an easy-to-drink whisky that is floral and pleasing to the nose and palate. If you are willing to splurge a little more (good bonus, perhaps), go one level higher and aim for a Glenlivet 15 Years old. Both bottles will win hearts and souls with their excellent spirits. Of course, they will bring you higher regards from both the bosses and your colleagues!

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

If all else fails, there is Yamazaki to the recuse. The Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is one of the most popular Japanese whiskies that is still relatively affordable. Unlike the Yamazaki 12 Years old, the Distiller’s Reserve edition is easier to find and does not cost as much as a 12 Years old. Bringing a Yamazaki bottle to the party is likely to make you a favourite among all the party-goers, especially if they love the delicate and floral taste of Japanese whiskies.

Have a Lovely Party!

The weekend that is coming up is going to be busy with all the parties! We hope that this little post will help you choose a bottle of whisky to bring and hope that it will bring you good fortune and the best of luck in the new year!

Slainte!

 

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Serving Whisky in Alternative Ways

 

Seasoned whisky drinkers often complained about waste – the waste of a whisky when it is not drunk neat. The assumption that whisky must be drunk as intended by the whisky distiller often intimate beginners and causes some to avoid the liquid altogether. Do we need to drink whisky neat every time? Well, not if you are looking to drink whisky for different reasons! There is no right or wrong way to drink whisky. In fact, whisky is a versatile drink.

We look to bartenders and observe how they serve whisky to understand how other people are drinking whisky. We realised that bars serve whiskies in more ways than one!

What are some of the other ways to serve whisky? Let’s find out!

Mixed with Soda aka a Highball

The world credited the Japanese with the invention of the Highball, but the Scots also have drunk whiskies this way since the 16th century. A rich and heavy whisky can benefit from the adding of soda water to make it a Highball, or what we call a “long drink”. It creates a refreshing beverage and also dilutes the alcohol level of the whisky. It is especially enjoyable on a hot day where all you want to do is to chill at a local bar!

With Iceball or Ice Cubes

Whisky is refreshing when it is drunk with an iceball or ice cubes. The ice dilutes the whisky slowly while retaining most of the flavours. It is also an excellent way to test whether a whisky can stand up to the onslaughter of ice and water. A complex and well-balanced whisky will put up a good fight against the ice and water, creating a multi-facade drinking experience for the drinker. A whisky bar will serve whisky with a solid piece of ice as it melts slower and does not dilute the whisky as quickly as ice cubes.

Chilled

Some bars chill whisky the same way that they chill wine. Interestingly, some whiskies perform better when chilled. We tried chilling whiskies with overwhelming flavours, and the lower temperature does subdue the flavours just a little to make the whisky more manageable. It is also a fantastic way to enjoy whisky without getting it diluted with ice or water.

With a Splash of Water

Some whiskies open up only after a splash of water. Usually, the water is served on the side with a dropper so that the drinker can add the water when he or she wants to. In our opinion, the best way to open up a whisky is to add a drop of water to it, swirl it around and try it again. It often works wonder without diluting the whisky much.

Have it with a mixer

This happens mostly in a pub or a club where people look to drink more than they should. Most of us probably started drinking whisky this way. Add it to a mixer and enjoy it without tasting the alcohol burn. However, as we mature and walk deeper into the whisky forest, we do forsake this habit for more advanced ways of drinking. That does not mean that others who drink their whiskies with a mixer are wrong. We all have to start somewhere, isn’t it?

As a Cocktail

Of course, we are familiar with whisky cocktails. These are perfect companions for dinner or a light drink before a party. Famous whisky cocktails such as Old-Fashioned are popular in Singapore and have always been a favourite among many drinkers. Bartenders who shake up brilliant whisky cocktails are valued (even treasured) by whisky lovers because there are still some days where you want to drink something lighter than a whisky!

Neat

Finally, the most basic serving method is to have your whiskies neat. While this is the premium choice of most seasoned whisky drinkers, remember that it is not necessary the best way. If you are not comfortable to drink it neat, why not have it with ice, water, soda or even any other mixers? There is no fixed way to drink whisky! Your bartender is more than happy to serve you whisky in whichever way that you desired!

 

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What you need to know about The Swan Song

 

We are sure that some of you have heard of The Swan Song (SS) and possibly, already visited the bar more than once. SS is a new whisky bar located at Prinsep Street, just a short walk from Dhoby Ghaut MRT. The owners of the bar are Arun and Kelvin, also known as AK for short. They are veterans in the whisky scene and are not strangers to many of us.

AK invited us to SS recently, and we appeared that very night! Haha! It was a coincidence that the invitation came on the same day that we planned for a visit with our friends! We enjoyed ourselves so much that we went down to the bar again the following week.

Have you visited SS yet? What do you know about the Swan Song?

The bar at The Swan Song

 

The bar is born out of a dream

AK met a long time ago over whisky, and as time passes, they become close friends who love to drink and talk whisky. As passionate, like-minded whisky lovers, it is no wonder that talks turn into the shared dream of opening a whisky bar. Things moved faster than they thought, and so The Swan Song is born.

The idea is to share and learn together

SS houses a great variety of whiskies, from the modern to the vintages. The concept from AK is not to hoard, but to share. They believe in sharing good drams with other whisky enthusiasts to enrich one another. Vintages and rare whiskies are expensive and almost unattainable by most, so by opening rare bottles and sharing them with patrons by the dram, SS make these whiskies attainable and available for those who want to try.

Education and Accessibility is in the heart of SS

SS has a noble vision and a worthy mission. Their vision is to educate and spread the word for vintage and rare whiskies while their mission is to make such whiskies available. Both vision and mission are commendable indeed! With a heart to share as many whiskies with other whisky drinkers as possible, SS is a bar which charges fairly and reasonably. AK do not believe in overcharging their patrons for a whisky just because it is rare. They want to charge a price that makes it attainable by the dram and yet be sustainable as a business.

Price is always a consideration

Price is essential to any business, especially one which strive to be sustainable. In SS, you will not find overpriced whiskies, but reasonably priced drams. The essence of what The Swan Song stands for is value. They want their patrons to feel that there is value in what they are drinking and what they are paying for. With their heart in education and accessibility, they think that it is pointless if they priced the whiskies beyond the value of what people would pay for. Therefore, they strive to keep the expenses low. Rental is reasonable, and the decoration is simple and practical. What is important is the heart to serve, and the passion for sharing their knowledge with the customers that come through the doors of SS.

Vintage and rare whiskies are their differentiating factors

When we spoke of differentiation between SS and the other bars in Singapore, it is evident that SS is not interested to replace the other bars but to co-exist in harmony instead. Many of the bar owners and bar managers in Singapore are their friends, so replacement is never on their mind.

What SS offers instead is their vintage and rare whiskies which are hard to come by, even by the other bars. There is also the vast knowledge that AK has, as well as their generosity that is known by the regulars. Besides the vintage whiskies, SS also strives to bring in special bottlings that are hard to find in Singapore. For example, the Bruichladdich Oirthir Gaidheal Islay Festival 2009 bottling is a limited release for the Islay festival only. It is so limited that most Bruichladdich fans outside of Islay will never taste it…until SS bring it in! Singapore is a lucky island!

Check out some of the bottles that we tried at The Swan Song!

(Old Malt Cask) Port Ellen 1983 (22 Years Old) Bottled for the Whisky Festival Noord Nederland

 

(Signatory Vintage) Linlithgow/St Magdalene 1982 (25 Years Old) Bottled for LMDW

 

(Whisky-Import-Nederland) Caol Ila 1982 (25 Years Old)

 

Bruichladdich Oirthir Gaidheal Bottled for Islay Festival 2009

 

(BlackAdder) Bowmore 1973 (27 Years Old)

 

Old Style Jura 1970s (8 Years Old)

As you can see, there are many old and rare bottles which we get to try. It is exciting to try whiskies from the 1970s and 1980s, especially when some of these bottles are distilled during our birth years!

Plans for the Future

We spoke of masterclasses and whether AK will eventually hold tasting sessions or masterclasses at the bar. The answer is a resounding “Yes”, but more needs to be discussed before they finalised anything. What we can tell you is this: you can expect an exciting, value for money masterclass that is also sharing rare whiskies! The price tag might not be the cheapest in town, but you know that you are getting a good deal out of it.

Our impression of The Swan Song

The Swan Song impressed us with their open conversations and their willingness to impart knowledge to their patrons. Their generosity as a host is also undeniable. The cosy bar reminds us of a home, and the hosts invited us to share what they have with an open heart. We feel the honesty and integrity of the people behind the bar, and we know that they are there to share and learn alongside us. They deliver what they want to offer – a free education about whisky and the accessibility of vintage and rare whiskies. The team works together, lending strength to one another and making sacrifices on the home front. We are so proud of AK because they make Singapore just a little brighter with their bar!

 

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Have you Heard of the Cradle Glass

Have you heard of the cradle glass? If you bought the VIP tickets for Whisky Live Singapore 2017, you are the proud owner of one of these cradle glasses. Do you know where the cradle glass come from and the story behind the glass? WhiskyGeeks seeks out Sandie, the lady behind the cradle glass for a chat.

The Story of the Cradle Glass

 

The story started in Tasmania, Australia. Back in 1997, the owners of the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery decided to mothball the distillery due to insufficient funds. At the same time, they continued to sell existing stocks. By 2015, the whisky barrels were dwindling. Joe and Sandie love the whisky so much that they brought the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery to prevent it from shutting down! In their capable hands, the distillery began production again.

As a small craft distillery entirely owned by Joe and Sandie, they have the opportunities to explore and experiment with different wood types. They developed their special “Sol’Lahra” Barrels (which are barrels with different stave combinations) and used these barrels on top of the standard American Oak Barrels. They also explore different charred levels and even different formula for their new make! With all these variants, they have about 45 types of new make resting in their specialised barrels.

As distillers, one of the joys on the job is to nose the new make. Cradle Mountain Whisky started with a new make of 65% abv and the alcohol fumes can be quite a challenge when the other aromas are still in their infancy stages. Using a standard Glencairn glass, it is difficult for Joe and Sandie to make out the developing aromas underneath the alcohol fumes. The high number of variants in the distillery makes the job even more difficult. Joe and Sandie know that they had to do something to make the job easier – they need a new glass.

And so the Cradle Glass is born

The owners of Cradle Mountain Whisky needed a glass that can eliminate the alcohol fumes in order to get access to the evolving aromas and subtle changes in their 45 new variants. The need to chart the development and tweak the environment (when necessary) of the maturing casks are vital for making good whiskies. With their needs clearly mapped out, the couple set to work. Creating the cradle glass was more challenging than they thought. Taking inspiration from Cradle Mountain and the nearby Dove Lake, they take movement, surface area and air pressure into consideration while creating a glass that is shaped like a natural cradle.

It took them seven attempts before they feel that what they have is a perfectly shaped glass that can radiate, move, aerate, accelerate, expel and emote.

How does the Cradle Glass work?

The Cradle Glass is easy to use – just pour your whisky of choice and cradle the glass in your palms. The radiant heat from your hands agitates the phenols in the whisky to release the aromas. The shape of the glass allows the whisky to move easily and aerates it to “open up”. As the air pressure increases within the glass, the aromas and alcohol fumes rise upwards to the narrowing neck. The smaller opening drops the air pressure as the vapours rise. When the vapours reach the widened lip of the glass, the alcohol fumes, being lighter than the organic compounds of the whisky, moves over the lips of the glass. That leaves the aromas of the whisky in the middle, right where you will nose it. The glass allows you to experience the fruity, floral aromas without getting the nasal burn from the alcohol fumes.

The glass has another function. With its rounded and weighted bottom,  the glass extended the movement of the whisky within to release the aroma in between each sip, helping you to catch all the aromas as intended by the whisky maker. Of course, it also serves a practical function – the glass does not fall over or spill the precious liquid inside.

Here’s a summary for you:

 

The Business of the Nose

Studies suggested that we used up to 80% of our sense of smell to work out the taste. The process is somewhat scientific – molecules of a substance stimulate nerve cells in our nose, mouth and throat and transfer the information to our brain, allowing us to judge whether the substance is pleasing or not. While it is natural for everyone to have a different preference when drinking whisky, Joe and Sandie want to share the cradle glass with the rest of the world as they believe removing the alcohol fumes help them to enjoy the whisky more.

Aromas can be overshadowed by alcohol fumes and make it more difficult for the whisky drinker to discern the subtle flavours beneath the burning sensation. The cradle glass removes the alcohol fumes to help the whisky drinker discover the flavours and aromas to better appreciate a good whisky.

Why do We think the Cradle Glass Works?

WhiskyGeeks tested the two cradle glasses that we received at Whisky Live Singapore 2017 for about two months before reaching out to Sandie. We need to know if the cradle glass works as it intended. We tried it with many different whiskies, even comparing the same whisky using a Glencairn glass and the cradle glass. What we found was a fuller flavour, a better nose and more aromas when using the cradle glass.

One of the most significant examples was Zerlina’s experiment with The Macallan Gold. We had a sample from Master of Malt and decided to use it as a test because there are simply too many people who think badly about it.

 

We split the liquid between a Glencairn glass and the cradle glass, and nose them. The aromas arising out of the Glencairn glass are more subtle and less prominent as compared with the cradle glass. The spiced ginger was more in tune with the citrus lemon zest in the cradle glass than the Glencairn glass. We were impressed indeed!

The cradle glass delivers as promised and we know that we need to share this after conducting various other experiments with similar results.

Conclusion

First, a disclaimer – We are not here to sell the cradle glass and Sandie is not sending us with a crate of Cradle Mountain Whisky to get us to write the article. We are here to introduce the cradle glass mainly because we believe that it works! While we still use our Glencairn glasses for drinking whisky, we find ourselves favouring the cradle glass when we want to write tasting notes. It helps us to discern the subtle flavours and make the work easier for us in general.

For those of you who own a cradle glass of your own, why not try it if you have not? For those who have tried, how about sharing your experience with us? Did you get a positive experience too?

A small note about the owners of Cradle Mountain Whisky and the Cradle Glass

Joe and Sandie are owners of the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery in Tasmania, Australia. They developed the cradle glass out of necessity for their whisky making process and is today, sharing the glass with the rest of the world. You can find out more at www.cradleglass.com.

 

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Have you heard of the Barber Shop?

Picture Credits: WhiskyGeeks

Have you heard of the Barber Shop? For those working in the downtown area, we are sure that you heard and knew about the Barber Shop. We are apologetic to say that we did not know about the Barber Shop until whiskyman, Fab Arm, invited us for a tour!

What is Barber Shop?

Barber Shop opened in the latter part of 2012 with the aim of serving only quality food and drinks. It attracted the working crowd with its fantastic service, good food and better drinks. Now that you know it is not a real barbershop for you to get a haircut, let’s explore its story in more details.

Barber Shop is part of the Timbre Group, a home-grown company that has been serving its multitudes of customers for the past 12 years. As an outlet that aims to please, Barber Shop serves up a menu of quality whiskies, rums, vodka, gin and cocktails. Behind the bar is a team of dedicated bartenders who know their products straight from the heart.

What can you expect?

Barber Shop is a low-key bar with extraordinary offerings. As a bar which supports local musicians, you can find live music from local bands every day of the week. These groups are handpicked by the owners and offer great music to go along with the food and drinks. Besides that, there are also good conversations to be had, so feel free to ask the knowledgeable team about anything from the menu!

Special Wednesdays

On every Wednesday, the Lindy Hop Dancers from Timbre Music Academy above Barber Shop will grace the dance floor together with Raw Earth as they performed together. From what we know, the joint-performance has been the highlight every week!

Raw Earth is a blues, rock and soul band from Singapore and they will charm you with music that is both old-school and full of flavour. The band strives to retain the soul and groove into their music to add the soulful of music into their performance! You can find more information about them here.

Moving Forward

Timbre and Fab have plans for Barber Shop in 2018, and it is progressing well. While we will not reveal what these projects are for the moment, we urge you to keep an eye out for them. They are exciting for all drinkers and music lovers. So, stay tuned for more!

Location: The Art House
Address: 1 Old Parliament Lane #01-03 (next to Timbre @ The Arts House), Singapore 179429

 

 

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