Whisky Appreciation

6 whiskies suitable for the Chinese New Year Cheer

 

The Chinese celebrate the Chinese New Year (CNY) or Lunar New Year in February this year. As it is with all major festivals, there are some whiskies which are launched or released in limited edition bottles just for the celebration. In 2018, there are various whiskies launched for the CNY, such as The Macallan Double Cask with a CNY theme gift pack.

Our purpose is not to showcase every whisky bottle out there, but to highlight some of these bottles which we think are well-worth the dough that you need to spend to get these bottles. Some of them are even hard to come by, but we can always try!

In our opinions, these are the five whiskies/bottles which we think are perfect for the CNY celebration!

Johnnie Walker Blue Label – Year of the Dog

Johnnie Walker has been in the news recently, for their somewhat controversial decision to take a trademark for Jane Walker. We have discussed that previously, so we will not dwell on it anymore. What is more interesting is their annual zodiac bottle design for the Blue Label. This year, it is the year of the dog, and the bottle reflects it well.

As you can see from the picture, Diageo artistically covered the bottle on three sides with amazing images that symbolised both CNY and the Year of the Dog. There is even the striding man rolling a cask of whisky with a dog by his side. The pictures are exquisite and meaningful all at the same time. It is already in major retail stores and online stores, so if you are in the mood for a Blue Label, this is a bottle that you should buy!

Suntory Royal and Suntory Old

These are two different mid-tier whisky blends from Suntory, but we decided to put them together because their bottles are too beautiful to separate. Suntory releases special bottlings every year to commemorate the CNY since 1982, so it is no surprise that they came up with something exotic in 2018.

The new bottles pay tributes to the dog and showcase the loyal, yet playful nature of man’s best pal. Suntory housed The Royal in a ceramic container shaped like a dog, playing with a beautifully-designed ball. For the Suntory Old, the standard bottle shape applies, but the label showcases the same playful dog with the ball.

It is hard to buy either bottle due to their limit release in Japan only, but you can try Amazon or eBay if you love these bottles. If you have a friend in Japan, you can seek his or her help to search for the bottles too!

The Whisky Agency – Glenrothes 1997

These couple of bottles are part of a twin set that launched in Taiwan recently. While it is not part of a CNY packaging, it took inspiration from a favourite Chinese video game. Known in Mandarin as 仙劍奇俠傳 (The Legend of Sword and Fairy), it is a perfect gift for the CNY.

Picture Credits: WhiskyGeeks

The duo came with two different pictures of the Chinese video game main characters. The story links Chinese martial arts (wuxia), mythical creatures (shenmo), fantasy and love. It has an exciting plot and a somewhat controversial ending, but it is a beautiful game for those who are into role-playing games. For those of us who are only into whisky, the graphics on the bottles are appealing. They came in a beautifully-designed box, and the set includes the two bottles, two Glencairn glasses and two ceramic coasters!

Picture Credits: WhiskyGeeks

We ordered this set from Taiwan, and it is not easy to buy it here in Singapore or elsewhere in the world. Due to its nature as an independent bottling, these bottles are all limited edition.  If you are interested in obtaining a set, get in touch with us, and we will link you up accordingly!

Macallan Rare Cask Red

Finally, let us end the post with a familiar bottle.  The Macallan Rare Cask Red launched a few years ago to much fanfare. As the entry level to the prestigious 1824 Master Series, it is one of the most popular bottles for Macallan fans. For those who are new to the whisky scene, the 1824 Master Series showcased some of the rarest and most expensive modern Macallan bottles. You can find more information here.

The price reduces somewhat recently, so it is a good time for those who have finished their previous bottle to buy another one for the upcoming CNY!

Conclusion

More bottles celebrate the CNY, but these are five bottles which we feel are some of the most festive ones! Regarding affordability, we would suggest either the Johnnie Walker Blue Label or the Macallan Rare Cask, as both are not as difficult to obtain when compared to the others. You have to buy the Suntory bottles in Japan, so unless you have a friend in Japan, it is going to expensive if you buy them on Amazon or eBay! Similarly, for the TWA Glenrothes, you need to order the set from Taiwan, so shipping costs make the bottles more expensive then they should be.

 

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Is there such a thing as drinking too much whisky?

 

Is there such a thing as drinking too much whisky? It was a question that I asked myself when I felt a distaste for whisky towards the end of last year. It was a “horrors of the horrors” when I found myself craving for a glass of Bailey’s instead of a glass of whisky as my New Years’ dram.

“What have I done?” I asked myself. Nonetheless, the thought of drinking yet another glass of whisky put me off, and so I poured myself the Baileys.

My suspicions for the whisky fatigue

I am going to call what I experience as “whisky fatigue” as it does seem like the most appropriate name for it. I had a lot of whiskies to drink during a short period of 1.5 months. From Whisky Live Singapore 2017 to Whisky Fair TAKAO 2017, it was two weekends of indulgence. In between the two events, we also visited Nantou Distillery and drank Omar for breakfast! Following that, I attended various tasting events and finally ended all activities on 30 December 2017.

With all the whiskies in the blood, I suspected that the body had more than it could take, and automatically reject the idea of more. However, I think there could be more reasons, and so I asked around.

Results of my “asking around”

I chatted with a few friends in our community and received many different feedbacks. Many claimed that a dram or two each night before bed calms the nerves and help them sleep better, while others claimed that they have drunk whisky all their lives and never get tired of it. Some even suggested that I am perhaps, falling sick!?

Finally, I found someone who agreed with me. He is a good friend of mine, and he agreed that he, too, has issues with drinking too much whisky within a short time. However, he feels that it could be related to stress. His point of view is valid – too much pressure during the whisky tasting sessions resulted in a psychological rejection of enjoyment and reduced the joy of drinking whisky. When the brain associated unpleasant stress for a prolonged period, the brain linked whisky with stress. Therefore, whisky fatigue set in.

Internet research into whisky fatigue

After our chat, I decided to google whisky fatigue. What I found was disappointing. Most discourses speak of rising whisky prices as whisky fatigue, leading to a switch to other liqueurs. While I do not disagree that prices do have a part to play, it is likely not the only reason.

Conclusion

There is no satisfying answer to my question. The top three reasons are toxic in the body, psychological stress, and whisky prices. Are there more to this whisky fatigue which I experience? I would like to throw the question to our community here and overseas and humbly ask for your opinions. Please share your experiences with us and explore this phenomenal together!

 

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Is Jane Walker going to bring gender equality?

 

The whisky world is filled with amusement and criticism when news of Diageo submitted a trademark application for “Jane Walker” hit the Internet. The drinks giant applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month and stated that Jane Walker is for “alcoholic beverages except for beer”. There was also news that labels submitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) show a drawing of a woman similarly dressed as the famous striding man logo and a bottle label named “The Jane Walker Edition”.

The Internet has been blazing with both praise and criticism for the gender-specific trademark application. Some have come forward to applaud the move as a reminder for gender equality. Others have feedback that it is a backwards move to spread gender inequality and biases further.

Is Jane Walker going to bring about gender equality?

Gender equality is a long-suffering debate that gets nowhere, so far as we can see it. Men claim one side of the story while the women argue the other side. There is no end to this argument. We would rather see a general inclusion of human beings, accepting every one of us as an individual.

Jane Walker, if done right, can indeed bring about a general inclusion of human beings. It is, however, a very tricky move that needs extreme planning. Is Jane Walker going to be a different blend? Will it be weaker or stronger than Johnnie Walker? Is the liquid going to be the same? Will Jane Walker become a core range or a limited release? Is the expression planned for release globally or only in the United States of America? The questions are endless.

Nonetheless, the answer to each question will determine if Jane Walker will succeed. What if Jane Walker is a new blend that is more floral, fruitier or sweeter? How would the world respond to that? Or maybe Jane Walker could be a heavily peated whisky that is floral and sweet at the same time? What will the world think?

Countless combination for Jane Walker’s success

We believe that numerous combinations can build Jane Walker’s success on the world’s stage. The global community is waiting impatiently for Diageo to reveal their plans and share the new trademark with us. The revelation is likely to make or break the new Jane Walker Edition. Diageo is known for its work in promoting gender equality in the workplace, as well as running campaigns and projects to empower women around the world.

The news of Jane Walker comes in a period where sexual harassment is trending in the news, mainly founded in the allegations made against Hollywood movie producer, Harvey Weinstein. Will Jane Walker help women around the world, or will she be seen as another sexist plot against women? We hope for the former!

Reactions from around the world

While we wait for news from Diageo, here’s a top response from Jump Radio. Listen to Jesse and Jenna as they present to you: The New Jane Walker Whisky Ad.

 

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5 Things that Reflect why Whisky is Life-changing

 

A brand new year deserves some reflections on the past year and what we learnt from the full 12 months that we survived. Geek Choc and Geek Flora recently sat down for a session of reflections for 2017/2018. Our conversation veered off towards whisky and life. We discovered that there are so many similarities!

It was a somewhat interesting discussion, and hence, we decided to post our thoughts on it. This post is dedicated to all whisky drinkers out there in the world.

Whisky and Life

Our musing took us back to our younger days when we first started learning to drink whisky. Our small group used to have this saying, “Life is like a glass of whisky, you appreciate it, and then you drink it.” As we reflected on 2017, we concluded that there was some truth in it. In life, we must learn to appreciate what we have, and then, we drink up all the good and the bad that life throws at us. There is no use in complaining about how tough life is. Someone else out there is probably having a harder time.

It was at this point that it hit both of us hard that whisky is life-changing. If we apply what we learn about whisky in our daily lives, we are likely to be happier human beings! We came up with five things about whisky-drinking that we can apply in our daily lives.

Look at the colour

When we drink whisky in a Glencairn glass, we tend to check out the colour of the whisky we are having. Swirl it around the glass to see the tears and hold the glass up to the light for a colour check. We take time to appreciate the beauty of whisky.

In life, we rush from one activity to the next; hardly stopping in our steps to watch the sky and clouds. We forget the flowers, the beautiful sights we can see in architecture and even the people close to us.  If we can “look at the colours” of our lives in the same way we look at the colour of our whiskies, we could, perhaps, appreciate our lives better. Show more care for the people we love and show our appreciation for the beauty around us. Be thankful that we have a roof over our heads and a beautiful country to live in.

Nose the whisky

The next step in appreciating whisky is to nose it. We nose the whisky in the glass because we want to capture the aromas and guess how the palate will be. We love the nose because it invokes so much imagination of how the whisky will taste. It gives us a sense of longing to put the liquid in our mouths.

If we can slow down the activities in our lives, and stop to smell the flowers the same way we nose the whisky, we benefit from the slower pace. By asking you to smell the flowers, we are not saying that you should go to a park and physically smell all the flowers there! What we are suggesting, is to slow down and be mindful of the people around you. Every person whom you come along is a blooming flower; how we treat that person will result in either a bigger bloom or a wilted flower. It reminds us that we have to be polite and appreciative of the people around us.

Take a small sip before taking a bigger sip

We tend to drink in a two-steps method to get the full palate of the whisky when we drink. A small sip to coat the mouth and adjust the palate, before we take a bigger sip and hold the liquid in our mouth for a while to get the flavours. It is a helpful way for us to get the full picture of what the whisky is offering, and we think that it applies to life too.

We resolved to take things slower and do things in a two-step method as well. When we work, we want to handle the small things first before taking on the bigger challenge so that we will not be overwhelmed. By managing our workload, we make sure that we are not overly stressed and that helps to reduce mistakes and produce quality work. In the same way at home, getting the simple chores out of the way first can pave your energy to tackle the bigger tasks that need to be done.

Holding the Liquid in the Mouth for a full flavour

As mentioned above, we like to keep the liquid in the mouth for a short while for a full character. It helps us to detect the subtleness of the whisky and also explore the different aromas that we can get. At the same time, it coats the palate beautifully for us to appreciate the finish of the whisky after swallowing.

We thought that this is a useful method to use for communication in our daily lives. If we could hold the unkind words for a moment and think about the impact those words will have, we may not say it at all. In this hectic lifestyle that we lead, it is common for us to hurt another person’s feelings by merely uttering some unkind or thoughtless words. We damage the relationship and sometimes, even damage our reputation. It was indeed an excellent way for us to be kinder in 2018.

Taking Note of the Finish

The last step in our whisky appreciation is always about the finish. We check to see if the finish resonates with the nose and the palate and whether it is pleasant, dry, oily or otherwise. It is also the conclusion of the whisky tasting notes, and it helps us to consolidate the nose, palate and finish into what we call the balance or body of the whisky.

We liken the finish of whisky to our memories and past experiences. Just as a finish define the whisky, our memories and past experiences represent us, both the good and the bad. The good ones keep us going while the bad ones make us tougher. How we deal with bad memories and experiences also help us to learn and grow.

Taking small steps forward in appreciation

It was a thought-provoking session for us, and we hope that it has made you think harder as well. We can all take small steps forward in learning appreciation – for whisky, for life or both. There is no time to lose, and we are determined not to let 2018 slip away without us making the necessary changes in our lifestyles to include a “whisky-drinking session” in our everyday lives!

If you think that this is useful for you, please share the post and spread the word. Sharing is Caring, isn’t it? 😀

 

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Five Whisky Bars in Singapore that WhiskyGeeks recommends

 

Some of our readers asked if we have a favourite whisky bar to go to in Singapore, while others asked for recommendations of the whisky bars that we frequented. We thought that instead of answering them one by one, we would do a little post to answer all these questions. 😀

As many of you already know, the whisky bar scene in Singapore is getting more and more crowded for a small country. As the number of whisky drinkers increases, the whisky bars popping up in Singapore are growing too. However, some of these bars may not always make the mark for a whisky lover.

WhiskyGeeks do not profused to visit all the whisky bars in Singapore, but this is something that we will try to do now and then this year. It is a perfect time to have an article on whisky bars in Singapore since our readers are asking and it is also the next article after our first bar feature.

Without further ado, let us start the journey then! Please note that we list the bars in alphabetical order.

 

Quaich Bar

Picture Credits: Quaich Bar South Beach

Quaich Bar is the oldest whisky bar in Singapore, having celebrated its 10th years anniversary in 2017. They have a fantastic history and one which you can easily find out more in our interview with the owner, Khoon Hui.

Quaich Bar has two locations. Their flagship store is over at the Waterfront Plaza, besides the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. The second bar is at the newly openly South Beach Avenue. Both bars offer whisky lovers a considerable choice of whiskies from Scotland as well as new world whiskies from South Africa and India.

Address: 

Quaich Bar Waterfront Plaza: 390A Havelock Road, Waterfront Plaza, #01-09/10, Singapore 169663

Quaich Bar South Beach Avenue: 30 Beach Road, #01-16, Singapore 189763

The Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance (AA) impress us with its pure opulence of the place. Decorated like a grand British library of a wealthy man, the AA is the perfect place to wind down. In this bar, you find exquisite whiskies from official bottlings to independent bottlings. As the AA also bottles whiskies under its name, you will find a range of whisky that is bottled for the AA.

One of the most memorable dram that Geek Flora had in the AA was their bottling of a LittleMill. If you happened to be in the vicinity, you should visit the AA for a dram or two.

Address:

9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel Gallery, #02-02A Singapore 189559

The Single Cask

 

The Single Cask, or TSC for short, is a cosy, little bar hidden in the corner of Chijmes. Brendan, the bar manager, runs the show with his trusty cocktail expert, Ronin. TSC offers you a home away from home with its cosy decorations and friendly bartenders. You wouldn’t go wrong if you pop by TSC for a dram or two after work because the bar offers comforting whiskies all around. What is unique about TSC is the fact that they are an independent bottler. The eye-catching square bottles that hold the golden nectar bottled by TSC are quite a sight to behold because they are going to challenge how you think whisky bottles should look like! Besides a massive range of independent bottling, TSC also offers up a killer menu of cocktails made by Ronin! If you are a cocktail lover, you need to head over too!

Besides, TSC is also an SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Association) bar so if you are keen to find out more about SMWS, chat with Brendan!

Address:

30 Victoria Street, Chijmes Caldwell House #01-25, Singapore 187996

The Wall SG

 

We featured The Wall SG in our monthly newsletter for January, and if you have yet to read the article, you can find it here. Jeremie Tan runs the show here together with his colleagues to provide not just whisky, but also food pairing. The kitchen packs a punch here, and if you are looking for a bar with REAL food, The Wall is your perfect place to go! This bar showcases an amazing range of Japanese whiskies as well as a healthy range of Taiwanese independent bottlings of Scotch. Jeremie is also a friendly guy who will ensure that you are super comfortable whenever you are in his bar! There are also exciting new events coming up for The Wall, so do check out the bar feature post for more details!

Address: 

76, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088497

The Writing Club

The Writing Club is one of the newest whisky bars in town, and we were invited to their closed-doors Christmas party last December. A posh bar with British decorations and super friendly bartenders, you can find a welcoming troop here! The bar offers a range of whiskies that is bound to please. There are the regular official bottlings, and then there are the rarer bottles from mothballed distilleries. The bar also serves up fantastic cocktails that wouldn’t let you down!

The bar owner, Soo San, also acquired some special expressions from Taiwanese independent bottlers, so if you are looking for something different, head down to The Writing Club!

Address: 

390 Orchard Road, #02-10, Singapore 238871

Some last thoughts…

While the above five bars are some of those which we go to most often, WhiskyGeeks is planning to visit new bars soon. We encourage our readers to try out new bars if you are still not sure of the whisky profile that you like. It is a better option to try whisky at a bar to decide if you want it instead of paying for a bottle only to realise that you do not fancy the taste profile.

That’s all for now, folks! Until the next time!

 

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An exclusive invite to Diageo’s Bar

Whisky Selection at Diageo’s Bar

Geek Choc and Geek Flora visited Diageo’s bar in late December 2017. One of the employees whom we got to know at Singbev’s recent sales in Suntec invited us. The bar is newly renovated and opens to the employees and their friends just one week before our visit.

The Journey to Diageo’s Bar

The procedure to get into the bar was somewhat exclusive. After our security check-in at the office lobby, our host ushered us to the bar where we registered ourselves as “Friends of Diageo”. After all the necessary check-in, we headed straight for the bar (hidden behind a curtain)!

Mr Johnnie Walker

We were greeted with a grand walkway (attached to a pantry) before we hit the bar. Once we entered the bar, Mr Johnnie Walker was there to greet us. The bar counter was also right in front, with seats all around.

Geek Choc in deep conversation with our host at the bar

It is a beautiful place that is artistically decorated to give a homely feel. We understood that Diageo opens the bar to friends of the employees on Thursdays and Fridays of every week from 6 pm to 8.30 pm and they can invite up to three friends at one go. It is a good initiative and one that we appreciate! The drinks at the bar are free-flow (except the JW Blue Label), and there is a menu for cocktails too!

Comfy tables and chairs behind the bar

We had a wonderful time with our host as we chat about nothing in particular but the conversation veered towards whisky (of course)! We understood that the bar displays some rare and old whiskies through the chat and we were determined to check them out! So, before we left for the night, we went to take a closer look.

The Rare Gems in Diageo’s Bar

Here’s what we found!

Display on the left of the bar

 

Display on the right side of the bar

 

Part of a whisky-making kit

 

Johnnie Walker 1920 Edition

There are indeed rare gems to be seen here, especially that Johnnie Walker 1920 Edition! While that is not for sale, our host reminded us that we can always go for the Johnnie Walker Ghost – the only blended whisky with liquids from mothballed distilleries!

Alas, good times always end too fast. It was 9 pm too soon, and we had to go. It was a short visit but one that inspires us to continue our whisky journey with all of our readers.

 

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Bar Feature: The Wall SG @ Tanjong Pagar

View of The Wall Bar

The bar scene in Singapore is vibrant, and many new bars are popping up almost everywhere in Singapore. While most of the bars serve all kinds of alcohol, some distinctive bars are serving mostly whisky and whisky cocktails. We have featured Quaich Bar – the first whisky bar in Singapore and The Single Cask – one of the cosiest whisky bar ever. Today, we want to present to you, one of our newer bars in Singapore – The Wall SG.

Introduction to The Wall

The Wall is an interesting name for a bar, don’t you think so? It is a quaint, bespoke bar nestled in the shophouses along Tanjong Pagar Road. Operations of the bar started on 31 December 2016, and it celebrated its first year anniversary just some weeks ago!

Jeremie Tan, the bar manager of The Wall, is not an unknown person in the industry. He started bartending at a young age back in 2002 and got into the whisky scene as early as 2005. His passion for whisky grew, and so did his collection. By the time he was headhunted by The Wall to work as their bar manager, he already has an impressive whisky collection.

The Wall and its history

The Wall may not have a long history, but it has a fantastic story to tell. An import-export company called Hao Fung International, who has a considerable presence in China, Hong Kong and Macau opened it. Hao Fung International imports and exports high-end whiskies (especially from Japan) as well as 100-pointers wine. They have retail shops in China, Hong Kong and Macau as well as a presence in most of the popular alcohol fairs in these areas.

One of the reasons for opening The Wall was because the boss ran out of storage space from his Singapore warehouse and decided that he has a large enough collection to start a bar. With that in mind, he hunted for an excellent location and came upon the shophouses along Tanjong Pagar Road. Wanting to protect his assets that he wants to leave in the bar, he bought the whole unit instead of renting because he did not want the landlords to step into the bar as an owner at all.

With the location set up, The Wall is ready to hire a capable and knowledge bar manager to handle it. That’s where Jeremie comes in. Headhunted from a local restaurant, he set up shop for The Wall and has not looked back since.

The Whiskies available at The Wall

Jeremie Tan behind the bar

Here’s Jeremie, beaming happily behind the bar as we chat about the whiskies that are available at The Wall. As you could see in the picture, there is a row of Ardbeg, and hiding behind Jeremie, is a row of Laphroiag. Besides these, there is a prominent row of SMWS bottles.

Yes, The Wall is the second SMWS bar in Singapore, after The Single Cask. 2018 is the start of their showcase for SMWS bottles. So now, you know another place where you can enjoy some SMWS bottlings. Amongst the bottles in the bar, you can also find Taiwanese independent bottler – S Spirit Shop Collection as well as German independent bottler – Sansibar. Here’s a range of S Spirit Shop Collection that WhiskyGeeks got to try.

S Spirit Shop Collection

If the unique labels attract you, you are not alone! We love them too! These whiskies are affordable and very well suited for the Asian palate. Soft, elegant and gentle are three words to describe these whiskies. We are sure most ladies and whisky beginners will love these whiskies! Do note that these whiskies are Scotch, but S Spirit Shop bottles them.

For the robust whisky lovers, there are always the Scotch and the Japanese whiskies that appeal to you. In the bar, there are various famous Japanese whiskies such as the Yamazaki 18 Years Old. (They have the most substantial number of Yama18 in Singapore! Latest amount is more than 150 bottles). There is also a variety of Chichibus and Nikkas. If you are wondering if they have the Yama 18 Mizunara, the answer is YES!

Rare Whiskies on Display

The Wall has a range of exceptional whiskies on display. These are personal collections of the boss, but customers who are interested in buying can inquire within. Nestled within the wall of the staircase to the second floor of the bar, there is a window which is known as the “Million Dollar Window.”

The Million Dollar Window

The bottles inside this window are worth millions, hence the name. Jeremie shared that there were more previously, but some bottles were sold earlier in 2017.

On the second floor, there are also various rare bottles which are personal collections of the boss. We took some photos.

Rows upon rows of rare bottles

 

Hibiki

As you can see, there are so many good-quality bottles available at The Wall. It is a beautiful place where whisky lovers can attain whisky heaven quite easily!

Plans for 2018

The Wall has many exciting plans for 2018. Besides their collaboration with SMWS, Jeremie shared that The Wall is also tying up with Sansibar and S Spirit Shop to bring more decadent whiskies to the bar. We can expect more good bottles are coming our way this year!

They are also introducing a new idea called “The Whisky Passport”. Acting like a real passport, the whisky passport is a way to document the different whiskies which customers have tried at the bar. There will be around 50 to 60 whiskies in the passport, all of them available at the bar. The price range for these whiskies is kept affordable, from $14 to around $100 a dram. Every time a customer tries a new whisky in the passport, Jeremie or one of his co-workers at the bar will stamp the passport, documenting that the customer has tried the whisky. When the passport is completed, the customer gains a spot of their hall of fame and can choose to keep the passport at the bar or to bring it home. It is a journey or a tour perhaps, and one that helps the customer to understand whisky better.

There is no time frame or expiry date to complete the passport, and all you have to do is order three drams at the bar to get started with the passport. It sounds like an exciting way to try whiskies, isn’t it? Hop down to The Wall to get your passport soon!

Location Details

We believe that it is vital that you know how to get there, so here’s the address of the bar.

The Wall SG: 76 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088497

Directions:

By car: The nearest car park is the parallel parking available right out the bar along Tanjong Pagar Road, but it is often full due to the sheer number of Korean restaurants along the same road. What you can do is drive to Duxton Hill, and park at the open-air carpark before taking a short walk back to the bar.

By Grab/Uber: Watch out for the signage of The Wall when you are near. You should be able to spot it easily.

By Bus: Take bus 80 or 145 and get off one stop after Tanjong Pagar Plaza. The Wall is almost just right at the bus stop.

By MRT: Get off at Tanjong Pagar MRT, and walk towards Tanjong Pagar Road. Cross the road to the hawker centre/wet market and walk towards the shophouses. You will find The Wall easily.

Have fun at The Wall!

 

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Chloe Wood – Bruichladdich’s Brand Ambassador

Chloe with her bottle of Laddie Valinch 28

Chloe Wood – the new brand ambassador from Bruichladdich, made waves in Singapore even before she arrived when news of her joining the Singapore team was released officially sometime last year. The community is excited to meet a young lady who has so much knowledge about the brand and who grows up in Islay. Everyone knew that Chloe has much to share with us about Bruichladdich and what they do.

Fast forward to WhiskyLive Singapore 2017 in November last year – Chloe was there to lead the Masterclass for Octomore. We were there as well and got to know Chloe very quickly. Her friendly manners got all of us high and jolly (well, the Octomores played a part too) and we had a wonderful time with her.  We also learnt so much about Octomores from Chloe!

We invited Chloe for an interview with WhiskyGeeks and finally got a chance to sit down with her sometime in mid-December at her office for a chat.

Introducing Chloe Wood

Chloe at Islay (Picture Credits)

For a start, allow us to introduce Chloe Wood. She is Islay-born, and have grown up in Islay for much of her life. Chloe is into sports, and is a qualified coach in hockey, rugby, football, badminton and swimming! She was also a certified lifeguard before working with Bruichladdich. As a child, Chloe was not introduced to the whisky scene and never had much connection with whisky. However, she knows that whisky is part of life in Islay and as she grew up, her interests grew as well. As Chloe wasn’t keen to attend university, she escaped with a diploma and headed straight for work. When the job came up at Bruichladdich “Laddie Shop”, she jumped at the chance to join the big family.

The Laddie Shop opened the world of whisky to Chloe. Her daily interaction with customers, her co-workers and the occasional chat with whisky legend, Jim McEwan, all gave her knowledge and grew her passion for whisky. Chloe did not look back since, and she is now four years with the company with much to give back.

The Wood Family

As an only child, Chloe is close with her cousins, who also works with Bruichladdich. Her family is deeply involved with Islay and Bruichladdich to be sure. Her grandfather owns Octofad Farm, which is part of the Bruichladdich family too. Her dad, Andrew Wood, who is in the construction business, built grain sheds on the farm in 2008/2009 to hold and dry the barley that the farmers are producing for Bruichladdich, and now, the operation has grown. Octofad Farm dried all the Islay barley used in the distillation at Bruichladdich. “30 tonnes of barley takes 12 hours to dry”, Chloe said.

Chloe’s mum, on the other hand, runs a B&B on Islay. There are always Bruichladdich fans staying at the B&B, so the Wood family is consistently in touch with whisky and Bruichladdich.

Working with Bruichladdich as a host in the Academy

Chloe worked for The Laddie Shop for about a year and a half before she transferred to a role in the Academy. As a host in the Academy, she led educational tours for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Her vast knowledge in the brands came largely from her role as an educator. In the Academy, the host led highly-detailed tours for three tracks – Bruichladdich, Botanist and Remy Cointreau’s brands. As the educator for the Bruichladdich track, Chloe shared that the tours included visits to the barley fields and water source, an experience to cut peat and of course the distillery tour with a chance to taste whisky from the warehouses. It ended with a tasting session of the Bruichladdich’s core range of whiskies. The whole event takes place over two days.

Unfortunately, it is only for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Visitors to the distillery can politely request to see the water source, but it is up to the distillery’s discretion to bring the visitors. If the weather is foul, it is likely not possible to hike to the water source.

Bruichladdich Cask Sales

Up until 2011, Bruichladdich sells casks to its fans and help them to store the whisky in their warehouse for a fee. There were over 4000 cask owners by the time the cask sales stopped. In 2001, each cask cost about £400 and the price increased to £1000 by 2011. The cost to store the whisky was growing, and Bruichladdich was finding it more difficult to upkeep the sales portion as there are just too many cask owners. Therefore, they stopped the programme in 2011.

Funny Stories from Chloe’s days as an International Tour Guide

Chloe worked as an international tour guide for Bruichladdich as well and hosted overseas visitors for distillery tours. One of the funniest stories that she remembered was the one time where she brought a group of huge, Swedish men around the warehouse, and she made the mistake of saying, “Well, if you can lift any of the casks in the warehouse, it is yours to bring home!” She was confident in her knowledge that the hogsheads and barrels in the warehouse were too heavy for a single man to lift. Unfortunately, one of the Swedish men found a small cask hiding in between the big guys. The small barrel is only 35 litres, and he lifted it easily! “I am bringing this home, Chloe!” Hollered the man jokingly.

Chloe was so stunned that she did not know what to do for a moment. Thankfully, the men did not get rowdy and put the cask down quite willingly after she promised to give them an extra dram during the tasting session. What an adventure!

A typical day as a Brand Ambassador

For those of us who think that brand ambassadors have a fantastic job, think again. We ask Chloe what her day usually is like and the schedule is quite a hectic one!

In the day, she has meetings with the marketing manager, training with bartenders or staff, designing her presentation and arranging the tasting sessions for her training. On top of that, she has to do supply planning for her travels as well as writing tasting notes and stories for the people she meets during her travels.

In the evening, she attends meetings with bartenders and bar managers as well as with other brand ambassadors who might be visiting. Sometimes, she needs to host or speak at events too. Besides all these, Chloe travels a lot. Spending six to seven months of the year on the road can be tiring.

Do you still want to be a Brand Ambassador?

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

We asked Chloe about the Laddie Valinch 28 which was a special bottle for her. It got her name on it! The Valinch is a series of bottling by Bruichladdich to honour all the employees of the company. It can be a Laddie, or a Port Charlotte and each bottle is a single cask from the distillery. Currently, the Valinch series is at no. 31.

The Laddie Valinch 28 is a Sauternes cask (#780) with an outturn of 444 bottles. It is a 12 years old with an abv of 48.8%. We got the honour of tasting it straight from a new bottle that day. Man, it was fantastic! The nose is full of fresh honey, pears and green apple, a little grassy and light spice in the background. The palate is sweet like a white wine with an oily mouthfeel. Lemon mixed with the pears and green apples to form a tropical feel. Pleasant spice tickled the tongue for a warm feeling. The finish is long with lemony notes and a tingle of spice. It gets a little dry towards the end, just like an excellent white wine. The influence of the Sauternes cask was evident but nothing that overwhelms the character of the spirit. What an impressive dram!

Chloe’s Favourite Whisky

We asked if the Laddie Valinch 28 is Chloe’s favourite whisky, to which she said, “Oh! No, not really. I remembered that my first taste of whisky when I started work at Bruichladdich was an Octomore 12 years old. I fell in love with it immediately! It was 9 am in the morning, and Jim told me that he wanted me to try something special. That was my favourite!”

Besides that unattainable whisky, Chloe loves the Octomore 8.3 and the Bruichladdich Islay Barley bottlings! Those are her favourite for now. Are those your favourite too?

The Future for Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich has a bright future and one which we would like to be a part of. Besides her busy schedule, Chloe wants to expand the brand in the Asia and South East Asia region. She hopes to bring both Bruichladdich and Islay to the people here so that more people can experience the progressive innovation that is so prevalent in Bruichladdich. Chloe even wants to learn Mandarin so that she can communicate easily with Bruichladdich fans from China and Taiwan!

Besides that, education is also a priority in Chloe’s list of “must-do”. She wants to show people what whisky is all about, tell stories about the different brands and to bring Islay to everyone whom she meets! It is a pleasure to talk about her home and to invite people to visit Islay and Scotland.

What to look out for in Islay?

Besides all our talk about whisky, we also took the chance to ask Chloe what we should look out for when international visitors go to Islay. Her reply? “Check out the beautiful beaches, farmland, wildlife and sanctuaries. Eat fresh seafood, drink all the whisky and don’t drive if you are visiting distilleries. Oh, and don’t book tours too close to each other. The journey from one distillery to another can take you longer than expected! Lastly, watch out for wifi problem! It is an island after all!”

Advice for youths

Before we left, we asked Chloe if she has any advice for youths. Her biggest answer was TRAVEL! Travelling was indeed what she did as a youth and she shared that there is much to learn when you travel. You get to learn about yourself and others; see the world and know what you like. These experiences helped when you start working. We have to agree with that!

We wish Chloe all the best in her exciting journey for 2018, and we hope to see her again soon!

A chat with Michael Hsieh – Founder of ARen Trading

WhiskyGeeks with Michael

Geek Flora and Geek Choc had the pleasure of meeting Mr Michael Hsieh, founder of ARen Trading Co. in Kaohsiung when we attended WhiskyFair TAKAO in early December 2017. ARen Trading Co. is the official trading partner of The Whisky Agency as well as Säntis Malt. Mr Hsieh is also one of the organisers of WhiskyFair TAKAO, alongside with Mr Li Chunfeng, founder of The Drunken Master.

Michael is a man of many talents. He is not only an independent bottler in Taiwan. He is also an avid whisky lover, an author of amazingly detailed whisky tasting notes for his own bottlings and the author/translator of the Chinese version of the book, Whisky Rising. Whisky Rising is a book written by Stefan van Eycken. It talks about Japanese whisky and is considered to be one of the most comprehensive books ever written on the subject.

WhiskyGeeks’ copies of the English and Chinese versions

 

WhiskyFair TAKAO’s Inspiration

The photographs of Michael’s visit to Limburg (the birthplace of the famous WhiskyFair Limburg) created WhiskyFair TAKAO. His pictures and stories of Limburg inspired Mr Li Chunfeng to suggest holding a whisky fair in Taiwan. Back in 2016, Michael attended WhiskyFair Limburg and came back with photos and stories of the whiskies he drank and the people he met. Chunfeng reciprocated Michael’s passion and enthusiasm and suggested holding a similar whisky fair in Kaohsiung. That was the beginning of their collaboration for WhiskyFair TAKAO that resulted in the highly successful show in December 2017.

The Chance to Drink Rare Whisky

Michael attended the yearly WhiskyFair Limburg, and he shared his experiences with us freely during our chat. When WhiskyFair Limburg first started, it had 20 stalls. In the latest one in 2017, it has doubled to 40 stalls. The good thing about Limburg is the affordability of rare whiskies that you get to try. By paying a fraction of what you need to pay for in a bar, you get to taste good and rare whiskies at the fair. WhiskyFair TAKAO used the same system, and it was an excellent way to filter out the real, serious drinkers and those who were there to look for free booze. Michael shared that he first drank Karuizawa at WhiskyFair Limburg and his first Port Ellen was similarly from Limburg too.

Paying for the drams also ensures that visitors control what they drink. Serious drinkers are likely to pay for good drams that they want to try, while the beginners will seek those which are affordable. It prevents overdrinking and discourages drunkards at their fair.

ARen Trading Co.

Mr Michael Hsieh is the President of ARen Trading Co. He set up the company in 2013 and has since, been a trading partner of The Whisky Agency and Säntis Malt from Switzerland. The company started partly because of Michael’s passion for whisky, but it is his talents for the business that got the company to where it is today.

Labels and Whisky Bottles

Taiwan IBs have beautiful labels on their bottles. When we quizzed Michael regarding labels, he said, “To us, labels are free. Most IBs do not use a back label because it cut costs, but to me, that’s not true! Because you can use the back label to advertise almost anything! Of course, you need to ensure the liquid inside is good.”

Independent Joint Bottling

ARen Trading Co. functions as an independent bottler (IB) and buys whisky casks from The Whisky Agency (TWA). The reasons that Michael wanted to work with TWA are numerous, but one of the biggest reasons is their flexibility in allowing Michael to use his independent labels on the whisky bottles. Similar to Chunfeng’s desire to have his individual labels, Michael wanted to use his labels as well.

Michael’s unique positioning stems from the fact that he is always looking out for innovative ideas to help others. Looking at other IBs, he realised that not many IBs make use of labels at the back of the bottles that they released. In a burst of creativity, Michael came up with the idea of using labels as a way of advertising.

With the idea of promoting new bars in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia in his mind, Michael approached bars in Japan to check if they are interested in doing joint bottlings. His idea was highly appreciated, and hence, the series of World Bars Tour from ARen Trading Co. was born. Here are some pictures of the bottles available at The Drunken Master Whisky Bar.

Success after Success

These initial joint-bottlings became so popular in Japan and Taiwan that other bars around the region wanted to be part of it. Other bars began to approach Michael for joint bottlings, and the World Bar Tour series expanded. The latest one was a joint bottling with six different bars across Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Such joint bottlings are win-win solutions for the bar and the consumers. On one end, the bars get the necessary promotion. On the other end, the consumers get to drink good whiskies!

A Whisky-Loving Businessman

How did Michael succeed in such a challenging environment? His secret lies in being humble and from learning all the time. Michael loves whisky. His business is flourishing because of his passion for whisky and his determination to provide the best service to his customers. He has a faithful following of whisky drinkers who trust him to bring them good-quality bottles. Why do they trust him? Well, that’s because he has been steadily writing detailed tasting notes for his customers from day one and has not stopped doing so whenever there are new bottlings. All his customers have come to trust in his notes and know that what they buy are bottles that they will love – based on Michael’s tasting notes. Nowadays, Michael’s bottles sell out before they arrive on Taiwan’s shores because his customers pre-ordered them.

On Writing a Book

Michael is the author/translator for the Chinese version of Whisky Rising, a definitive book about Japanese whiskies. While he is considering to write his own book, he is not keen to start it yet. “I need more time, and more experiences,” he said. Nonetheless, he welcomes the idea of doing a translation of another popular whisky book into Chinese so that more Taiwanese can enjoy it.

Interest in Michael’s book and Whisky

If you are interested in buying Michael’s book and whisky, drop us a note at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg, and we can help you to find out how we can ship them over to your country of residence!

 

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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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