Whisky Appreciation

An Interview with Mr. Li Chunfeng – Founder of TDM

WhiskyGeeks with Mr Li Chunfeng at The Drunken Master Whisky Bar

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

Early days in Chunfeng’s whisky journey

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

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

The birth of The Drunken Master

TDM Bar Counter

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

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

Buying of the Whisky Casks for TDM

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

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

The making of TDM Whisky Labels

Label of the latest bottle from TDM

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

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

Chunfeng’s opinion of the whisky industry in Taiwan

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

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

The rising prices of whisky

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

Chunfeng’s opinion of flippers in the market

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

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

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

Chunfeng’s favourite whisky distillery

Littlemill Distillery – Picture Credits

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

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

Chunfeng’s changing journey with whisky

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

Advise for a new whisky drinker

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

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

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

 

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    Bar in Kaohsiung: The Drunken Master Whisky Bar

    The Shop Front of TDM

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

    The First Visit to TDM

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

    TDM Bar Counter

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

    The Whiskies We Had

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

    Caol Ila Bottles

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

    Bruichladdich 10 Years Old

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

    Santis Malt 14 Years Old

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

    Highly Recommended Bar

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

    Back to the hotel

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

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      WhiskyGeeks’ Top 5 Parties Bottles for Christmas 2017

       

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

      The Famous Grouse

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

      Johnnie Walker Black Label

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

      Chivas Regal 12 Years Old

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

      Glenlivet Founders’ Reserve

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

      Glendronach 8 Years Old Hielan

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

      Have a Great Party

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

       

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        10 Whiskies to Drink for a Merry Christmas

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

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

        Entry-level Whiskies

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

        Glenfiddich IPA

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

        Bruichladdich – The Classic Laddie

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

        Dalmore 15 Years Old

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

        Glendronach 18 Years Old Allardice

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

        Mid-Tier Whiskies

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

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

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

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

        Santis Malt Snow White No. 5

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

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

        Mid to High-tier Whiskies

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

        The Single Cask Macduff 19 Years Old (1997)

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

        Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Cask Strength (Exclusive Quaich Bar)

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

        Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1

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

        Octomore 8.3

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

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

         

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          The Glencairn Glass – The Birth of Innovation

          Before the birth of the Glencairn Glass

          Before the birth of the Glencairn glass, there was no special glass for whisky. In its long and colourful history, there was never once a single glass that the whisky industry could claim as its own. All the other spirits have their glasses, but whisky, with all its complexity, failed to have its own.

          The creator of the Glencairn Glass

          Raymond Davidson decided to change the sad fate of whisky. His innovative mind dreamt up a design for a glass that is suitable for whisky. He chose a glass style that is similar to the traditional sherry nosing glass, known as the copita. The shape of the glass is said to encourage the user to take some time in appreciating the nose and palate of the whisky. At the same time, the glass is a practical design that allows vigorous usage in a bar environment.

          Help from the Master Blenders

          However, Raymond Davidson did not do this on his own. He brought the initial design of the glass to some of the most famous Master Blenders of his time and sought their guidance and advice to improve. With their expertise and enthusiastic participation, the glass developed and changed into what it is today. The size and shape are crafted to hold 35ml of whisky and still allow for the user to add water. The liquid is also optimally exposed to air to let aromas develop.

          The Unique Shape of the Glencairn Glass

          The finalised product is nothing like the copita glass that Davidson initially modelled the glass from. The tapering mouth of the glass captures all the aromas of the whisky and yet, makes it easy for users to drink from it. The wide crystal bowl at the bottom helps the users to appreciate the whisky’s colour better while the solid base is excellent as a cradle. It is also a sturdy glass for use in a bar environment. For the discerning whisky drinker, the aesthetic of the glass is as vital as the liquid itself, since it would help him or her to better appreciate the drink.

          The Glencairn Glass of Today

          Since its birth in 2001, the Glencairn glass has gained popularity. It won the Queens’ Award for Innovation in 2006 and is endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association. Most distilleries and whisky bars around the globe used this glass. The arrival of the Glencairn glass has changed the history of whisky drinking and placed itself at the centre of the whisky industry. Finally, whisky has a glass to call its own – the Glencairn Glass!

           

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            10 Whisky Tips For Whisky Drinkers

            There are so many things about whisky (or whiskey) that we can learn. The information is so vast that it may not be possible for a person to learn everything in one lifetime. Nonetheless, there are little tips here and there which we can pick up quickly from others who walked the path before us.

            Recently, we found a book written by Andrew Langley – The Little Book of Whisky Tips – hidden on our bookshelf. It is apparent that we have forgotten about this little gem! On further inspection, we discovered that there are some helpful tips in there for whisky lovers everywhere, especially those who are just starting out on this fantastic journey.

            Here are ten tips which we think you ought to know.

            Drink whisky from a “tulip-shaped” glass

            You are all set to appreciate whisky if you recognise what a Glencairn glass is. If you do not know how it looks, here’s a picture of the glass.

            Bars use these glasses to serve whisky neat. The narrow top of the glass concentrates the aroma to help you get the best and fullest nose. The shape of the glass is also useful in encouraging you to sniff and sip. Hence, you are less inclined to slurp everything at one go.

            Drink whisky in your way

            As we have mentioned in a previous post, there is no right or wrong way to drink whisky. The important part of drinking whisky is to appreciate and enjoy the dram. If you want to know the top five favourite ways to drink whisky, check out our previous post here.

            Drink a good quality single malt at room temperature

            A good quality single malt may be debatable, but the idea is to drink one at room temperature instead of chilling it. The higher temperature helps to release the volatile oils and other aromas to give you a fuller nose when you sniff it using a Glencairn glass.

            Use a lighter whisky for cocktails

            If you are a fan of whisky cocktails and love to make your own, remember to use lighter whiskies as your base. The reason is simple – heavy malts tend to dominate the taste of the cocktail, making it singular and tasting too much like a regular whisky. The best whiskies to use for cocktails are Canadians, light Bourbons or British blend with plenty of grains.

            Water can affect the whisky

            Most whisky drinkers use tap water or distilled water when they want to add water to their whisky. While it is alright to do that, the whisky may change because of the interaction with chlorine in the water. You can use a bottle of still spring water to help you capture the aromas and flavours more quickly. Of course, the best kind of water to use is the water collected near the distillery itself, but that is too difficult to achieve for most whisky drinkers.

            Store your whiskies in the correct way

            If you are building a whisky empire in your house, be sure to store your bottles away from direct sunlight as that can affect both the colour of the whisky and the label. They should also be kept in a cool, dry and stable place. Whisky bottles can be stored upright, but take the time to turn the bottles sideways every three to six months to keep the cork moist.

            Whisky can last forever

            Whiskies do not spoil so quickly, as long as it is kept sealed in an unopened bottle. They do not age once they are bottled, and hence, the liquor goes into suspension mode. However, once you open the bottle, the liquid inside is affected by oxidation and may change its characteristics over time.

            Read the label on the whisky bottle

            There are many counterfeit whiskies on the market now. Therefore, one of the precautions that you can take is to read the label on the bottle carefully. If you see something named as “Scottish Whiskey”, it is likely to be a fake. Besides the obvious, check for spelling errors, or omitted information. Some telling signs are the omission of whether the whisky is a blended, a malt whisky or a single malt.

            Most single malts have an age statement

            All single malts used to have an age statement until recently. With the challenge of time and the lack of older single malts, distilleries have taken the market by surprise with non-age-statement single malt whiskies. Most single malts, however, still have an age statement. They will either state it as a 12 or 18 years old whisky or in some distilleries, the date of distillation and date of bottling. The age of the whisky is the difference between the two.

            New-make whisky is colourless

            All new-make whisky distilled from the stills are colourless. The colour comes from either the casks that they matured in or in the addition of sugar caramel. The adding of colour is permitted, but it is not a widespread practice as seasoned whisky drinkers are not keen on added colouring.

            We hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to chat us up, and we will answer your questions to the best of our knowledge. As we always say, there is always something new to learn about whisky!

             

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              Douglas Laing to release 25-year-old Big Peat

              Have you ever tried Big Peat? It is an extraordinarily peaty and smokey whisky released by the independent bottler, Douglas Laing. It has a massive number of releases, with some of them having only limited bottles.

              Douglas Laing recently announced a new release of their iconic Big Peat whisky. What is exciting about this announcement is the age-statement attached to the latest Big Peat. Planned to be launched in December 2017, the 25-year-old Big Peat that is gracing the newest addition to the Big Peat family is causing quite a stir!

              The 25-year-old Big Peat is the debut bottle of an “old and rare” limited edition trilogy collection of the Big Peat range. Given the name “The Gold Edition, this 25-year-old invites high expectations from whisky lovers. There are two more releases in this collection, with the later editions likely to go up in years. Douglas Laing bottled Big Peat 25-year-old at cask strength of 52.1% abv. With only 3000 bottles available globally, the bottle’s time on the shelf is likely to be very short. The price in the secondary market is going to be interesting too. Currently, we are not sure if this expression will be available in Singapore.

              About Big Peat

              Big Peat is essentially the representative of Islay in a bottle. It is a marriage of malt whiskies from the island of Islay. It is produced without colouring or chill-filtration and bottled at 46% abv to retain the aromas and flavours of the whisky. If you ask what is in Big Peat, we heard that it includes Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. Yes, the best of Islay are all in Big Peat, so perhaps it is time to try a Big Peat if you have yet to try it.

               

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                Appreciating Whisky in 5 Different Ways

                The world of whisky is varied and often contentious. Good whiskies may be everywhere, but the affordability of said whisky may be questionable. With the price of whisky trending upwards around the world, the way we serve and drink it becomes a controversial part of how we enjoy the precious liquid.

                Whisky lovers would agree that there isn’t a correct way of drinking whisky, but there are specific preferred ways of drinking it. We highlight five different styles of drinking whisky below.

                Drink it Neat

                Drinking whisky neat (just as it is) is a conventional method favoured by many whisky lovers. Taking the liquid as it is and not adding anything helps to retain the flavour of the whisky. The drinker experiences the purest form of the whisky, just as how the whisky maker has tasted it. The excitement comes through when the drinker interacts with the whisky to find the different aromas and flavours over time and oxidation, all without the influence of external substances.

                Drink it with Water

                Some people enjoy whisky with a little water. There is a whole argument behind the adding of water to whisky. Some people said that water dilutes the alcohol influence in the whisky and opens up the flavours and aromas of the whisky. It allows for a better appreciation for some whisky lovers. The opposite camp argues that drinking a whisky neat is the way to go because one should taste whisky straight from the bottle. There is no right or wrong answer to this – it is merely a matter of preferences.

                Drink it with an Iceball or on the rocks

                Adding ice is yet another conventional way of drinking whisky – with ice. It can be an iceball or some ice cubes. The idea is to dilute the alcohol level in the whisky as well as to chill the drink. While some whisky drinkers swear by this way of drinking, others feel that the ice spoils the taste and flavours of the whisky.

                Make a Highball

                A highball is a favourite way of drinking whisky among Japanese and some ladies around the world. It is simple to make – just add lots of ice and carbonated water to whisky, stir it with a long spoon, and you have a highball! The highball lengthens the drink and also dilute the alcohol content to make it palatable for drinkers who dislike the bite of higher abv.

                Make a Whisky Cocktail

                A cocktail is meant to be light and suitable for people who can’t drink very well. However, a whisky cocktail can be potent, and those who do not take very well to alcohol should be careful before ordering one of these. A whisky cocktail is full of surprises because it can vary from smokey to overtly sweet, depending on the whisky base used. A cocktail made from an Islay whisky is smokey and savoury while a cocktail made from American bourbon tends to be a tad too sweet. Nonetheless, every whisky cocktail has its uniqueness.

                Other ways to drink whisky

                There are other different methods to drink whisky. One can add cola or green tea to their whiskies, or one can drink it with whisky stones. Whisky stones are made from steel or granite and work to chill the whisky without diluting the taste.

                Everyone has their preference, and nobody is right or wrong. Some whisky drinkers may cringe when they see others adding cola or green tea to their whiskies, but nobody should dictate how another drinks his or her whisky. It is entirely up to the drinker.

                Therefore, if you are a beginner and did not like the bite of the high abv too much, remember that you can enjoy your whisky in other forms besides having it neat. A whisky highball may be the best drink for you, if only you try it!

                Enjoy your drink! No one will judge you.

                 

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                  Interview with Kevin Sheehan, Cartographer of Manuscript Maps

                   

                  Picture Credits: www.manuscriptmaps.com

                  Do you like ancient maps? The kind of maps that wow you from the first moment because they were hand-drawn with beautiful details. If you do, you should check out Manuscript Maps.

                  Manuscript Maps belongs to Mr Kevin Sheehan, a British cartographer who drew all his maps by hand. If you are wondering why WhiskyGeeks is talking about maps, that’s because Kevin has drawn impressive maps of Scotland’s whisky distilleries!

                  Here’s a picture of one of his latest version:

                  Picture Credits: www.manuscriptmaps.com

                  Did you marvel at the details on the map? Well, the physical one is even more impressive! Geek Choc bought the whisky map from Kevin, and he was stunned by the beauty of it. “It is amazing just how Kevin can include such minute details like tiny lines to create the shading of the sea. I’ve never seen such excellent artistry!” Geek Choc exclaimed at our headquarters when the map arrived! Well, he was too excited to say anything else after that.

                  So, as a team, we decided to reach out to Kevin and asked him for an exclusive interview with us, and he agreed to do so. We conducted our conversation through a couple of emails and Kevin kindly provided us with some excellent photos too!

                  Welcome to the World of Whisky Distilleries

                  Picture Credits: www.manuscriptmaps.com

                  Kevin spoke about the history of the whisky map in our first interview with him. His first whisky map was hand-drawn in late-2014. Kevin began with a detailed plan, before drawing the distilleries in pencil and then go over each line with dip pens and ink with different calligraphic nibs. Just as Geek Choc has noticed, every tiny line is hand-drawn, even the shading of the sea. The whisky map took more than 120 hours to draw (that works out to about three months). Kevin also took time to research and communication with the distilleries in Scotland to feature them on his whisky map.

                  Kevin has printed three editions of his whisky map so far. Each version has been popular, and in fact, the whisky map is his bestseller! He prints each map on 200-300 gsm textured paper, and he numbered, signed and dated every single one of them. The maps at A2 sized, so it is easy to hang them up at home.

                  Picture Credits: www.manuscriptmaps.com

                  The 2017 edition shows 124 operational single malt distilleries, seven grains distilleries, 25 closed distilleries (since the 1970s) and 11 forth-coming distilleries. The 2017 edition has sold out now, and Kevin has released a new 2018 version of the whisky map. This new version is exciting as he included the brand-new Douglas Laing distillery in Glasgow, as well as the planned reopening of Brora, Port Ellen and Rosebank distilleries.

                  More about British Cartographer, Kevin Sheehan

                  Kevin has an impressive education in the art of map-making. His passion for maps started at childhood, where he drew fantasy Tolkien-style maps. His love for maps led him to do many art classes in his youth and began his journey in the art of map-making. As an undergraduate in Durham, Kevin started to draw maps of the area as gifts for his family and friends. He also took his Master degree in Medieval and Renaissance History and took a class with Mr Paul Harvey, the world expert in medieval mappaemudi. He was so enthralled by the art of map-making by then and pursued his passion with a PhD in the history of cartography.

                  During his days as a PhD student, the university hired Kevin to draw maps of Durham University and Durham Pub. They sold the prints in the new visitor centre at the school. As you can guess, the maps were a huge hit with visitors. Kevin graduated in 2014 and founded Manuscript Maps. He never looks back since.

                  Kevin is a whisky lover just like the rest of us. That explains why his first ever map drawn for his company is the whisky map! He loves his Scotch and Irish whiskies, as well as Japanese whiskies. He shared that he like lightly peated whiskies that are well-balanced, so his choices tend to lean towards Speyside and some of the Islay whiskies. Kevin’s favourite distilleries (so far) are Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin, Aberlour and Fettercairn. Nonetheless, Kevin’s love for whisky usually leads him to buy whatever is on sale!

                  Kevin is experimenting with new products for his whisky map. He has printed the map on tea towels and is planning to release a jigsaw puzzle of the map by the end of November!

                  If you like the whisky map, there is the chance that you will love the gin map that Kevin has drawn as well. It is his second love, after the whisky map. Illustrated in the same dimension and style, it is a perfect complement to the whisky map!

                  Where to Buy

                  If you are keen to buy the whisky map (or the gin map), you can visit Manuscript Maps right here. He ships internationally so you don’t have to worry that you can’t buy this beautiful map.

                  You can find Kevin on these social media platforms too:

                  Twitter: @ManuscriptMaps
                  Instagram: @ManuscriptMaps
                  Facebook: www.facebook.com/manuscriptmaps

                  Discount for WhiskyGeeks Members

                  If you are keen to purchase the maps, do remember to enter the code “WHISKYGEEKS” during check out so that you get 20% off any map you buy! Caring is sharing! Do tell all your whisky friends and head over to www.manuscriptmaps.com.

                   

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                    Whisky Butler Special November Box

                    November has come around, and the jingle bells are getting louder as we approach the end of the year. With December and Christmas just one month away, there is no better reason than the festive seasons to wind down and take a well-deserved break.  We have found a great way to wind down – sampling alcohol from Whisky Butler’s monthly box!

                    The box in November is a special one because it showcases three of the most exceptional whiskies from America and one barrel-aged whisky cocktail! Well, that’s special, isn’t it? Do you remember our experiment from Manhattan Bar? We have shared information about the La Louisiana cocktail and the Sazerac Rye in our weekly updates, and now it has turned fruitful. All Whisky Butler’s members are going to taste it from the November box!

                    Here are some interesting facts of the four drams that members will get to taste.

                    1. Port-washed Sazerac Rye 6-year-old
                      The port-washed Sazerac Rye is the highly anticipated whisky in this box because it is part of our experiment with Manhattan Bar. The Sazerac Rye has been placed into a port-laced barrel to age for almost a month before bottling. We have followed the changes of the rye from six days, thirteen days and nineteen days. The changes had been incredible. The finished product is fantastic!
                    2. Michter’s 10-year-old Bourbon
                      The Michter’s 10-year-old Bourbon has got a complicated history, and that appears to translate to its bourbon. The distillery has made many firsts, including promoting a lady – Pam Heilmann – to be their Master Distiller. That marks the first lady to serve as a Master Distiller in a Kentucky Distiller Association since prohibition. This bourbon is a balanced, caramel liquid that soothes rather than excites. The well-coordinated nose, palate and finish mean that you could probably drink this all day long.
                    3. High West Campfire
                      High West Campfire is a unique whisky because it is a blend of peated blended Scotch, straight bourbon and straight rye. Inspired by a visit to Bruichladdie distillery, High West founders, David and Jane Perkins decided to create a blend of whisky that transpires both geographic and stylistic borders. The final formula has produced a whisky that is perfect for a campfire, or perhaps a road trip to nowhere.
                    4. La Louisiana Cocktail (High West OMG Pure White Rye Blend)
                      The last one is the exceptional whisky cocktail that is exclusive to Manhattan Bar. The whisky in this expression is the High West OMG Pure White Rye. What is unique about this cocktail is the marrying of the various spirits in a fresh American oak barrel instead of a shaken one. The barrel acted as a stability cask to blend the spirits and neutralised the jagging notes of each spirit. The outcome is a thick, chewy and sweet cocktail that is pleasing to almost every palate.

                    Such offerings do not come often, and what’s more with such exotic whiskies to try! As WhiskyGeeks are part of the experiment for the November box, we are extending an invitation to all WhiskyGeeks’ members to sign up for the Whisky Butler’s membership. The first five members to sign up will also be invited to an exclusive pilot tasting session at the Manhattan Bar.

                    What are you waiting for? Send your contact details to WhiskyGeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg or PM us via Facebook, and we will link you up with Whisky Butler for the membership application!

                     

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