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New Bar Alert – The Cooperage @ 42 Hong Kong Street

Picture from The Cooperage

We have many whisky-centric bars in Singapore. The vast choice creates a headache for the whisky lovers sometimes when they need to choose a bar to hang out with like-minded friends. As many whisky bars open, the need to be different becomes essential as each bar strives to build its clientele. We have recently come across one bar that brands itself rather uniquely from the rest, and we jump at the chance to have a chat with bar owner – Paul Tan.

The Cooperage Whisky Bar

One of the newest whisky bars in town, The Cooperage is a bespoke bar located at 42 Hong Kong Street. Paul and Ryan are the guys behind The Cooperage. We spoke to Paul for an exclusive interview with WhiskyGeeks.

Paul and Ryan often felt that whisky bars are intimating in terms of both environment and pricing. It puts beginners off whisky because the setting is not ideal for learning. The price of whisky is also steep in some instances, which makes beginners less inclined to try. Therefore, the duo set out to change that.

The Birth of The Cooperage

Paul and Ryan decided to open a bar that will encourage the general public to come and try a wide range of whisky at an affordable price. They also want to make whisky approachable through a friendly environment where patrons can speak comfortably to any of their servers and get to know more about whisky.

With the concept in mind, The Cooperage is a haven for the common man to start his whisky journey. On the menu, there are whiskies which are offered at friendly prices of $12, $15, $18 and $21. Each of these prices corresponds with a 12, 15, 18 and 21 years old whisky. We could even say that The Cooperage is the place where you bring a non-whisky drinker so that he or she can try a dram for as low as $12.

Whisky Flights that Paul recommends for the adventurous

For the more adventurous, there are various whisky flights available for order. One of the most popular whisky flights at the Cooperage is the Glendiffich Experimental Series. It features the Glenfiddich IPA, the Project XX and the creme of the crop, the Winter Storm. The Cooperage is the first bar to serve the Winter Storm by dram, and so far, this whisky flight has been very well-received.

The other two popular whisky flights are the Macallan Edition Series, featuring Edition No. 1, 2 and 3 as well as the whiskies around the world. The second flight includes the Tomintoul 12 years old, Iwai Mars Maltage Cosmo and the Limeburners Single Malt Port Cask. There are three more whisky flights available at the Cooperage, so if you want to know the whole range, you need to visit the bar!

The Vision for the Bar

In today’s business world, it is easy for an owner to lose the human touch in the F&B industry, especially when the establishment is bigger than what one can easily take care of. However, that is not a problem at the Cooperage, because Paul and Ryan believe in the human touch. Paul explained that having human contact in everything that a whisky bar does is vital as that creates engagement with the customers. If there is no engagement between the whisky bar and the customers, it is harder for the bar to help customers learn more about whisky.

“Some things just need to be traditional,” said Paul.

What is Different at The Cooperage?

Various elements are different at the Cooperage. First of all, the bar offers a “cage system” for its customers. A minimum spending within a month will open the door of a cage where you can put the bottles that you purchase at the bar safely without worry. Return to the bar for a dram or two, and the service crew will help you to retrieve your bottles. You can keep the bottles up to 6 months without charge!

Unlike a typical whisky bar, The Cooperage also offers a decent range of wines and beers to patrons who do not fancy a whisky. Nonetheless, the thing that impressed us the most is that The Cooperage serves excellent food! Now, how many whisky bars can you count that serves food? Besides The Wall SG, the Cooperage is the next one!

The Food at The Cooperage

You get an excellent selection of food at the bar. From canapes to cheese and cold cuts for a snack to a full meal of pasta, donburi and main courses, there is something for everyone.

Left: Salmon with spicy Mentaiko sauce topped with Ikura donburi, Top right: Black Angus Tomahawk, Bottom Right: Spicy Prawn and Scallop Aglio Olio

We had a try of the Salmon with spicy Mentaiko sauce topped with Ikura donburi, and it was simply excellent. The experienced chef cooked the salmon to perfection, and the ikura enhances the flavour in all the right amount. We also heard that the Truffle Black Angus Beef with Foie Gras donburi is fantastic and hence, we will be going back to try that soon! At $22 a bowl, it is an absolute steal!

As foodies ourselves, we had to ask for all the top sellers and here is a list of them! (You are welcome!)

Top Selling Canapes:

  • Lobster Bisque
  • Duck Rillettes
  • Honey-glazed Chicken Lollipop

Top Selling Donburi:

  • Truffle Black Angus Beef with Foie Gras

Top Selling Pasta:

  • Spicy Prawn and Scallop Aglio Olio

Top Selling Main Course:

  • Duck Confit
  • Black Angus Tomahawk (Serves at least four pax; requires reservation)

The Cooperage welcomes children to dine with their parents and is a family-friendly bar. One thing to note is that the whisky bar does not have baby chairs, so young children who need baby chair may pose a slight challenge.

What to Drink at The Cooperage as a Beginner?

We asked Paul what he would recommend to a complete beginner who steps into his bar, asking for a whisky to try. He thought about it seriously, and finally, he said, “well, I would suggest three expressions for this person to choose from. These choices are based on taste and price. First, a Glendronach 12 Years Old because it is approachable and sherried (sweet). Next, it would be a Dalmore 15 Years Old, which is fruity and easy to drink. Finally, for someone who likes heavy flavours, I would recommend the Balvenie 14 Years Old Carribean Rum Cask.”

Sounds about right, don’t you think so?

Plans for the future

We always ask this question to all our whisky bar owners, and we popped the same question to Paul – what are his plans for the future?

Paul has quite a plan, in our humble opinion! His intention of opening the bar is to encourage more people to try whisky and hence, his first long-term plan is definitely to get more people to start trying whisky. He hopes to build a reputation where everyone knows that they can seek an approachable and affordable dram to drink at The Cooperage.

Paul also hopes to make whisky more accessible to the general public so that everyone can drink without hurting their pockets. He wants to eliminate the idea that whisky bars are only for the rich and famous, which I believe that some bars in Singapore are doing the same.

Paul also plans to expand their range of whiskies as they move along. The ideal plan is to change their range once every quarter so that there is always something new for their clients to try.

Events and Whisky Tasting

As an advocate to approachable whisky, The Cooperage is also looking into hosting events and whisky tasting for the general public. Such activities promote education as well as engagement for the general public, making whiskies less intimating. For October, the bar currently has two events coming up.

  1. Introduction to Welsh Single Malt Whisky – Penderyn. This event is a tied up with the distributor of Penderyn whisky in Singapore and will be held on 6 October 2018 from 7 pm onwards. The event will showcase three expressions of Penderyn single malt whisky, namely Penderyn Madeira Finish, Penderyn Sherrywood and Penderyn Portwood.
  2. 100 Years Dalmore Tasting. This event will be hosted by the global ambassador of Dalmore and will feature the 25 years old, 30 years old and 45 years old expressions. It will be held on 19 October from 7 pm onwards.

If you are free on either or both days, why not check out these events? A new whisky experience with Welsh whisky Penderyn is likely to open up yet another horizon while the 100 years Dalmore offers you luxury on an entirely different level!

 

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Visiting Barbershop at The ArtHouse

We visited Barbershop and its awesome manager, Fab Arm on an idle Thursday night after the Trump-Kim summit. We were looking for a beautiful place to chill and enjoy some live music, so, we thought – Timbre or Barbershop. Since Barbershop generally serves what we need for the night (read: whisky), we decided to head over for pizza and whisky.

It was quiet when we reached around 7-ish in the evening. Two groups of working executives occupied a couple of tables. Choc and I took the corner high table (because we like secluded spots that remind us of Sentosa the area). We took a look at their menu, and we were astounded! Not only were the prices reasonable, but the range of whiskies also expanded tremendously! Wow, we were pleasantly surprised as Fab was still working on his list the last time we came.

Before we ordered, Fab came along to say hi! We haven’t seen him for a while now, so it was a great moment to meet again and catch up finally. It was indeed Fab’s hard work that contributed to that massive and impressive list of whiskies on offer at Barbershop! We were excited to wet our lips after learning that Fab curated more whiskies from what we understood from before!

Dinner was served

Half and Half Pizza

I was a fan of Timbre and its food, so I know exactly what we need to order. A half and half pizza to share between both of us. It was a little greedy because the pizza could feed at least three persons, but we were hungry that night. A roasted duck combined with a Yakiniku Chicken sounded like a perfect fit for two hungry and greedy persons!

Fab came along with his whiskies and rum, of course. First up, we tried a wee bit of the Speymalt Macallan 1998 (19 years). It tasted almost identical to the official bottling of the old Macallan 18 years old. The only exception is that the Speymalt is slightly more spicer than the official Macallan 18 of old. Next up, we had a wee taste of an interesting rum. Bottled by The Whisky Agency & La Maison du Whisky, it hails from Sancti Spiritus Distillery in Cuba. Exotic as it is, this rum is approachable and frisky. There was also a Linkwood 15 years old Sherry Cask by Gordon & MacPhail, but we find it too light for our liking.

We ended up with the Speymalt and the Sancti Spiritus rum as a pairing to our duck and chicken pizza. Haha…it was an innovative experience, but I thought the Yakiniku Chicken went very well with the Macallan.

Speymalt Macallan 1998

Speymalt Macallan 1998

I tried this Speymalt Macallan 1998 previously at WhiskyLive 2017 and found it to be less than desirable. Perhaps the previous bottle was aired too much, or maybe I was just not sober enough to detect the notes. However, trying this again a second time gives me a different perspective. The nose is full of dark fruits, dark chocolate, raisins and bits of oakiness. Pretty much like an old bottle of the Macallan 18 years old. The palate is dark chocolate, raisins, sultanas, woodiness and under it all, a dark fruitiness that balances the entire taste. The finish is long, with raisins and dark fruits lingering all the way.

I like Macallan in the past and love the complexity that the old bottlings offered. The modern batch appears to lack something, and I thought that it requires the love that used to go into every bottle. Perhaps I am wrong, but that’s how I feel. Therefore, I was glad to find this Speymalt Macallan. It was like an old love, reignited.

The Whisky Agency x La Maison du Whisky (Sancti Spiritus) Aged Rum 18 Years old

Sancti Spiritus 18 Yrs Old

Sancti Spiritus Rum is the first rum that I drank which does not turn me off immediately with its overpowering sweetness of caramel and toffee. Interestingly, the rum is full of its original character – sugar cane. The nose is full of subtle sugar cane sweetness, and a hint of strong spirit underneath the sweetness. Bottled at more than 60% abv, it is hardly surprising that the spirit within is flexing its muscles. The palate is biting, but the sugar cane sweetness covers it almost immediately. The taste mellows as I left it on my tongue. The sugar cane sweetness develops into a robust minty note as the spirit disappears, almost as if you have just eaten a mint drop. The finish gets oaky as the cask begins to talk but nothing overpowering. The mintiness lingers all the way to the end of the medium to long finish.

More whisky? Of course!

After all the “hard work”, we deserved yet another dram, don’t we? Once again, Fab showed his perfect hospitality with more wee tastes of another two different whiskies. First up is an Auchentoshan from Signatory Vintage. It is worthy to speak more about this whisky because it is what Auchentoshan should be when it grows up! I need to shout this off a rooftop: “Un-chillfiltered Auchentoshan is like a Rosebank!!” Yes, I am not kidding. Seriously, the Auchentoshan we had was fabulous!

The last wee taste we had was a Wilson and Morgan Bunnahabhain. Matured in a sherry cask, it is a relatively sweet Bunny! It is not fair to the Bunny though, because both Choc and I had fallen in love with the Auchentoshan.

Signatory Vintage Auchentoshan 1998 (17 years; cask 102359 &102360)

SV Auchentoshan 1998

When I first nosed this un-chillfiltered Auchentoshan, my first thoughts were, “wow, this is the full Lowland character that was lacking in the regular Auchentoshan.” As I subject the whisky to more nosing, the grassy and floral notes begin to resemble a bourbon-matured Littlemill expression that I had previously. The first taste is pure bliss as the floral notes explode in the mouth into a subtle fruity sweetness. The dry grassiness stays in the mouth even as I swallow. The finish is long and dry, with the dry grass filling the palate thoroughly.

I aired this Auchentoshan for about 15 minutes and what appeared caught me by surprise! It smells like the Rosebank 12 years old that I had at Swan Song! Omg, a second sniff confirms it. It smells like a Rosebank!! I quickly took a sip of the liquid. The palate is mellow, sweet fruitiness combined with a dry grassiness without overpowering each other. A subtle oakiness from the cask comes through at the end of the tongue, and with just a little peppery spice at the back of the throat. Again, this is similar to the Rosebank 12, but of course, the Rosebank 12 is more flavourful, and the notes are more prominent. The finish is long and dry, leaving me wanting more.

The best dram of the night

We got to admit that we called it a night after the Auchentoshan 1998 because we wanted to savour the flavours for as long as we want. Besides, each pour at Barbershop is 40ml, and we already had 160ml between us. Time to call it quits when we were still alert and sober!

Naturally, the best dram of the night was the Rosebank 12 Auchentoshan 1998! I think my life is quite complete now because I finally know how un-chillfiltered Auchentoshan taste like. My guess is right – it showcases all the right Lowland characters at its natural best.

Thank you, Fab, for showing us how Auchentoshan can shine! For those of you who want to visit Barbershop, give Fab a shoutout when you go, and he will treat you well!

 

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What you need to know about The Swan Song

 

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

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

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

The bar at The Swan Song

 

The bar is born out of a dream

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

The idea is to share and learn together

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

Education and Accessibility is in the heart of SS

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

Price is always a consideration

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

Vintage and rare whiskies are their differentiating factors

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bruichladdich Oirthir Gaidheal Bottled for Islay Festival 2009

 

(BlackAdder) Bowmore 1973 (27 Years Old)

 

Old Style Jura 1970s (8 Years Old)

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

Plans for the Future

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

Our impression of The Swan Song

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

 

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Have you heard of the Barber Shop?

Picture Credits: WhiskyGeeks

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

What is Barber Shop?

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

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

What can you expect?

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

Special Wednesdays

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

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

Moving Forward

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

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

 

 

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