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New Bar Alert: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

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

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

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

The Exciseman

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

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

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

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

It is a Whisky Heaven

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

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

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

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

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

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

Charcoal-filtered Water

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

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

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

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

Lewis Mitchell – The Whisky Man

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

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

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

Don’t Judge a Whisky by its Age

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

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

Visit The Exciseman Whisky Bar

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

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

 

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    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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