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The More We Get Together…The Happier We’ll Be

Singapore has a large number of whisky bars for its relatively small surface area, and each whisky bar offers its patrons a different atmosphere, excellent whiskies and fantastic customer service. Even restaurants are also jumping onto the bandwagon! Before I unofficially join the industry as a blogger, I often thought that the competition is too stiff. How can the bars survive when they are serving the same, small group of whisky lovers in Singapore?

Well, to the uninitiated, that appears to be a tough question to answer. The bars in Singapore are come up with the perfect solution though – instead of “fighting one another”, they choose to work together (hence my blog post title). All these collaborations have come to one remarkable result for four of our bars and restaurants – a joint bottling.

The Whisky Project

Friends and media gathered at New Ubin Seafood Restaurant at Chijmes on 22 October to witness and taste the joint bottling by Quaich Bar, The Swan Song, The Writing Club and New Ubin Seafood. It is a Cadenhead Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old. The evening, however, was not just a tasting. It was a gathering of friends, and for all of us, it was the friendship that got all of us together in the first place.

We understood that there was never an intention for a bottling that boasts either old age or a popular distillery. The focus of the four bars and restaurant was the taste of the whisky. However, from all the cask samples that the group tried, a Linkwood stood out. It was the obvious choice, for the 28 years old Linkwood-Glenlivet from a sherry butt performs better in every single way.

The Evening with Cadenhead

The Food

Now, before I delve into the tasting, I wanted to make a statement about the food that New Ubin Seafood served to us on that beautiful evening. I think that warranted more than a mention because it was just amazing.

I missed out an excellent dish in the pictures (because all of us delve into the food before we remember that we forget to feed our phones…). That excellent dish was SMOKED PORK CURRY. Possibly the best curry I have ever eaten. The other dish worth mentioning was the cup you see on the right. Inside contained half-boiled eggs and Foie Gras. No, it is not wrong, and yes, it is the best way of eating foie gras – Singapore style.

The Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old

I believe that many of my media friends have already made their reviews about the Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old, and I do not wish to add on to more formal reports. What I want to do instead, is to encourage everyone to go to one of these four places – Quaich Bar, The Swan Song, The Writing Club and New Ubin Seafood – and TRY THE WHISKY. It is worth your time, efforts and the usage of your liver. If you have not tried it, you must try it. To all my overseas readers, if you travel to Singapore, go to these bars, and try it!

To give everyone an idea of the whisky, let me say this – it is a sherry bomb that gives you a nose that is full of plums, dark raisins, chocolate and hints of espresso. The palate is sweet and creamy, with slightly roasted notes of coffee. Plums and raisins are prominent with some dryness towards the end, reminding me of tannins. The finish is long, sweet and slightly tannic.

Ok, that is all I will say about the whisky – you must try the whisky so that you are not missing out on the good stuff, and since you are going to try the whisky, why not try the food at New Ubin Seafood too?

The Guy behind the Gathering of Friends for the Tasting

Right, it is not the best picture I have, but this is candid, and therefore, nice. The handsome chap that you see in this picture is familiar to everyone, of course! He is none other than Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, the Chief Marketing Officier at The Whisky Store. While you may know Matthew from his previous life as the brand ambassador for Glenfiddich single malt, he has since moved on to this new role with The Whisky Store.

A tiny interview

WhiskyGeeks did a short interview with Matthew before the tasting, and we asked him some rather personal questions, like why did he move on from being an ambassador when he was doing the job so well. Matthew’s answer was heartwarming. He shared his reasons candidly, saying that he would like to spend more time at home with his wife and children and that being an ambassador means lots of travelling and lesser time at home. He also passed the remark that it can be tiring as a brand ambassador.

As the Chief Marketing Officier, Matthew also gets to work with more brands as he is in charge of all the brands under The Whisky Store. With a much bigger portfolio, Matthew can grow in his journey as a whisky man. The role is also attractive because Matthew still gets to host tasting events (such as the one we went to) and yet get to do a job that is more or less flexible to let him spend more time at home.

Going back to his roots in Marketing

Matthew also shared that his first passion is marketing. He studied marketing as a student and loved every bit of what he did. While he chose to become an ambassador for quite some years, he decided to return to his roots in marketing with this new role that he takes up with The Whisky Store. Building marketing and brand plans come a little harder now, but it is coming altogether pretty quickly for Matthew! From now till the end of the year, Matthew shares that his focus is on his brand plans so that things get going in 2019. It was a lot of work when he started work, but now as things settled down, Matthew began to formulate what he wants to do next year as the CMO of The Whisky Store too.

I understand that his first and foremost target is to understand all his brands and get them in order. Once done, he will begin to develop each brand further. Matthew promises more tasting sessions, and also a better distribution plan for all the 27 brands that he looks after. There is also the bar side of things, which Matthew is looking into creating more synergies with. All in all, it seems like a hectic year ahead!

I am looking forward to Matthew’s work and believe that he would bring each brand to greater heights.

Future Joint Bottling?

Frankly, we do not know if the bars and restaurant gathered for this joint bottling will do yet another project, but it is with the hope that they may consider doing it yet again to benefit the rest of us whisky lovers! It was a lovely evening spent with friends who matter. Coupled that with amazing drams, and nothing else can be better than that!

Quaich Bar is the oldest whisky bar in Singapore, and we pretty much owe our whisky growth in Singapore to Khoon Hui, Joyce and their team at the bar. With Matthew joining the team at The Whisky Store, we can be sure that exciting times lie ahead of us as we move into 2019!

 

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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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