Whisky Live Singapore 2011 – Spiritual learning from the Devil’s Snare of the Soul

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“Strong licker is a mocker of Man” as the saying goes, but I’ve always liked attending Whisky tasting events and this time an imp came by and dropped off tickets. Very much like Cinderella, but sans finicky made-to-measure footwear and ugly stepsisters.

And since it was the day before Vesak, Buddha’s Birthday; the path in my spiritual learning was clear.

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The Glendronach 1991 Pedro Ximinez Puncheon #3182, possibly the highlight of the Whisky Live event

There is a difference in “Whiskey” and “Whisky”, where the latter refers to Scotch Whisky and the former seems to refer to everything else. It seems that proper usage is something deemed worth fighting over by purists as evidenced by this NYT article by Eric Asimov. But I wouldn’t hesitate to point out that it’s Whiskys and not, I feel, Whiskies as it sounds like something you use to clean a drain pipe. >.< I was commenting on my observation that it's becoming in vogue to use Wine, Sherry and Port Casks to mature the whiskys but I was corrected by a well-known Whisky Maven. Apparently, Sherry and Port casks made from Red Oak were the norm before WWII. In fact, the Whisky industry was supporting the Sherry and Port industries by buying the casks. After the war, American Bourbon White Oak Casks were used because it was cheaper and more readily available. However, with a movement to go back to the original tastes, the use of Sherry and Oak Casks have started to increase. All for the better, I'm told.

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The BenRiach 1988 Limited Release, matured in casks used to store Gaja Barolo sourced from Northern Italy

The more recent (relatively) is the use of wine barrels such as the BenRiach distilleries which use Barolo barrels from Gaja, the famed Piedmont wine producer (of other wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and the Super-Tuscans).

Unfortunately BenRiach can’t use the Gaja name because of a trademark dispute which resulted, I am told, in a delayed release of the BenRiach 1988 Limited Release – the “A Singapore Exclusive” bit is just branding to impress the non-cognoscenti – but, as I learned more, it was redolent of sweet dried fruits like raisins or figs with honey with a slight lime-grapefruit, orange-y note with a long-lasting finish.

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I was told to look out for the ’83 Tullibardine by the imp but instead I found the 1988 Vintage Edition and the 1998 “Sherry Wood Finish”. The Tullibardine 1988 Vintage is worthy of the name, clear straight-forward ringing notes of vanilla, grapefruit and white chocolate; your tongue suddenly comes alive as the liquid dances on it. Without a doubt, it is a celebratory whisky for that special occasion.

The Tullibardine 1998 “Sherry Wood Finish” was not as glamorous but I learned that it had deeper bass notes with a more complex note of smoke, dark chocolate and Hazelnuts with a chewy texture. The long, fatty, slightly oily finish was outstanding.

While the Tullibardine 1988 Vintage was bright and brassy, I was looking for a nice postprandial drink to warm me up and calm me down. So I purchased a bottle (there were only 6 available) of the Tullibardine 1998. To learn more, if you catch my drift.

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Moving on, I spied the world’s leading bottler’s of Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail. The basic premise of Gordon & MacPhail is that they will “personally select” whisky from the surrounding distillers and “create a superior product at a reasonable price” to give “utmost satisfaction”. Long story short, they buy up whisky, mature them in casks of their own choosing, bottle and release them when they think is the best time, all independently from the distillery but under licence. Because of their long-established stocks (115 years), Gordon & MacPhail have some of the rarest whiskys around.

At the Gordon & MacPhail table were the “Distillery Labels”, meaning they buy the whisky from a distillery, mature and bottle them without blending, all under licence from the distillery. Two stand-outs were the Strathisla 25 years old 43% and the Smith’s Glenlivet 15 years old 43%.

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The Smith’s Glenlivet 15 years old 43%, a sweet fresh and fruity style of whisky

The Smith’s Glenlivet 15 years old 43% comes from the famous Glenlivet Distillery, aged in old Sherry casks, it had a light sweet, fruity aroma with woody hints, with a fresh pineapple-pear notes rounded off with a hint of banana and spice. Don’t be fooled by the pale gold color, this whisky had a long finish that left me yearning for more; this was why I marched straight to the retail section and got me a bottle.

The Strathisla 25 years old 43% was hidden and controlled at the table as there was only one bottle and only the favored few got a taste. And boy, what a taste! Coming from the famous Stratisla Distillery owned by the Chivas Brothers, this golden amber liquid had a bold Sherry aroma with hints of toffee; it was sherry sweet, chocolaty with a nutty undertone. The rich chocolaty, oily finish simply lasts and lasts. It was most unfortunate that this was not for sale that night.

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The Strathisla 25 years old 43%, the other highlight of the Whisky Live 2011 event

At Whisky Live Singapore 2011, I finally had the opportunity to taste some Irish Whiskey. I had a dram or two before but it didn’t really register much in my memory save for a note of disappointment and a promise to learn more. Unfortunately, the Wild Geese table was extremely popular and I was stuck with a pretty young thing that couldn’t explain the difference between “Limited Edition” and “Rare”.

Most regrettably, as I’ve just had powerhouses like the GlenDronach and The Strathisla 25 years old 43%, The light, slightly floral but very salty Wild Geese range of Irish Whiskeys tasted almost identical. The Wild Geese people were overwhelmed by people pushing their glasses at them and coupled with being jostled around, I gave up trying to ask for someone to guide me through the range and moved on.

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It was better at the GlenDronach table where there were less people (no pretty young things would be my guess) but the group gathered round were the cognoscenti. Asked hard questions about water, wood and age, I must say the GlenDronach representatives held their ground.

The GlenDronach 18 year-old Allardice was a grand whisky with a tremendous finish and complexity with molasses and dark cherries but I rather fancied the 15 year-old Revival for it’s dark toffee, orange-y notes with a nice chewy fruit finish that’s lively on the tongue.

And of course, we must not forget The Glendronach 1991 Pedro Ximinez Puncheon #3182; on the nose, it didn’t come across as anything spectacular but in the mouth, you get lively lashings of stewed fruits; pears, plums and cherries simmering with a curl of orange peel and cinnamon. The finish wasn’t as long as I expected but it left a nice mint chocolate hint.

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The surprise of the night, for me, was the Nikka range of Whiskys; I tasted the Pure Malt blends and the Single Malts and they were all outstanding, especially the Single Malts.

Everyone was urging me to forgo the rest and go straight to the Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Years but I ignored them. The multiple award-winning Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Years definitely deserves its accolades with its bold fruity spiced tea aroma, tasting of Sherry with an interesting spicy mix of black pepper, ginger and orange peel. However, I much preferred the Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Years which is lighter and had a more subtle fruit and a faint leathery aroma and the subdued spice mix allowed a more peaty chocolate finish that’s easier on my palate.

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My first taste of Whisky was the Laphroaig, one of the strongest tasting whiskys around with its unmistakable peat bog, iodine flavors; I loved its sweet grassy-green complexity but I wouldn’t choose it to introduce people to the world of peaty whisky. Instead, I would choose the Nikka Miyagikyo 12 Year Old or the Nikka Yoichi 12 Year Old.

The Nikka Miyagikyo 12 Year Old has a light peat undertone that quickly makes way for a gentle sweet, almost floral vanilla, nutty flavor. It was so light that I felt I was drinking a full-bodied floral green tea with a subtle smoke like a Fukamushicha. If you wish to introduce someone to the wonderful world of whisky, you can’t go wrong with the Nikka Miyagikyo 12 Year Old.

However, my preference was the Nikka Yoichi 12 Year Old which is a touch heavier (fuller bodied) than the Miyagiko 12 Year Old. The peat flavors on the Yoichi are stronger but still it quickly gives way to a nice rounded fruity aroma of apricots, apples and some mint. The taste was full-bodied (relative to the Miyagiko) with peat undertones and a nice vanilla cream. The finish was ethereal with a superb balance of peat, fruit and smoke. Definitely something I want in my home.

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This blog is normally 2-3 drinks under par which means I am usually serious and highly irritable; which is why I wasn’t too pleased with the management of the reception counter where they were struggling with what to do with my entry ticket. After much headless running about, they finally had to acknowledge that I had a legitimate ticket and let me in. Seriously, I prefer competence over looks. But after 2-3 drams in me, I felt less annoyed and more open.

I even bumped into 2 long-lost friends, one of whom I might even reconnect with and made a few acquaintances where we went around generally having a roaring good time.

One of the best things about attending such an event is the amount of learning you get. There was so much learning that after 3 hours, I was dizzy and had to hold on to my tasting glass for support in case I fall over, if you get my drift.

Whisky Live Singapore 2011 was a fun event where like-minded people got together in fellowship and camaraderie to experience the Water of Life. It didn’t matter if you were a Poseur or Conman, Neophyte or Connoisseur, because Whisky is the Great Social Leveler; after a few glasses, you are quickly welcomed and assimilated into the fold. Much to learn, as it were.

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Posted on 24th May 2011 in Drink, Food and Drink, Musings, Singapore

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There Are 4 Comments

 

imp commented on May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am


Your photos reveal a grand night out. And with your words, clearly, you’re the whisky man. Luckily not much issue at reception, otherwise, call me and I’ll go yell at someone.

Ahhh…I’d have loved a dram of the Strathisla 25.y.o again. And to taste the Glendronach 1991. I’ve never tried that.


 

Manish commented on June 8, 2011 at 12:36 am


Hi,

Thanks for sharing. To be honest after tasting Laphroaig, I have become a fan of it. Now no other whisky stands for me. The smoky and bbq flavor is really amazing..

I am not a professional or a regular whisky taker but since I have started consuming Single Malts, i like to exploring more options and taste other brands.

Is there any good shop from where I can buy nosing glass and fine whisky glasses.


 

Ivan commented on June 9, 2011 at 12:02 am


@Manish: It’s one of my favorites and after tasting a single malt, it’s hard to go back to blends.

For glasses, I got my whisky glasses from La Maison du Whisky.


 

Manish commented on June 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm


Thanks Ivan..


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