Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

  • Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%
  • Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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Whisky Lady – January 2018

Everyday Asia

January was nearly travel free!!! Til the 31st Jan when I hopped on a plane to Bangalore…

However I still couldn’t join all whisky related sessions…. sigh…  thus is the life of a working gal, even if the Whisky Lady element remains!

All our Mumbai based whisky groups had an opportunity to meet.

It kicked off the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen hosting with the Whisky Ladies for an evening of three Douglas Laing blends and one Sansibar blend:

As the Whisky Ladies had already joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” which resulted in:

  • Mars Iwai 40%
  • Glenrothes Manse Reserve 43%
  • Glenmorangie 19 year 43%
  • Bunnahabhain Ceobanach 46.2%

Our original club met however I alas…

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Whisky Lady – December 2017

Everyday Asia

December brought yet another a trip to Germany with much merriment and mischief for this  Whisky Lady on my return!

All three groups had an opportunity to meet…

Normally our original group does not meet in December. However I used my powers of persuasion to pull together an ‘off the books’ evening to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Our “O Canada” evening included:

Our Whisky Ladies embraced the season with an Après-ski theme featuring:

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Whisky Lady – November 2017

Everyday Asia

November brought a trip to Germany and Singapore (with a side dish of WhiskyLive) that kept tastings on track for the  Whisky Lady!

The best was all three groups aligned to my mad travel schedule so there was a concentrated burst of all three sessions in less than a week!

Our Whisky Ladies enjoyed a carefully selected affordable trio Gordon & MacPhail:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar  gents, we explored a “Peat Unusual” theme with narry an Islay whisky among the selection…

  • Lowland – Alisa Bay 48.9%*
  • Islands – Ledaig “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 40%*
  • Highland – Loch Lomond Peated 46%*
  • Speyside – BenRiach 25 year 46%*

(*Tasting notes coming soon!)

Just as the BMC gents explored peat…

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Whisky Lady – October 2017

Everyday Asia

October was the 1st month that I juggled a new full-time ‘regular’ job that immediately plunged me into a demanding yet incredibly interesting project. And yet, what is a Whisky Lady to do but keep up with tastings too!

Thankfully it was a ‘slow’ month with only the Whisky Ladies and Original club’s having full tasting sessions. To keep things interesting, there were also were a few minis sessions too!

Our Whisky Ladies celebrated Diwali in all our finery and accompanied the festivities with Asia focused whiskies:

Rye (Photo: Nikkhil Shirodkar)

Whereas our original club had a remarkable rye focused evening:

  • Cody Road Rye (Iowa)
  • Cascadia Rye (Português Port Barrels) 43.5% (Washington)
  • High West Whiskey Double Rye…

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Whisky sampling vs drinking

“Are you tasting whisky every day??” or “You must drink A LOT of whisky!!!”

Yes… that’s what I hear when folks learn I enjoy exploring whiskies. Or see my regular posts.

With the implication that my drinking must be high in quantity, frequency and perhaps even to excess.

And yet, here is the thing.

Believe it or not, I do quite the opposite.

A little goes a long way. I’ve been known in social occasions to skip the alcohol on offer as it simply didn’t appeal…

And that makes some people uncomfortable.

Because there is a quiet little secret in social circles and the alcohol industry… alcoholism. There. I’ve said it out loud.

Tasting whisky in moderation is quite different than regularly drinking too much.

There is a very good reason I openly shared my Whisky Live Survival Guide mantra of “sniff, swish, savour and spit.” If it was changed to “sniff, swish, savour and swallow” I would have been waving and weaving my way through the stalls, missing the best stuff and paying the price the next day. Not my thing and definitely not worth it.

And while my posts may be relatively frequent, the reality is they are typically based on around 2-3 tasting sessions a month where we sample 3-5 whiskies, sometimes supplemented with a minis evening or a one-off tasting.

And when we have a tasting session, it tends to be smaller pours, in a structured setting, where sampling can stretch over a few hours… liberally offset with water and food.

That’s it. Really. Generally you won’t find me sipping a whisky otherwise.

I think it’s terrific if you enjoy a dram or two! And even more so if you are as passionate as I am about exploring the world of whisky… Just please be kind to yourself and those around you – drink responsibly.

‘Nuff said.

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

September Samplings – Writers Tears, Springbank Burgundy + 12 year Cask Strength

It has been a long time since I missed one of our original club’s whisky tasting evenings. It is because of this dedicated group that I even started writing about whisky – initially just to chronicle our monthly tastings. However it simply could not be helped…

Stepping into the breech was a newer member who volunteered to document the impressions and discussions. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Nikkhil Shirodkar.

Nikkhil heads Broadcast Technology & Operations at 9X Media – India’s largest music network.

His passion for whisky is infectious and his quest to know more impressive. Nikkhil’s whisky preferences lean towards the well balanced and nuanced styles. He is a big fan of Compass Box, Highland Park and old style whiskies like Mortlach and Lochside. On the Irish side he is a big fan of Midleton and Redbreast.

He also just so happens to be the 1st man to write a guest post for Whisky Lady in India… with tasting notes about all three whiskies sampled in September by our original club:

Check out the links above to read what Nikkhil has to say!

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Whisky Lady – September 2017

Everyday Asia

September’s Whisky Lady tastings was a mixed month as one club didn’t meet and another did but it was a rare session I missed due to travel! Naturally I augmented with other experiences and shared the final set of tasting notes from our remarkable July which had seven different sessions!

The gents from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club met late August with an unusual selection of three Single Grains and two Indian whiskies:

Our whisky ladies had a lovely Sunday sundowner with this quartet:

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Whisky samples storage…

I’m exceedingly grateful when whisky samples wind their way to me. Usually it is via friends and family. Occasionally it comes from the #whiskyfabric of fellow whisky explorers not otherwise known live and in person.

However, I’ve learned the storage container makes a BIG difference in keeping the quality of the sample… particularly if you don’t plan to try it immediately.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned the hard way, in hopes it will help you avoid whisky tragedies!!

Odour/taste contamination

  • Never, ever store in a bottle that held anything pungent. Best is to use fresh, clean, new bottles.
  • Where that isn’t possible, use an empty whisky miniature bottle that has been thoroughly cleaned and properly dried.

Avoid jars with rubber…

  • My aunt and uncle generously shared samples in properly cleaned baby food jars. It seemed like a good idea however as these were large, we transferred them into mini jam jars. 
  • Do yourself a favour – don’t ever do what we did!! Something terrible happened… in Mumbai conditions, the rubber odours ooze into the whisky, rust spots even appeared on the lids?!
  • Any whisky in such sub-optimal storage used to transport should be either consumed as soon as you reach your destination or immediately transferred.

Tops matter too!

  • Just as you don’t want contamination from rubber, plastic too can give off unwanted aromas, negatively impacting your lovely whisky… I even found one type that seemed promising, but the plastic had a tendency to crack!?
  • Similarly those lovely old mini whisky bottles you think you can re-use? Be vigilant! One tiny sign of rust in the cap and it is a “no go”!!!

If buying new, which is best for you?

  • Yes… I know buying new bottles can be surprisingly expensive, but get the right style and it is completely worth it!
  • I’ve been reasonably happy with three types of bottles for storing samples…
    • 60 ml – If you plan to share with 2-3 folks, this is a good bet. Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula tends to opt for these…
    • 50 ml – The standard whisky miniature style works well to share with 1 or 2 others… There is a reason it has a narrow long top – it helps reduce that pesky oxidation.
    • 20 ml – If just for you to sniff, sip and savour solo or you have limited space, you’d be surprised how much you can get from these bottles. All of our Nordic samples came in such a tiny but powerful packages.

All labels/pens are not created equally!

  • So you you’ve put the whisky in its new container, then what?? Sticky labels can be a handy way to slap on a new moniker… however be sure it is of a higher quality as I’ve had a few disintegrate if a bit of liquid accidentally comes on it.
  • As for the pen? Permanent marker please! Or at a minimum, a permanent pen. I’ve had a few mystery malts thanks to the ink blurring beyond comprehension.

Size matters

  • Finally, while I’ve been focused on smaller samples, what about those large 700 ml or 1 L bottles? Do you leave them alone or do something?
  • The trick with storing whisky is to minimize the oxidation, so keep a few nice empty whisky bottles in various smaller sizes like 180 ml, 200 ml, 375 ml, 500 ml…
  • Depending on how long you plan to store, it can be smart to transfer your whisky into the clean old bottle that best fits the quantity remaining… and don’t forget to label the bottle!

Naturally I’m sure most folks will say the simplest solution is just to drink the stuff! You aren’t wrong.

Another solution for a freshly opened bottle is to take some of those sample bottles, fill, label and share, then either use a vacu vin or transfer the balance into a smaller bottle if you plan to store for some time.

Because as good as it is to get whisky, it is nice to give back too!

Interested in more random whisky tips? Check out a few here:

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Origins and palate preferences?

While most of my posts are filled with tasting notes of various whiskies explored, I must disclose the observations are typically an amalgam of several palates as the drams are shared and discussed as part of whisky clubs of informal sessions with friends.

I value the different reactions to what we try and recognize our perceptions of a whisky’s aroma and taste is inextricably linked to associated memories of distinctive yet familiar smells and flavours.

Hence you will often find my tasting notes peppered with references that are both common to say North America and equally India. This is simply a part of the duality of my life – hailing originally from Canada but living long term in India. Our cultural and culinary context influences our interpretation of a whisky.

For the most part, palate preferences are specific to an individual. Some love deep dark rich sherry drams, others long for the curl of peat, some prefer fruity and others saltier fare… for many, like me, preferences are context and mood dependent. My preferences have also shifted significantly over the years as I’ve gained exposure into different styles and the extraordinary range the world of whisky has to offer.

So why then was I so surprised at our last Whisky Ladies session? Where there was a very clear distinction between the reaction of those whose origins are outside of India vs those whose origins are within?

It was our first and only time where there was such a divide – sure we have different reactions and different opinions. That’s a huge part of the fun of tasting together! But not so diametrically opposed along lines of origins.

And what was the controversial whisky that provoked such a reaction? The Aultmore 5 year 66.8% Master of Malt which was first sampled as part of an exception evening of “Dream Drams” with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

The notes I took did not reflect the full story:

  • Nose – Sherry, chocolate, nutty, figs, dates, banana bread with nuts and sultanas
  • Palate – For some it was smooth, bursting with rich Christmas cake for others a complete brushfire – of pure fire
  • Finish – Very dry, long, cinnamon and cloves spice… for others just numbing like going for dental surgery
  • Water – Helped make it a bit more accessible

So what was the distinction? Well… those originally from India found it just too much alcohol and simply didn’t care for it at all… in short found it nearly undrinkable.

And those originally from outside India who have adopted India as home? Could go past the high alcohol strength to find interesting elements… in short found it drinkable. While perhaps not a 1st choice, certainly not a last one.

It was awkward to have such a peculiar palate divide and strange to have origins so firmly come into play.

However, our best discovery of the evening? The cask strength Aultmore goes brilliantly with our host’s home made banana bread! Just as we discovered those notes in the whisky, like magic – out came one of the best banana breads I’ve had in literally years!

Good baking and whisky – fabulous combination! And a great close to our sampling session.

What else did we taste in our Whisky Ladies “Worthy Whiskies” Sunday Sundowner?

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