I need to make a decision… To go or not to go… that is the question.
It would seem obvious that a whisky lover would take advantage of every opportunity to explore. And with Whisky Live in Singapore convenient to us Mumbaikers, in a city that I’ve often called my “alternate home“, it seems a no brainer.
But here is where the challenge comes…. my 2nd experience in 2017…. wasn’t. I sincerely WANTED to enjoy it as much or even more than the previous year however…
What changed? In my exceedingly biased opinion…
Range – Less… far less…. mostly repeats… fewer “wow!” options. Granted I was a year further into my whisky explorations but surely the same distilleries would bring different expressions a year later? Not nearly as much as I had hoped…
Industry connect – Also far far FAR less… most booths were populated by local bartenders not folks actually directly associated with the distilleries or brands. Surface level schpeels which added little value to those keen to go beneath the marketing. There were a few with direct representation and some enthusiastic exceptions from the local team, but there is something completely different to chatting with someone actually FROM where the whisky is produced that makes all the difference. For me, that is the real advantage of such events… travelling to one place instead of many…
Crowds – Don’t get me wrong… there were crowds the previous year too however there was simply more room to wander around, to find a quiet corner to relax before heading back into the fray
Viva la venue? I really like the Robertson Quay area… once upon a time it was practically my home away from home… yet the venues alternated between sweaty outdoors and sweaty indoors as the A/C couldn’t keep up with crowd capacity then empty stretches of ‘gallery’ where you could neither sit and relax nor be more sociable… just stand… alone… and stare… at nearly blank walls
Cocktails king – Loads of opportunities to try different cocktails… which is certainly an industry trend. However call me a purest, I’m there to sniff, swish and savour my way through discovering the original dram not disguise it in a cocktail, however creatively that may be.
Drunken debauchery – You would think this is simply what to expect at a liquor event… however the emphasis and attendees seemed to care less about discovery and more about just drinking to get drunk. Not my cup of tea (so to speak). Clearly few followed a Whisky Live “Survival Guide” approach!
Collectors room – The separate seemingly rarified atmosphere of the 2016 collectors room contrasted completely with a sweaty bar just outside a raucous VIP room. And the collection seemed much smaller and pricier too. Dare I speculate the robbery that hit La Maison du Whisky in Paris not long before Whisky Live Singapore impacted the bottles on offer?
I could go on but you get the gist… it simply wasn’t for me… much as I would have wanted it to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I get that so much sincere intentions, work and sweat goes into pulling an event off like this. And am a huge fan of what La Maison du Whisky continues to contribute to the world of whisky – particularly through their Singapore store anchoring Asia.
However on a personal level, I still need to decide.. should I go to the 2018 event just a month away???
Brands much the same but I’ve calibrated expectations and remain optimistic there will be some new and/or unique expressions not previously featured…
Introduction of a new 10 coupon limit… hmmmm…. While I would never over the course of a wander through the whiskies ever actually consume 10 drams, I’ve always enjoyed the lack of limit. You can find me shamelessly sampling some 20+ exceedingly small pours… speed “tasting” through a sniff, swish and spit of a few precious drops. I do appreciate needing some mechanism to reduce consumption to more reasonable levels… however it is a significant change to think of making a nodding acquaintance with a mere 10 options.
No collector’s room on the venue map…. surely that can’t be right?
And the master classes? While I’d welcome a chance to enjoy Old Pulteney, Bruichladdich & Octomore again, the one that caught my attention was the “Rare Malts” for a mere $250! (yikes!)
Decisions, decisions, decisions…. Hop on a plane in a month… “Should I stay or should I go now??”
You can read more about my different Whisky Live Singapore adventures…
I must admit that normally, I drink whisky only during tasting sessions… where my palate preferences are pre-primed for a range of sensations and kinds of whiskies. I can fully get behind a peaty punch same as a rich sherry bomb or a full-on cask strength dram. Curve balls are welcome. Even something that isn’t ‘good’ but pushes the boundaries or introduces a new experience is given a chance.
But a funny little thing has started to happen.
As we worked at emptying the various ‘nearly done’ bottles as part of the whisky ‘house cleaning‘, I realized that for simple enjoyment, my preference has turned to primarily ex-bourbon, more nuanced and dare I say it? Accessible drams.
When did that occur??
It seems for me at least, context is everything. And when the context isn’t a tasting session – structured and formal, or impromptu and casual – I’ve veered away from inviting those crazy outliers and gravitated instead towards something simpler.
Perfectly hitting that “preferred style” dram was Shelter Point’s Single Malt – 1st Batch from 2016. Which repeated a year later with the next batch. Awaiting a chance to grab the next to meet this “sweet spot”!
In terms of whisky, the absolute highlight of all Singapore “watering holes” was an evening spent at The Auld Alliance a few years ago.
I was joined by one of the original member of our Mumbai based whisky tasting club. Since his move to Singapore a few years ago, he’s been much missed.
We were taken on a tour of the remarkable collection by Arun who shared insights and tales about the remarkable collection – from ship wreck rescues to historically unique bottles – traversing the world of whiskies.
We returned post a delightful dinner to sit down and enjoy two custom created sample sets featuring four whiskies each:
Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents are becoming rather regular in their sessions – no mean feat consider most members can be more easily be found loitering in London, Dubai, Munich, Singapore and various US and other airports. What did we explore? A Compass Box Quartet!
No Name 48.9% – Love it or not, you cannot ignore this peaty dram
Photo: Keshav Prakash
What a remarkable trio! As I could not make it to the session, the samples reached home to enable us to compare our guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar’s notes with the group with my independent impressions of our Kavalan Solist Cask Night:
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 with me Whisky Live Singapore 2017: