The Malt Vault

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Fishball was introduced to a little place in Ann Siang Hill that specialised in single malts. The Single Maltoholics congregated at the very aptly named Malt Vault. It’s a small place, cosy with soft seats round low tables and some space by a short bar; all augmented nicely by nostalgic jazz videos playing on two screens behind the bar.

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The whisky menu was staggering. It was divided into the requisite regions of Scotland: Islay, Speyside, Island, Lowland and Campbeltown, each section replete with an eyeboggling array of whiskies. Faced with the paradox of choice, we asked the owner for recommendations. To his question of what sort of whisky we liked, the responses “peaty,” “smokey,” and “Islay” all came up. We started name-dropping our favourites from Ardberg and Laphroaig to Lagavulin. Three of us girls were very taken by the recommendation of the 1979 Caol Ila, while Mfluder had the Bunnahabhain, Jeff the Ardberg 15 and DC the Laphroaig 1998.

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Our drams arrived in proper tulip-shaped glasses that I thought very pretty. We then merrily tasted each other’s whiskys, the proceedings getting merrier the more we tasted. The Laphraoig didn’t disappoint with its characteristic wood and hospital (!) nose, smooth smoke and salty finish. My favourite of the evening was my own Caol Ila. At a whopping 60%, this fella came with a sledgehammer alcoholic kick, but oh the vanilla, honey and spice start. Chased by refined smoke and finishing off with mild salt, this was definitely a keeper. After a few sips, some orange peel came through. Such a good one to savour.

Tricia, Jeff and I scored a coup. As we tasted Jeff’s Ardberg 15, Tricia thought it tasted like cheese, while Jeff thought it was more like smoked bacon. I detected vanilla. When the owner came over to give us some pointers on the tasting, he gave exactly the same words right back to us! Now all we need to do is keep drinking together!

Aside from whiskys, Malt Vault also does exclusive Scottish beers. James and his girlfriend had Belhaven Scottish Ale, which according to Tricia is probably the smoothest, creamiest ale she’s ever tried. When Fishball finally turned up, he asked for his bottle of  Bruadar whisky liqueur. It was honey and sloe berries spiked with whisky and at first sniff was something like a body wash from The Body Shop! It was straightforward (the expected honey and berry nose and sweet taste) and very easy on the palate. Not a bad way to end the evening.

Malt Vault
Basement No. 12 Ann Siang Road
Tel: 9026 3466
mr.malt@maltvault.com.sg

Beer and Pinot Noir

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I met up with Tweych for dinner and drinks. It was a pity that our sushi dinner hardly stood out especially considering that the place claimed to fly in fish daily. I didn’t like how loosely the rice was packed and felt that the fish wasn’t particularly fresh. It wasn’t frozen but neither was it fresh. However, I enjoyed the standing sushi bar‘s Suntory Premium Malt’s (5%) which is supposedly hard to find in Singapore. It was a lovely pale yellow, very malty as expected and also surprisingly sweet. It went down fairly well with the sushi although I think Asahi Super Dry would probably do better at cutting through the seafood.

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Not being particularly satisfied, we headed to Moomba for wine. Our resident wine expert Tweych picked out a New Zealand pinot noir, the 2007 Wairau River Home Block Pinot Noir (13%). Like most pinot noirs, it was light red and of course still very young. There was plenty of heady cherry, strawberry and red currant in the nose and it went down very smoothly. The only problem was that I felt like I was drinking alcoholic Ribena. The feeling only damped slightly after about a glass or so when the mild tannins started showing through. It was not bad, but I’m still not quite convinced when it comes to pinot noirs.

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Standing Sushi Bar
1 Raffles Place
#B1-02B OUB Centre
Tel: 6533 7078

The Moomba Wine Shop
52A Circular Road
Tel: 6438 2438

Burps at the Beer Fest

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I was late to attend Beerfest Asia 2009 mainly because I was out diving for most of the time. (Will update on that in a while.) Finally made it on the last day, on a Sunday afternoon when all the fun was pretty much over. No matter, we made up for the lack of good music (and Vertical Horizon) by downing more beers.

We limbered up on the Turkish Efes which was surprisingly light for a 5% and tasted of… nothing at all really. This was swiftly chased down by our very own local Archipelago Travellers Wheat that had a very unique taste. I couldn’t place it until I looked it up on the website. It was tamarind and ginger together, so it was spicy and warming yet with a very pleasant tang.

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I’d originally planned to stop at a couple of beers, but I’d already paid $27 for entry only to pay more money to get my hands on some beer. So I wasn’t a particularly happy camper and proceeded to instigate my drinking companion to buy more beers.

The American Doggie Style Pale Ale (5.5%) was more packaging than good beer. We were not impressed. Another friend joined us with a Dog Schwarz (7.8%) and was similarly underwhelmed. No matter, onwards to better things! DC liked the Chimay Tripel (8%) from Belgium, proclaiming that it was complex, dark and… like a stew. I thought it was bitter and moved swiftly on to my favourite of the session. The Silly Saison (5%) was also from Belgium and was redolent of thick , buttery and almost salty caramel. It was smooth and amazingly good.

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Then came a silly in-joke as we drank to a friend called Calvin. Unfortunately the Calvinus Blonde (5%) from Switzerland lived up more to the second part of its name. Despite the pretty label, it was another one of those bland forgettables in the ocean of beer. John Calvin must’ve been rolling in his grave, more because it was such a bad beer, methinks.

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Next up came a short and rather ill-fated interlude with some cider. Magner’s Irish Cider (4.5%) from (you guessed it!) Ireland was, according to DC, metallic and tasted like rotten 500-year old cheese. I thought it was OK, but not worth the carbs and burps, so we moved swiftly on.

I don’t remember trying the Pompey Royal (4.5%) from the UK but DC said that it was malty and full-bodied with lots of hops. It was well-balanced and smooth, worth the $10 price tag. I remember scribbling some notes, but ended up losing them, so fat lot of good that did me and this blog post.

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And last of all, we dreg up the Swiss Schwarzer Kristall (6.3%) from the depths of my memory and all I remember is that it was a terrible letdown that tasted like the insipid Flying Dog stuff from the US.

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The conclusion really was that there are good beers and there are expensive beers and the two are not necessary the same. Oh and there are bad beers too. And beer makes me tipsy. And gives me a headache. So no more beer for a while.

A Faux-Chichi Night of Whisky

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There was cheese — a pecorino and a Manchego. Check. There were olives — a mix of marinated black and green ones, of which some were the Kalamata variety. Check. There was whisky — a Dalmore 15, a Talisker 10 years and a Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Check. There was even a Partagas cigar. We were all set for a chichi tasting session.

In contrast, we weren’t particularly chi ourselves. And a good thing for we had loads of fun chatting about all sorts of, um, odds and ends. Evidence is here.

This was my first time doing a serious whisky tasting complete with notes. First was the Dalmore 15, (40%) a Highland single malt. The deer stag logo was quite scary. Would probably give you a fright if you lift your drunken head off the table and suddenly its bloodshot eyes staring accusingly at you.

The whisky itself was sweet and smooth. After the sharp blast of alcohol passed, I detected notes of vanilla and caramel but none of the “aromatic cloves, cinnamon and ginger, Seville oranges, lemons and limes” of the accompanying literature. Neither did I get any clues from tasting it that it had been aged in “100% sherry casks — Matusalem, apostoles, amoroso.” Employing my great powers of imagination, I thought there was a hint of orange on first whiff but nothing more. It went well with the creamy pecorino. Otherwise, it seemed rather closed, like a wine awaiting maturity. I can’t figure this one out. Further educational sessions are clearly in order.

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Next came the Talisker 10 years (45.8%), an Island Single Malt. It comes from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye. It had a very complex nose. Despite the lower alcohol content compared to the Laphroaig, it need a lot more water for it to open up. There was something rather elusive about this whisky, I can’t quite find the words to describe it. The nose is a bit salty, somewhat reminiscent of the sea. After the initial alcoholic blast on the tongue, it takes off with lots of vanilla and malt, then the smoke asserts itself, finally leaving the peat to linger on the tongue. Very pleasing, especially with the Manchego. I think the salt crystals in the cheese emphasised the salt in the whisky.

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Last and best was the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48%), an Islay single malt. According to Wikipedia, the Quarter Cask is made to taste like the whisky made 100 years ago. The nose wasn’t as complex as the Talisker but there was something restrained and more refined about it. In the mouth, it started off with caramel and vanilla. Before long, the smoke emerged and left a long peaty finish. I enjoyed that greatly.

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It was a close fight, but the Laphroaig won this tasting session. We truly did save the best for last. (More because the owner turned up later.) I’m looking forward to more tasting sessions ahead.