Whisky Night

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We had quite a few new whiskies to try out, first being the rather famous Yamazakis. These beat Scottish whiskies in blind taste tests and we were curious to taste the difference. It helped that in my last pass through Heathrow airport, I had a little sip of the Yamazaki 12 and was very taken by it.

The Yamazaki 12 (43%) is the entry level single malt from Suntory. It’s very smooth and light, with slightly fruity pineapple overtones and a lovely smokey ending. Lightened with a few drops of water, it takes on an almost sweet character. Very easy for a first-time single malt drinker.

Now the Yamazaki 18 (43%) is three times the price. I’m not sure if it’s three times as good as the 12, but it is Very Good. At first there was nothing much on the palate, but suddenly it exploded in the mouth like fireworks (the fireworks bit is according to DC). It’s smooth and buttery, tasting like dark herbal honey, except without the sweetness. It’s firmly on the favourites list.

We also got the MacDuff 27 (45%). It was from a little shop at Ion Orchard called Vom Fass that dispensed various liquors, vinegars and oils into little bottles. We started with 100ml of it for starters. This whisky took us on a different plane altogether. It was smooth like no other whisky I’ve tried, with very little bite of alcohol. It had an almost hay-like nose and a complex blend of flavours that made me keep going at the little bottle. We’ll have to get a refill to taste again.

Single Malt Appreciation Club: Highlanders and a New Islay

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It was yet another overdue meeting of the newly renamed Single Malt Appreciation Club. In addition to our mainstays of Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask, we had a Highland Park12, a Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition and a Kilchoman. Tricia brought the Highland Park from a sojourn to Batam and the Kilchoman from whisky trip to Scotland. Hypodermically and Jam somehow found the Macallan sitting at home.


It was up to Tricia, the resident whisky expert to line them up for tasting. Her usual impeccable taste was spot-on! The Highland Park first then the other Highland Macallan, followed by the Islay with the youngest Kilchoman first, then the restrained and elegant Lagavulin and last the brash, in-your-face Laphroaig.

I must admit upfront my bias against Highland malts. I’m not so keen on sweet and spicy without the peaty as I find it quite flat and not a great deal different from other liquors. What makes whisky special for me is the complexity that peat brings into the picture. With that, I dismissed the Highland Park 12 (40%) quickly by taking a quick whiff and sip of Tricia’s dram. As expected, it was nothing but sweet honey and fairly one-dimensional.

The Macallan (42.8%), as a Speysider, fared a bit better. I think I’ll enjoy drinking it on off nights where somehow an Islay would be too much work for me. The honey was rounded with spice and orange peel, quite the thing to put in a fruit cake and then enjoy with said cake. The tasting notes mentioned toffee but I didn’t get any, probably because I was still recovering from a bout of flu. Definitely one to try again.

The Kilchoman (pronounced “kil-ho-man”) Spring 2010 Release (46%) was a strange hybrid of honey and peaty smoke. There was something rough and unfinished about it,  I guess that indicates that it would benefit greatly from more ageing. Nonetheless, it was full of promise and I’m definitely looking forward to a later release. Just too bad it isn’t available in Singapore yet.

Wine Notes: Three Italians and an Argentinian

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One of my goals this year is to learn more about wine. I have started writing notes to find out which wines I like more and to use that to expand the repertoire of wines I like, rather than stick to a few types or indiscriminately buy any plonk from the supermarket. So learn along with me on this series of wine notes.

I’m lucky to have wino friends who open good bottles and teach me how to taste. (One technique is rather unsightly: on a sip of wine, purse the lips and take in a breath to aerate. Not good first-date behaviour.) They also lend me good books on the subject.

I’m also lucky to have friends who invite me to wine tasting sessions and others who just like to drink.  This time, I joined a friend in search of wine for her wedding. It was lots of fun socialising with the small crowd, nibbling on cheese and crackers, and trying out estate bottled olive oil. Oh and there was the wine too!

Three of the wines were from the same Italian vineyard in the Chianti region, Fattoria La Gigliola. First up was a white called Gigliolino Bianco di Toscana (2005). It was pale yellow with a gentle floral nose, medium to slightly sweet and had a slight acidic bite to finish. Didn’t detect any apple bouquet as mentioned in the write-up. Light and approachable, it was a bit like a girl next door. It’s a crowd pleaser, perfect well chilled for an outdoor wedding party perhaps? Rating: 3/5

Next was San Enrico (2005) displaying a bright transparent red, with a vague berry nose typical of a nondescript red. The description had “cherry” and “spice” in the bouquet but my nose was unmoved. It struck me as the typical wine for chugging, best at a barbecue. I suppose if it was a girl, it’d be the all-purpose generic cheerleader type. Bright and cheerful, but without depth. Rating: 3.5/5

The Campoleo (2005) was the most interesting of the three. It was purplish red and gave a very distinct whiff of Ribena. I’ve never had a wine smelling so strongly of blackcurrant before. It had good tannins but in the end felt like a girl who OD-ed on Body Shop perfumes. Verdict: I’d drink a bottle of this just to see if the Ribena taste wears off. Fun but not for regular drinking. Rating: 4/5

The best of the lot was the Argentinian. It was a Malbec from Bodegas del Genio in the Mendoza region (2005). A deep red, it had a berry bouquet normally associated with cabernet sauvignons. It was juicy with good tannins and  had enough complexity to keep you interested throughout an evening. It’s not immediately approachable for someone who doesn’t drink much wine. It’s like that quiet girl that not everyone likes who becomes more interesting as you get to know her. Rating: 5/5

Writing this report made me realise how little I think about the wine experience. Bear with me in this wine series, I’ll improve as I go along.

Key to ratings:

0 Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
1 I’d rather drink beer
2 If there’s nothing better
3 Just one glass is fine
4 More, please!
5 Where can I get a case?