I’ve personally noticed the growing fascination on whisky by Filipinos. Whisky has now replaced wine during get togethers; and new whisky and cocktail bars are popping out all around the city. I was recently discussing this phenomenon with a friend, and we came to conclude that the reason is because more Filipinos travel now, and often. And that we tend to look for what we’ve experienced abroad when we come home.
Luckily, we now have companies such as Grand Cru Wines and Spirits who imports the wines and spirits we find in the market today. They actually also own some of the trendy bars in the metro, comparable to those we see abroad. The numbers must speak for itself. That’s why they won the bid to bring Whisky Live, the biggest Whisky show in the world to Manila.
Whisky Live Manila
Whisky Live Manila was held on October 28 and 29 at the Grand Ballroom of Shangri-La Hotel at The Fort. More than 1000 people showed up on the first day which was quite amazing considering it was the first time a show like this came to Manila. It was also a long weekend so I’m sure more people who would’ve wanted to go were out of town. I had cut my trip short and flew back home one day before to attend this show. I also have friends who traveled from Cebu to join the party.
The Main Show
Upon registration, each guest was required to sign a standard waiver promising to drink responsibly. A Glencairn glass with Whisky Live logo, a bottle of water, and a bag of colored casino chips. There were 8 red, 1 blue and 1 white chips. The blue and white are used to vote for the best brand and best whisky maker, while the red ones are used for exchanging drinks from the producer’s booth. I know what you’re thinking; 30 exhibitors and over 200 SKUs of whiskies and all you get are 8 chips? No worries, you can get more from the chip replenishing station, as long as you pass the breathalyzer!
The event was very well organized. The booths are big enough to accommodate number of people who wanted a taste. When we went in, we first did a quick walk around the floor to check out the brands and their booth display. It was a good idea to do this while we had a clear mind.
I asked Johnssen Li, the owner of Grand Cru, for tips on how to navigate a whisky show like this. I even asked him to give me names of eight brands that I should go to since I obviously can’t tastes all of them…or can I?
He said to just go and talk to the brand ambassadors; they like talking about their whiskies. And true enough, after talking to one brand, we were cruising the floor like experts.
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Dalmore arrived the Philippines last year
Highland Whiskies from around the River of Spey, ergo Speyside
Speaking of Brand Ambassadors, I was given the chance to interview the three regional ambassadors representing the William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd. the pioneer of Single Malt Whiskies.
The family owned William Grant and Sons is the producer of popular brands Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, and Monkey Shoulders. The company is unique in a way that after almost 130 years and has grew into a huge group of companies, it is still 100% family owned. It sounded like a very nice company to work for.
It was interesting to peek into the lives of these brand ambassadors. They are paid to travel and drink and talk passionately about their whiskies.
Myself with Neil Strachan of The Balvenie & friends Ryan and Joyce
Master classes are small group events held by whisky experts where participants have the chance to learn from and drink with these experts. These masters are mostly brand ambassadors, but they also have experts such as well known figures in the industry: Jim Murray, author of Whisky Bible and Dominic Roskrow of the Whisky Magazine.
The Legendary Jim Murray
Each class is slightly different. Most Brand Ambassadors will give introduction of their respective distilleries and the bottles they carry. The ones that are most sought after were of Jim Murray: Blind Tasting and Dominic Roskrow’s Rare Single Cask Whisky tasting.
I was fortunate enough to get a complimentary slot at Adam Knox of Dalmore. Dalmore has one of the most expensive whisky available in the market (check the price below). But we didn’t get to taste that.
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Beyond the Whisky
Aside from the Whisky booths, Whisky Live also featured a cocktail bar and a cocktail competition participated by local bar tenders. Filipino brands such as Don Papa Rum offers killer cocktails. Tanduay, Philippines’ biggest distillery, was also one of the exhibitors and launched limited edition rum of only 500 bottles.
The Booze Shop
After sampling and questioning the brand representatives, you can buy bottles at the Booze Shop at 10% discount. This is a good opportunity especially if you’re getting the expensive bottles. Not only that; many of the bottles there are not even available in the Philippines.
Whisky Live tickets were priced at 2,500 per night. But with the opportunity to taste some of the world’s best whiskies in one place, I think it is a really good deal. It’s something to look forward to in the next 4 years.
Follow link to read more of my Whisky Live Manila 2016 journey.
WHISKY LIVE MANILA