Drinking is deeply ingrained in the Filipino culture. There is no merry making or celebration without a few San Miguels or Tanduays, both famous Filipino brands even outside the Philippines.
I love the drinking culture and have many happy hours enjoying beer, cocktails, and wine with family and friends. But whisky, I’ve only started to drink it socially. My dad used to drink a lot of whisky when I was little, but I find the strong alcohol scent offensive.
What changed is that my friends started to drink whisky. One day at a friend’s birthday celebration, there were no other options but Scotch. I sipped my scotch gingerly and before we knew it, it was daylight and three of us finished almost two bottles. I was sure I was going to get a serious hangover like I always do when I drink too much wine or cocktails. But lo and behold, none. Since then I drink Scotch more often and actually enjoy it.
Whisky Live Coming to Manila
So it’s not that we’re getting old. It’s just that there seem to be a mass awareness on whisky and single malt spirits that even the millennials are into whiskies these days. So it’s no wonder that Whisky Live, the world’s premiere whisky show is coming to Manila. The Whisky Live Manila is scheduled on October 28 and 29, at the Grand Ballroom of Shangri-La Hotel at The Fort. Tickets are on sale on their website.
Whisky Live Preview
As luck would have it, I got invited to take part in the exclusive & limited Whisky Flights Session for media on October 12 at The Brewery at the Palace Pool Club, BGC. Our host for the night were the lads from Grand Cru Wines and Spirits Philippines, who got the franchise of WhiskyLive for the Philippines for five years. So expect lots of whisky events to come!
I was particularly excited because not only will we be sampling some of their favorite bottles, but there would be a bit of a crash course on how to properly taste whisky and learn to identify the variety of flavors found in this complex drink. It’s a useful skill to have when I had over a hundred types of Scotch to sample during main event.
Steps in Whisky Tasting
A reasonable amount of whisky was served in a Glencairn glass (as shown on photos). You are encouraged to swirl it a bit so as to allow the whisky to wake up. In the mean time, ponder on the color.
Then put your nose to the glass and breathe in. The first sniff may be just really strong alcohol smell. But don’t get turned off; repeating the process three or four times, your nostrils will get used to the alcohol strength and soon be able to take in different aromas—chocolate? Fruit? Tobacco?
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve scrutinized it enough with your nostrils and have teased your brain enough, you reward yourself with a sip. Do not swallow immediately; let it linger a bit in your mouth to allow your palette to savor the different flavors. Upon swallowing, you’ll experience a slight burning sensation pass through your esophagus and finally blossoming across your chest.
What We Tasted
It’s quite interesting to break it down like that. We tasted three different bottles, and each one was a unique experience. I’ve tasted a few known brands of varied price range before. I’m glad Johnssen Li, owner and CEO of Grand Cru Wines and Sprites, introduced us to brands I’ve not tried before.
KA VA LAN
KaVaLan is an award winning whisky brand from Taiwan. Surprise! It has made its name and caused quite a stir when it won over Scottish and English whiskies in a blind tasting. We tasted the KaVaLan Concert Master Single Malt Whisky in green bottle. It has a 40% alcohol content. Collectively, we agreed that it was darkish red; fruity with hint of tobacco; and full bodied and bit sweet. Honestly, it was suggested to us by Johnssen. The rest of us were mostly either liking or disliking the experience. I like it a lot and will buy it in the future.
Glengoyne is the Highland of Scotland and has been in continuous operation since 1833. We tasted the 12 year old Highland Single Malt which has won several awards. Drinking this took me back to when I traveled around the expansive green rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands. It has a 43% alcohol content. Its color is light, maybe because of its age. Again this is suggested: spicy and vanilla scent; red apple and cinnamon flavor. Except for the brief travel experience, this one was unremarkable for me.
The Old Ballantruan is the most interesting of all the tasting. This is classified as independent bottling. This is Johnssen’s recent favorite. In fact, this brand is not even part of the Whisky Live event.
It was amusing how he introduced this whisky. He asked us to imagine being in Navotas. Funny because I’ve been to Navotas a couple of times this year to visit Infinity Expedition at the ship yard. So I am very familiar with the pungent fishy smell in the air that engulf you. Apparently, Speyside region where this whisky sleeps for many years, has similar air to that of Navotas. Naturally the end product will take in the environment as well as the actual ingredients used.
The Old Ballantruan Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky whisky has 50% alcohol content and is bottled without any chill-filtration, to retain the peaty “Navotas” flavors. The tasting notes: the smokey scent and flavor is very evident. Johnssen described it as seaweed briney. What my friend Kelly and I were thinking is “tinapa”—a Filipino delicacy of fish preserved with the process of smoking. The group were split on whether they like it or not. Kelly didn’t care for it, but I like and would love to taste it again.
Whisky Flight was an amazing experience and can’t wait for the main event on Oct 28 and 29.
For ticket purchases and more details about Whisky Live Manila visit their website at www.whiskylive.ph