We pick up where we left off from last week’s column where I shared three whisky tasting experiences: Bruichladdich, Glenmorangie, and Monkey Shoulder. Each brand has its own process, style, and feel, which translated to each of their events. They all had their own flavor, their own flair – and their brand ambassadors, who hosted the events, set the tone for how the experience was going to be. This week, I’ll tell you all about the two most recent tasting events I went to.
Wild Turkey brought in Global Brand Ambassador Mr. Robin Coupar (Scottish), who has dedicated more than 21 years of his life to the industry. This special tasting was done at Hooch Bar, Salcedo Village. He was eloquent and charming, he commanded respect, a man full of firsthand knowledge. He presented seven whiskies from the Wild Turkey brand, plus the Single Malt Glen Grant. He went through the whole motion of teaching how to appreciate bourbon whisky and what the differences are between bourbon and whisky (all bourbon is whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon). He also had inside information about the distilleries – firsthand information you don’t learn by just reading about the brand. We were lucky to have been there because they opened the very first bottle of Wild Turkey 17-year-old Master’s Keep in Southeast Asia! This was not only a treat, it easily became one of my favorites. This one-off batch was kept in a stone warehouse, where it’s damper and cooler, which makes the whisky take longer to mature. He told us to put a little bit of it in our hands, rub them together and take a whiff, to release the aromas. It has layers of smoke, leather, and wood, owing its earthiness to the dampness in the natural environment. I was thrilled to learn that Wild Turkey was bringing in Wild Turkey Rye. This is the only second rye brand in Manila. And being a rye fan (love it for its spiciness and the sexiness it adds to cocktails), here are the other brands he presented: Wild Turkey 81, Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey Forgiven (the happy accident of mixing their high proof ryes and bourbon blends, one of my favorites!), Russel Reserve 10-y-o, Russel Reserve Single Barrel and Glen Grant. Glen Grant is a Scotch whisky that I will definitely be recommending to first time whisky drinkers. It’s like alcoholic apple juice with grace and finesse.
The latest whisky tasting event I attended in Smith Butcher & Grillroom was for The Balvenie. Just when I thought this was going to be just another tasting presentation where the highlight was Balvenie’s great lineup of Scotch whiskies, I was so wrong. I was present in a room with not just one, but two Balvenie ambassadors: the Southeast Asia Regional Brand Ambassador Neil Strachan and the Global Brand Ambassador Samuel Simmons (who is working closely with Balvenie’s Malt Master, “The” David Stewart. This guy is a living legend in the whisky world!). We were treated to a presentation on the history and tradition of this premium single malt. Hearing about the tradition of passing on the skills of a malt master down to his successor, teaching not just the production process of the whisky, but the taste and aroma of what it should be, is inspiring. These people have dedicated their lives in preserving and continuing the tradition by sense of taste and smell. There is a certain romance to it, a passion that is contagious! I couldn’t help but feel moved by that story. This tasting was such a treat!
It was great seeing them in tandem. Neil, being a sort of newbie, was full of passion at getting his dream job, though a little nervous presenting with the global brand ambassador. Sam on the other hand was cool and humble, and seemed to have transferred some confidence during the presentation to Neil. It was beautiful to witness – like a new teacher being mentored by a master teacher. In the same line of Scotch knowledge being passed on from one generation to the next, it seemed like I saw this in action during the event, and felt privileged to have been there. It was genuine and did not feel intimidating at all. We were also given a special bottle of unaged whisky, which was just the icing on the cake.
The featured whiskies were The Balvenie Portwood 21-y-o, The Balvenie Doublewood 12-y-o, The Balvenie Single Barrel 15-y-o, and The Balvenie Doublewood 17-y-o. I particularly enjoyed The Balvenie 15 which was paired perfectly with oysters. When I had it, it was as if there were fireworks. It was an absolute match. The next time I have oysters, I would automatically want The Balvenie 15 (and vice versa). They are forever linked now.
Whew! That was a lot of whisky. I sort of feel bad about not finishing the samples! But you can’t fully appreciate the last (which they save the best for) if you’re pretty wasted. With the elevating landscape of the bar and alcohol scene in the Philippines, there will definitely be more of these tasting events coming, with all kinds of liquor. I strongly urge you to go to one (or all) if you can get yourself in or are able to afford it. It is certainly a great way to spend your time (and money). As consumers, it is our duty to know what we’re buying and consuming. As imbibers, these tasting events are a great way to learn more about the spirits we love, and are curious about. Plus, you’ll be among like-minded people who enjoy what you enjoy: booze. It’s like a learning community of sorts. And where else can you take a class where you can drink the lesson?
For people who are interested in attending tasting events and being in the know, you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter (@tipple_tales) and Instagram (@sanvicentegirl) and I’ll keep you guys posted. Cheers!