There was something different about last weekend’s Whisky Live Singapore 2017.

Firstly, there was the change of location – after two consecutive years at Sentosa Island, this year the organisers, La Maison Du Whisky Singapore (LMDW), moved the show to a smaller, more intimate venue on Mohamed Sultan Road.

Instead of closing the whole show off for ticket-buyers only, this year there was also an open-to-the-public Cocktail & Food Street, and after party.

There was even a more artistic touch to the whole event, thanks to an art gallery featuring prints from Vic Oh and James Purpura, whose works are used as labels on LMDW’s own exclusive bottlings under the Artist Collective series; and Lino di Vinci, who is the seventh artist to contribute to LMDW’s for Artist series. There was also a photo exhibition that took guests to the Caribbean islands where the Neisson and Clairin rums are from.

But that wasn’t all that was different with this year’s Whisky Live Singapore. This year, the event felt less like a whisky trade exhibition, and more like a really, really big gathering of whisky-loving friends. Maybe it was the smaller venue, which meant the booths in the main Whisky and Spirit Rooms were a lot closer to each other. In any case, Whisky Live Singapore was a lot of fun this year, and we haven’t even mentioned the whiskies yet …

So, without further ado, here are some of the more notable drams I had at Whisky Live Singapore 2017. (Note: I’ve limited the selection to official bottlings available in the main rooms only).

If you asked him nicely, Glenfiddich brand ambassador Fergusson-Stewart might have let you try the Winter Storm in his pocket at Whisky Live Singapore. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

If you asked him nicely, Glenfiddich brand ambassador Matthew Fergusson-Stewart might have let you try the Winter Storm in his pocket. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

Glenfiddich Winter Storm

If you were looking for this at the Glenfiddich booth, you probably wouldn’t have found it. To get to try it, you’d have to approach the Glenfiddich regional brand ambassador, Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, and give him a nudge, a wink, or an outright “can I have some of that whisky in your pocket?”. It’s not even officially launched in Malaysia or Singapore yet, but it’d be remiss for me to not mention it.

The third in Glenfiddich’s Experimental series, Winter Storm is a 21-Year-Old whisky finished in ice wine casks. On the nose and up front, there is a light, delicate fruity sweetness that opens up to a more robust tropical fruit palate, and a bit of a dry finish. A worthy addition to the Experimental series, which also includes a whisky finished in ex-IPA beer casks!

Glenlivet Nadurra

Meaning “natural” in Gaelic, the Nàdurra range is non-chill filtered and produced in small, exclusive batches.

There were two versions available for tasting at Whisky Live – Nàdurra Oloroso (matured in first-fill Oloroso sherry oak casks from Jerez) and Peated Whisky (finished in casks that previously held heavily peated Scotch whisky) – both boasting a hefty 61.3% and 62% ABV respectively.

I’ve always had a soft spot for The Glenlivet’s Nàdurra range, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it being served at the distillery’s booth at Whisky Live, alongside its latest entry level bottling, The Glenlivet Founders Reserve.

Nikka Coffey Gin and Vodka were the standout non-rum and non-whisky spirits at the event. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

Nikka Coffey Gin and Vodka were the standout non-rum and non-whisky spirits at the event. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

What sets the Nàdurra range apart for me is the fact that it is bottled at a natural cask strength (though this might differ in travel retail), and the whiskies are almost a world apart from its core range.

Despite the high strength however, the Oloroso was a smooth, creamy tipple with lovely dried apricot notes, and a sweet, oily fruity finish that seemed to go on forever. The Peated Whisky was even more surprising – you hardly get any Glenlivet whiskies with peat in it, but this really shows us what we’ve been missing, with peat smoke in the background of a rich, sherried fruity whisky.

Nikka Coffey Vodka and Gin

This year, the Spirits Room was somewhat overwhelmed by rums. Not that I was complaining, as I got to try some really great ones, including a stunning Caroni 23-Year-Old up at the VIP Room, which was arguably the best one I tried at Whisky Live. Closer to home, Thai brands Phraya and Chalong Bay of Phuket also made their presence felt.

The biggest surprise for me among the non-whisky spirits, however, had to be Nikka’s latest additions to their Coffey series, which include its popular Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt whiskies. Incidently, they are not made from coffee, but are named after the Coffey stills used to distil the spirits.

Considering they’re only three-years old, Wolfburn surprisingly does not burn. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

Anyway, the Nikka Coffey Gin is infused with 11 botanicals, including yuzu, sansho pepper, kabosu, amanatsu, and shequasar (the last three are different types of citrus) from Japan. I found some of the botanicals a little too overwhelming, but with a bit more tweaking of the formula, this could be a fabulous gin.

The vodka, however, was a huge surprise, with creamy, sweet notes, and even a bit of meaty savouriness. I could actually sip the vodka on its own, and still get a whole lot of flavours coming through.

Wolfburn

Wolf what? Don’t be surprised if you have not heard of Wolfburn – it’s a relatively new distillery that only just released its first whiskies, a trio of three-year-old bottlings that were also available at Whisky Live Singapore.

They may be only three years old, but these were some impressive drams indeed. In fact, my first impression of these whiskies was “Wolfburn don’t burn!”. Despite the age, there was hardly any of the alcohol burn one would normally associate with really young Scotch, which has to be aged a minimum of three years to be considered “Scotch”.

Somehow, the whiskies had a smooth creaminess that belied its youth, which was neatly balanced by the flavours imparted by the respective maturing casks. Definitely one to look out for in the future.

Honourable mentions

Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough space for me to highlight every single whisky I tried, so here’s a roundup of some of the more notable drams I had at Whisky Live Singapore:

Teeling Brabazon Bottling 01: Aged entirely in sherry casks, this new Irish whisky balances the usual Irish fruitiness with some rich dark fruits from the sherry casks.

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.3: insanely peated with a high 59.5% ABV, but sweet and smooth, with gentle smoke on the nose and palate. A true study in contrasts.

Highland Park Valkyrie: a sweet, fruity dram that serves well as a session whisky AND as a one-off late night dram.

Paul John Kanya: An Indian single malt matured for seven years in first-fill American white oak casks. So sweet, soft, and creamy that I could scarcely believe it had 50% ABV.


Michael Cheang was really living whisky at Whisky Live. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.

This year's Whisky Live Singapore felt more like a gathering of whisky-loving friends than a trade exhibition. Photo: La Maison du Whisky

This year’s Whisky Live Singapore felt more like a gathering of whisky-loving friends than a trade exhibition. Photo: La Maison du Whisky