Writing this column has gotten me some perks. I get somewhat of a front row seat on the bar and alcohol scene. I’ve been to five whisky tasting events in the past few months. These events are good signs for the Philippine bar scene. These big liquor brands coming in and showcasing their premium products shows that the market here is viable and is just continuing to grow, and it’s not just limited to whisky.
It’s great that they have sent their brand ambassadors to present at the whisky tastings. They know their brand inside and out, give interesting tidbits about the making of the whiskies, and are able to introduce each product distinctly from the rest. Basically, these guys know their stuff.
The series of whisky tasting kicked off with the Bruichladdich brands (Islay Whisky), bringing in their Southeast Asian brand ambassador Richard Guillam. Him being a bartender worked to their advantage. He was extremely knowledgeable about the products and was able to describe the differences in each kind of whisky, clearly and with precision, and in a way that we understood immediately. Talking about alcohol came naturally to him; he taught us how to drink and how to make great cocktails out of them. This combination made learning about the Bruichladdich line even more exciting. He introduced the Laddie (unpeated), Porte Charlotte (heavily peated) and the Octomore 6.1 (the world’s peatiest Scotch whisky).
The Glenmorangie (Highland Whisky) tasting was paired with a great 8-course set meal from the Yurakuen Restaurant at the Diamond Hotel. The line up of whiskies for the night were Glenmorangie 10-year-old, 12-year-old, Glenmorangie 18 (extremely rare), Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or and Lasanta, Quinta Ruban. A sizable list of whiskies I know! But the whole portfolio just oozed distinction and delightful surprises. The food pairing and whisky lineup were a match made in heaven. The speaker for the event, Gerald Savigny, is an international consultant to hotels, as well as a wine sommelier and whisky master. While he knew enough about the products, since he is not the brand ambassador, there was something missing. I personally think brand ambassadors carry a piece of the brand’s soul. Maybe this was what was missing.
The relatively new kid on the whisky block is Monkey Shoulder (mix of three Single Malts: Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie). The brand was only recently officially launched in Manila last August 2015. The name pays homage to the malt men whose job it was to keep turning the barley by hand. The long hours they put in doing this caused their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, so they nicknamed it “monkey shoulder.” It will be important to note that while Monkey Shoulder still has their barley turned manually, work conditions have drastically changed, so this injury does not happen anymore. They sent their brand ambassador Zachary De Wit to introduce the whisky to Manila. He was very chill and took a relaxed take on this modern brand. He presented his slides with ease and he made his presentation in such a fresh manner, you had no reason not to listen to him even with a cool playlist playing on the background. He has mastered the art of cocktail making and is now the master of Monkey Shoulder in Asia. He embodies his brand; cool, confident and fun. This brand is meant to be enjoyed with a group of friends and really was created to make whisky cocktails stand out! The tasting ended with Zach introducing the card game, Cards Against Humanity, allowing him to connect more with remaining guests. He allowed you to be part of Monkey Shoulder. So, you went home not just learning about the brand, you feel like forever connected to the brand as well.
Whisky tasting events aren’t just a one-size-fits-all kind of occasion. Each brand has its own particular style and identity that translates to how the event feels. The brand ambassadors certainly have a big impact on that. Richard of Bruichladdich has a wide knowledge of spirits, having been a multi-awarded bartender, and has managed to shift into a bigger role by becoming a brand ambassador. He has passion and knowledge that was palpable. Gerald on the other hand is an expert on a lot of the aspects of liquor, so technical information was taught to you. Zach was a great choice for being Monkey Shoulder’s brand ambassador. Young, hip, and cool, plus being in the know about alcohol, he shared knowledge of the brand impressively. It was so fun, I felt like I’ve acquired a drinking buddy. Just like each spirit, each tasting event speaks to you in a different way.
Next week, I’ll share a few more tasting experiences that are also unique in their own ways. For people who are interested in attending tasting events and being in the know, you can drop me a line at [email protected] and I’ll keep you guys posted. Cheers!
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