Thursday 26 March 2015

Malt Masters Hong Kong 2015 & Charlie Maclean Masterclass

With Martin away in India (visiting Amrut Distilleries - detailed tour write-up soon), it was up to me to pick up the Glencairn and cover two back to back Hong Kong Whisky events. First up - Malt Masters Hong Kong 2015.

Hong Kong whisky enthusiasts (and those new to the whisky world) gathered at PMQ’s "the Qube" on Saturday 14th March to taste, explore and learn about all things whisky. Exhibitors present included many large and well-known brands such as Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Balvenie, Singleton, Arran, Old Pulteney and Jura. There were also a small number of independent bottlers (Berry’s from Berry Bros & Rudd, Hepburn, The First) and at least one new to the whisky world (Annandale - who aren't yet producing a "whisky", per se).  Although it was great to see so many Scotch whiskies, it would have been nice to see more world whiskies, particularly from other parts of Asia.

The food provided was plentiful with various tasty canapés to line stomachs, and it was great to see a few food exhibitors including Dutch Cheese, whisky ice-cream (!) and deli meats; however this attendee was there for the whisky!

The Charlie MacLean masterclass (pre-purchased as an add-on to the entry price) was informative for whisky beginners through to connoisseurs. Three drams were discussed and tasted (Singleton of Glenord 12 and 18 [created for the Asian market], alongside Talisker 10) and Charlie was eager to answer any simple or tricky questions from the group. Charlie discussed the colour and flavour development of whisky, the fermentation and maturation process and the purpose of different elements in the production-  copper and charcoal being purifiers at different stages of the process, the importance of water quality both during production and when tasting, and the importance of balancing distillery characteristics of whisky with the maturity characteristics. A few gems of knowledge were also thrown into the mix, such as why waxy new make became waxy in the Clynelish distillery (“gunk” in the receiving tank); Glem Ord has the longest fermentation time of all distilleries known to Charlie (more than 80 hours compared to the usual 60-ish hours, resulting in increased flavour complexity); and Diageo own 7 of the 14 distilleries that use wormtubs, which make for a lighter style of whisky.

Overall, the Malt Masters made for a great (and leisurely) afternoon for anyone interested in tasting and learning more about whisky. Great timing with the PMQ night markets held just downstairs for a quick snack on the way home too! There were a few kinks that need to be ironed out for future events (the ticketing process with long lines to enter, the lack of drinking water, and master classes starting and running late), but I am confident that this event will only get bigger and better in future years!

- Steph

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