Monday 9 January 2017

Whisky Live Singapore 2016 review

We've attended a few Whisky Live events over the years - Tokyo, London and Sydney twice, but had never attended the Singaporean event, despite having heard good things. When a bit of good fortune put me in Singapore for a conference in the days following Whisky Live, it was a no-brainer to arrive a bit earlier and spend a day at the show.

After an absolute debacle trying to buy a ticket (without going into too much detail, there was no eTicket / mTicket option, and no option to pick up the tickets at the venue - although the organisers arranged the latter for me after my tickets never arrived at the hotel), I turned up to Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island, ready for a day of whisky.

I'd opted for a 1 day VIP ticket ($173SGD), which gave access to the "VIP Tasting Room" as well as the main floor. I've attended a lot of whisky shows over the past 5 or so years, and whilst I still really enjoy them (probably the social aspect more than the whisky these days!), the whiskies on offer at most shows can be a bit "same same". Sure, sometimes (often) there's something special under the table, and don't get me wrong, the people at these shows absolutely make them worth attending, but sometimes you're just looking for something a bit more unusual/unique on the whisky front - something beyond the usual 12/15/18/NAS lineup. 

...and that's where the VIP Tasting Room came in. Singapore's Whisky Live is run by La Maison du Whisky, and as anyone who's come across LmdW knows, they bottle and sell a lot of very special whisky, rum, cognac etc......and a huge number of them were on offer in the VIP Tasting Room. From 43 year old Speysiders to single cask Kavalans, to limited edition Blantons to a whole lot of tasty Indies, to 30yo OB Speysiders and...well I'll let the photos do the talking...


Certainly not your average whisky show drams, and generous pours were being served (all included in the ticket price). The room never felt busy, and there was always a friendly face or two to chat to.

Next door though was something even more special - the "Collectors' Room", housing much, much rarer whisky that LmdW had managed to get their hands on - from rare single cask Japanese whiskies (Yamazakis, Karuizawas) to old, old bottles of Laphroaig, Bowmore, Macallan and others. Whilst prices weren't "cheap" (especially not for those who have visited Japanese whisky bars with similar collections), they were for the most part reasonable, considering the rarity of the whiskies.

1 token was $10SGD.

Dave Broom was also floating around (having just presented a masterclass on two 1965 Karuizawas!) and being the top bloke he is, was more than happy for a chat and a dram.

By this time I'd been at the show for about 2 hours and hadn't yet ventured onto the main floor. When I finally did, I got there just in time for a "Dram Full Yum Seng", led by Glenfiddich's Regional Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador Matthew, and a few of his Brand Ambassador colleagues from Pernod Ricard and Edrington.

Not quite sure what to expect from my first 'Yum Seng", it basically involved yelling "Dram Full" for as long as we possibly could, and then shooting the whiskies on offer (Glenfiddich 21yo, Macallan Rare Cask, amongst others). Not quite the "pacing myself" I'd planned, but a huge amount of fun, and a great welcome to the main floor. There's a video of it here.

The main floor had the usual complement of brands - with Macallan, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Aberlour, Glenrothes, Glenlivet and others representing Scotch, and Kavalan, Paul John, Teeling and others representing "world whiskies". There were of course a few special pours available if you asked nicely (some I can talk about, some I can't!) and a few fun experiences, like Glenfiddich's virtual reality tour (actually quite good!), Monkey Shoulder cocktails, Arberlour/Glenlivet music pairing, and Balvenie's free customised whisky tasting journals.

There were also a few indies on tasting from Singapore and Seoul's B28 bar:

..and a good selection of masterclasses, priced quite cheaply in most cases (except for the Karuizawa 1965 masterclass which was almost $600SGD/ticket).

When all the whisky became a bit much and the palate fatigue started to set in, there was a large F&B area outside, and VIP ticket holders were entitled to two servings of food and a cocktail from each of the pop up bars (host by some of the world's best cocktail bars - Bar Trench, 28 Hong Kong Street, Gibson and Jigger & Pony to name a few). A refreshing break (as were the Monkey 47 gin laybacks on offer)!

As the sun started to set (had it really been 6 hours already!?) I headed back to the VIP Tasting Room to try a few more drams (including some fascinating rums) and enjoy whisky banter well into the night with whisky friends old and new.

So, overall impressions of Whisky Live Singapore?
  • Fantastic range of whiskies
  • Brilliant collector's room
  • Good value tickets (when you consider the food, cocktails, and all the VIP drams)
  • Great venue layout (great space and really well utilised - it never felt too busy)
  • Great personalities.

My only complaints would be the ticketing process (which I understand is a limitation of the ticketing company more than LmdW / Whisky Live), and the fact that I had to leave all the samples I'd brought at the front counter, which made it a pain to do the sample swaps I'd arranged beforehand (this might've been a "responsible service of alcohol" type situation, but whisky sample swaps are pretty common at shows like this, and I've never had an issue at shows anywhere else in the world).

On the whole though, an absolutely brilliant event, and one I'd definitely return for (only next time, I'll buy a 2 day ticket).


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