Do we now have our very own ‘Local Alliance’?
The Auld Alliance – unequivocally the most famous whisky bar that Singapore has to offer on the international stage, gets its name from the alliance formed between the Scots and the French in 1295 to battle the English. Now, we might just have our very own little ‘coalition’, formed between three bars and a restaurant.
OK clickbaity intro aside, the idea of having four big names in the local whisky community bottle a single cask whisky is always pleasant as it shows camaraderie even among competitors. What’s more, it probably won’t be the last time you’d see such a collaboration either.
It all kicked off in early 2017 when Mark Watt, Director of Sales at Cadenhead’s, Scotland’s oldest Independent Bottler, picked out several casks, drew samples and sent them over to The Whisky Store, the official distributor in Singapore. Khoon Hui, the owner and whisky bar pioneer, then came up with the idea of bottling a cask together with the bars they worked with. Eventually, The Swan Song, The Writing Club and New Ubin Seafood (the owner, Mr Pang is a big whisky fan) were all keen and heeded the call.
It would have been rather easy to simply bottle a crowd-pleaser whisky and call it a day, but the group decided to work out what they thought was an attractive proposition for the more discerning whisky fans here.
Given the quality synonymous with Cadenhead’s, it would have been surprising if everyone chose the same whisky unanimously from the pool of samples. And you’d be right – it wasn’t. Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, Chief Marketing Officer of The Whisky Store, had no interest in pretending otherwise: “As you’d expect with a group of people who love their whiskies and have very experienced palates, there were some slight differences of opinion and not everyone picked the Linkwood-Glenlivet as their first choice. However, everyone rated the whisky very highly and agreed that is was of superb quality.”
By this point, I understand that I’m borderline trolling with all the raising and lowering of expectations – story-wise at least – but there’s nothing underwhelming about the whisky that was eventually bottled. And there’re many reasons why ultimately, it is a sound choice.
Firstly, what’s Linkwood-Glenlivet? ‘Tis is the old name of what we know more commonly today as Linkwood, and it is a Speysider under the ownership of Diageo, used primarily in its blends. Linkwood is rarely available officially; you’d have to look to the Flora and Fauna series, which isn’t rare, but not exactly easy to get, either. Most whisky drinkers get their Linkwood from independent bottlers. So, to an extent, yes, Linkwoods don’t come by often.
It would be an understatement to say that sherried whiskies are popular, and what do you know, Linkwood is one that develops nicely in ex-sherry casks. And as we all know too well, popular sherried whiskies command a considerable premium. With an understated, slightly-under-the-radar distillery like Linkwood, prices are generally more reasonable, especially for an older – in this case, 28-year-old – whisky. For now, at least. The name of Linkwood isn’t obscure enough to put people off as there’s plenty of good things that have been said about Linkwood on the interwebs that will encourage whisky drinkers to take the plunge. The fact that you can get a lot more bang for your buck just on the basis that you’re not fighting off hordes of whisky hoarders is certainly an upside most people can get behind. For now, at least.
Cadenhead Single Cask 1989 Linkwood-Glenlivet 28YO (43.7% abv)
Palate The tannins will hit you (in a good way) at this point but not before the usual medley of dark fruits make themselves known. Maybe apples and plums too? The dryness brings the spices to the forefront and rounds the whisky off nicely.
Finish As it fades, coffee and chocolate come through to accompany the spices.
I’ve had the good fortune of trying this several times and to be honest, this is a challenging one in the sense that you have to be patient and give it time – there’s a lot going on at once. You have to work a little harder to pick off its many layers, but it’s worth the effort.
But if a heavily-sherried whisky isn’t up your alley, then perhaps some of these other bottles that we tried will be – a 24YO Littlemill (53.7%), 21YO Clynelish (51.6%) and a 12YO Bowmore (56.9%), all of which, are excellent examples of the distilleries’ distinct style. However, not all four bars – barring Quaich Bar – will stock all three, so you’d do well to check first.
More good news: there are plans for a follow-up early next year, so watch this space.