Monday, 8 December 2014

Taste: The Arran Single Malt Whisky

All the Arrans Available in Malaysia.
  • Opened in 1995 - to put things in perspective, the oldest bottle that they technically can have today if barreled then is 19. So it is a relatively new distillery.
  • It is located at the East of the village of Lochranza at the North of the Isle of Arran. Yes, the whisky took after the island's name.
  • An independent distillery - ie privately owned and not owned by the big boys.
  • Founded by Chivas Brothers’ retiring managing director, Harold Currie.
  • The only malt whisky distillery on the Isle of Arran (since the last legally run distillery, ‘Lagg’, was closed in 1837... that's about 158 years ago!)
  • Water used in the distillery is sourced from Loch na Davie, supposedly home to the purest water in all of Scotland.
  • Its single malts are non-chill filtered, which means that it will cloud in a cooler temperature.

Fun Fact:
The pair of eagles featured in the logo are not just for the sake of random design. The pair of Golden Eagles actually nests near the distillery and its sighting disrupted the distillery's construction work because they were a protected species. 

An Island whisky, but not islay, it is not meant to be peaty, except for one expression produced specially with peat.

Tasting profile:
"Fruity, floral and fresh."

Arran is generally easy to drink - I was surprised at how easy it goes down at such a young age. If you like those fruity sort of whisky, or have a preference towards Speysides, you're gonna like this really easily.

Expressions available in Malaysia:
(All 700ml)

1. Arran Malt Original 43% RM220 - it's funny that I can't find any review about this online. It's as if it doesn't exist.
2. Arran 10 Year Old 46% RM270
3. Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength 53.9% RM299 - released in batches. There are also other variations to the 12.  
4. Arran 14 Year Old 46% RM335 
5. Arran 17 Year Old (limited edition) 46% RM435 - only 9k bottles released.
6. Arran Sauternes Wine Cask Finish 50% RM299
7. Arran Amarone Wine Cask Finish 50% RM299 
8. Arran Port Wine Cask Finish 50% RM299
9. Arran Machrie Moor Peated 46% RM279 - released in batches, currently in its 5th batch, am unsure which batch we have available in Malaysia, sorry.
10. Arran Millenium Cask 53.5% RM378 - only 7,800 bottles released.
11. Arran Gold Malt Whisky Cream Liqueur 17% RM129

Just to give you an idea of where Isle of Arran is, because I didn't know either

So... what should you get? 
If you were by a any chance wondering which one I liked, out of the flight of 10,14 and Sauternes which I've tried, I liked 14 the most. I could tell by how I wouldn't stop asking for refills. That's not to say that the 10 or Sauternes were not good. It's just a matter of preference. The 10 is a really good introduction to Arran and just look at the 12's ABV man. It's quite cost effective, isn't it? :P

Sources tell me that the 17 is running real low, so get your grubby hands on it. This is the 17 that will go into the 18 which is targeted to be released next year  (2015).

Also, if you enjoy Baileys or Amarula, I highly recommend the Arran Gold. It is delicious, creamy and not too sweet. 

A closer look at the Arran Gold.
Get it from:
Any of the Single & Available outlets in Plaza Damas, Mercato or BSC as well as selected locations like The Whisky Bar, Rabbit Hole & Mezze.

Sources & For More:

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The IBA Project: Mojito

The Mojito - my mum ony drinks this.
The Grandfather Story:
- Likely birthplace in Cuba.

- There are 2 versions of its origins, pick one you like:
1) In the 1500s, its original recipe was used as medicine to cure scurvy aboard Francis Drake's ship where he learnt it from the South Americans. It was made with firewater (crude form of rum), lime, sugarcane juice and mint.
2) Could've been created by African slaves working in the Cuban sugarcane fields in the 1800 where sugarcane juice was in abundance (but the recipe was without lime).

- The name itself could apparently be derived from:
1) Mojar, a Spanish verb suggesting wetness.
2) An African word 'mojo', meaning spell.
3) Mojo, a Cuban seasoning made from lime and used to flavour dishes.
4) Mojadito (Spanish for “a little wet”) or simply the diminutive of Mojado (“wet”).

Fun Facts:
- It is very, very important that you know it is pronounced moHEEtoe, not mohJEEtoe.
- Apart from the daiquiri, this is supposedly Ernest Hemingway's favourite drink.
- Bet you didn't know (or remember) that James Bond ordered it in Die Another Day.

Strength & Taste:
Refreshing & balanced between sweet and sour, if done right and to your liking. It shouldn't taste strong. One of the best tasting easy drinking cocktails ever.

IBA standard recipe & method: 
4 cl White Cuban Rum
3 cl Fresh lime juice
6 Mint sprigs
2 teaspoons white sugar
Soda water

Muddle mint springs with sugar and lime juice.
Add splash of soda water and fill glass with cracked ice. Pour rum and top with soda water.
Garnish with spring of mint leaves and lemon slice. Serve with straw.

What goes into a mojito - sugar, lime juice, white rum, mint leaves, ice, (soda) water. Ignore the lemon slice, deco only.

  • Using Cuban rum is not mandatory, no one's gonna sue you for it and the American can't get hold of them anyway because of their Cuban embargo. Any decent light rum will do.
  • In place of light rum, you could try to replace it with dark rum or even spiced rum. It's really quite nice.
  • Soda water? Not necessary. Ice cold water also can. Or melted down crushed ice too works.
  • You COULD cheat by not using actual mint leaves and replacing it with mint syrup. COULD. Feel free to try it, it may just work for you and the store bought syrup would have a longer shelf life than actual mint leaves.
  • Adding in fruits/puree will turn it into a <insert name of fruit here> mojito - tahdah!
  • Seriously, there are crap loads of variations to the mojito. Don't believe me? Just click on this link to Difford's Guide. And then type "mojito". There are 19 variations just in this site alone. NINETEEN.

Thoughts & Observations: 
  • IBA recipe absolutely CANNOT make it - too little rum and too sour. Not balanced at all. And just 6 mint leaves?  Those must be giant leaves the size of a hand because with just 6 leaves you get absolutely JACK ALL mint flavour.
  • Lemon slice garnish? That's completely random, IBA. I've never in my life seen any bar worth its salt garnished a glass of mojito with lemon. Lime or shit loads of other crap maybe, but never a lemon can ignore this point. I'm just nitpicking here.
  • At this point may I insert a rant to say that I really pity those people who don't know better and end up actually referring to IBA as their recipe guide simply because IBA is supposed to be the "reference point" for "standard meaurements" of "official cocktails" not knowing that it's already a doomed effort. Out of the 8 I've tried so far, only 1 kinda passed. Newbies are better off trying recipes from anywhere else on the internet. Really IBA, what's up with that? /end rant.
  • I don't usually have soda water handy, so I usually vigorously mix/melt crushed ice into the glass with the ingredients.
  • As usual, for me, sugar syrup over sugar any day.
  • Please don't beat the crap out of the mint leaves until it's all battered and black and gross. Just a light pressure on the leaves will do. Or you can simply clap it between your palms before dumping it into the glass to release the mint oils.
  • Any mint leaves will do. Those up-scale groceries have the fragile, but very fragrant hydrophonic peppermint, spearmint, and even applemint leaves. Try them all I say - see what you like. Local mints (used in laksa - also known as pudina in BM) are of course, more easily attainable and much cheaper. Don't feel like it's as fragant? Well, just use more of it! Do take note that mint leaves do not have a long shelf life, though. So if you're gonna buy it in bulk and hosting a party for 1, be prepared to dump 3/4 of it by midweek (I'm taking the liberty of assuming you're not the type of alcoholic who would actually consume 1 gallon of mojito at a go).
  • Always use FRESH mint leaves. The wilted one smells and tastes like what rotten veges would.
  • I've tried planting my own mint plants because according to the internet, they are the easiest, hardiest herbs to plant & maintain... well based on my umpteen failed attempts, I can safely tell you that the internet LIED. Or I'm just completely hopeless with green living things.
  • While bitters is optional - let me implore you to just add in 2 dashes because it really adds a little more oomph.
  • Mojitos are supposed to taste refreshing (from the mint leaves) and a BALANCE of sweet and sour. Also, it's really hard to mess up. However, the problem is that balance and taste is subjective. So if at first you order one from the bar and it is crap, do tell the bartender what is wrong with it. And if the second one is still crap, just ban that bar forever. The bartender doesn't know what the hell he is doing. 
  • Also if mojito is not a fast moving cocktail order in that bar, try to avoid ordering a mojito altogether. Remember that wilted mints tastes like crap.
  • Mojitos, while are crowd favourites, are also PAIN to make behind a very busy bar because it is tedious - so really, why not learn to make it at home and order something else more complex at the bar. Plus at home, you get to customise it to however you'd like for a fraction of the cost.
A mojito by any other glass or garnish, is still a mojito.

My Preference: 
45ml cuban light rum
15ml fresh lime juice
15ml sugar syrup (2 sugar : 1 water)
crap load of fresh mints to taste... maybe a handful of the cheap stuff.
crushed ice (simply bash ice cubes into a pulp with something hard)
Angostura bitters

Pour all the ingredients into a highball glass.
Bruise mint leaves by clapping it before dumping them into the glass.
Stir stir stir so that all the stuff gets mixed up nicely.
Fill half the glass with crushed ice.
Stir stir stir until you see that most of the ice is melted (be sure to taste before you've melted everything)
Top up the the glass with more crushed ice or cube ice.
Add 2 dashes of bitters and one quick stir before serving.

Sources & for more: 
(I'm beginning to suspect that all their stories originated from one source as it all reads similar).

Monday, 24 November 2014

New: Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Hi. I'm David Beckham. See how handsome I am. Drink my whisky And you might become handsome just like me.
So David Beckham graced us with his expensive presence to launch a brand new whisky. Perhaps officially putting us down in the whisky map.. or not... but does it matter? Yes. Yes it does.

Most of the stuff you'll read about the local launch was unfortunately, mostly about David Beckham this and David Beckham that. Okay. So people seemed to care more about him being in Malaysia than the brand new whisky.

This irritated me because, I WANTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE WHISKY. 
(Also because this sour grape never got the invite to the launch party. :[ )

But honestly, what in the world is a retired footballer doing in the whisky business? Why should we really care about what he thinks about the whisky? He has said so himself that he doesn't even drink much .. so what does he know?!?!? Let's not even start with Simon Fuller, the devil who force fed us with never-ending cycles of that bloody American Idol, who apparently also has a huge role to play with the marketing of Diageo's newest baby. I mean, where is the connection? Reality tv and whisky. I guess the connection is that it RHYMES.

Anyhoo, I digress. To cut through the clutter, here is some info about the whisky which I've compiled from international press releases & websites. To be fair, I did find ONE good local coverage about the whisky by my good friend, and you'll find his article if you CLICK ON ME

Anyway, TLDR: Let's talk about Haig Club and not about David Beckham. 

What is it?
1. It is a scotch: This means that it came from Scotland and abides by Scotland's whisky regulations which states, among other requirements, that it must be matured for at least 3 years in an oak barrel... in Scotland, of course.
2. Grain Whisky: basically means it made from a combination of grains - like wheat, barley, oats rye, etc.... In Haig Club's case, only 10% malted barley is used. Wheat makes up of the balance 90%.
3. SINGLE grain whisky: it's single not because it's unmarried. It's single because all the stuff inside the bottle came from a one distiller.
4. It is also a NAS whisky: No Age statement. It doesn't proudly state how old is the youngest liquid inside, but because  it's a Scotch, you know by default that the youngest liquid inside is at LEAST 3 years old.

A marks the spot.
Where did it come from?
Haig Club is made in Cameronbridge distillery, located at a village in the region of Levenmouth in Fife, Scotland. It all sounds very LOTR-ish but that's Gaelic for you I guess. If you're anything like me and have no clue where these locations are, here's a map I've cropped and pasted here, just for you. Just move your eyeballs a little.

I've never heard of Haig or its distillery. New in the market?
The distillery, opened in 1824, is supposedly THE OLDEST grain whisky distillery in Scotland, and is currently (and maybe) the largest. 

The Haig family is likely to be Scotland's oldest whisky family with more than 350 years of whisky heritage. Someone from the family is said to have founded the ancestor of what is today's whisky distillery.

Here's an interesting article about the Haig family. How factually accurate it is I leave it to your to decide k? Click!

The distillery has been around since 1824?!?! Why have I not heard of it before?
Yes you may have. If not you, perhaps your parents or grandparents - in the form of the Dimple. Not that cute little beauty sunken hole in your cheeks when you smile, Dimple was of one of the earliest whiskies by Haig. The dimple bottle design is actually trademarked and yes, these people pride themselves of innovative bottle designs. Check out the Dimple range via MasterofMalt - Click!

Innovative bottle designs huh. So what's with the Haig Club's bottle design? I thought it was a new extra large sized cologne by Ralph Lauren.
Apparently the design was inspired by the tradition of blenders using blue tasting glasses so that only the smell and taste of the whisky comes through, masking the look of the liquid. I dunno la, the press release say one. I can't vouch for that claim as I couldn't find any online literature to support it... So... citation is required.

Spot the odd one out.
Oh well, they say not to judge a whisky by its bottle. So tell me about the liquid inside it.
So there's 10% malt, and 90% wheat which are matured in a mix of:
- refill casks which has held bourbon and scotch a few times
- fresh bourbon barrels - most flavour comes from here
- rejuvenated casks - the spice is from here.

It is 40% ABV strong... common among whiskies.

What does it taste like?
In their own words:
"gentle and clean, and has some green grassy sweetness to it.
also has a little bit of depth and complexity to it as well.
a lot of butterscotch sweetness, and interestingly, coconut and brazil nut notes
green grassy freshness.
an interesting spiciness, and some oakiness"
IMHO - Young. Grassy. Sweet. Rough. Spicy. Light. The taste doesn't linger long in your mouth.

How do I drink it?
With your mouth (sorry couldn't help it). Just like how you would your whisky. There are also quite a few suggested serves/cocktails to be found if you Google enough. But if you you're but lazy, I've done it for you and collated them right here - you're welcome!

I believe Haig Club may have have collaborated with these bars and bartenders based in Edinburgh (coincidence?), to create cocktails with the whisky:
1) The Traveller's Cocktail created by Iain McPherson, bartender and owner of Panda & Sons in Edinburgh.
2) 3 of bartenders from 3 of Edinburgh bars prepare 3 cocktails with Haig Club.
3) The Brooklyn Club by Kyle Jamieson, bartender at The Devil's Advocate in Edinburgh.

More recipes from its official website:
1) Haig Club New Old Fashioned
2) Haig Club Ginger Smoke Stack
3) Haig Club Green Tea & Grain
4) Haig Clubhouse Soda
5) Haig Clubman

Haig Club's official cocktails. We look delicious. Drink us.
How can I get it, and how much is it?
Internationally launched on 6 October and finally reached Malaysia on 12 November 2014.

It's  available in selected duty free & retail and I believe it can cost you about close to RM200ish is RM197 for Duty Free, and is likely to set you back to more than RM300++ on retail. Ouch.

At time of publication, I'm still waiting for confirmation on prices from Diageo Malaysia, friends, family and any tom, dick or harry who have seen the bottles in KLIA, or at any bars/shops. If you have a picture of the price tag, feel free to leave me a comment.

Should I get it?
Strip away all the noise and pizazz from its world famous ambassadors and all you have is a bottle of whisky which is, while decent, a little too pricey for me to want to afford. But I guess someone's gotta pay Simon and David for their time and it's gonna you.

At this point, it's worth to note that grain whisky is usually used to create blended, american and canadian whiskies. It is hardly (if ever!) bottled on its own. So is this a selling point or not, I shall leave it to you to decide. :)

Other stuff:
Here's a clip of Jimmy Choo inviting Beckham for a bit of cuti-cuti Malaysia. I love this uncle (choo I mean) and he's just one of the very few famous Malaysians I genuinely root for. So I'm using this as an excuse to feature him on the blog.

Here's the extended 1.33 mins ad, which is apparently shot by Guy Ritchie. Warning: Beckham shows up only halfway into the ad... around 0.50. But he makes it up for it by looking annoyingly dapper in a dark green velvet suit. Quite drool-worthy, if you're the sort who's into him.

For more & Sources:
The Star:
Official website:
Haig Club on FB:
Diageo official Press Release:

Image sources: Dailymail, Haig Club's FB.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The IBA Project: Sazerac

The Sazerac cocktail with Cognac.
The Grandfather Story:
  • Originated around the 1830s. 
  • Could've been America's first known cocktail.
  • Antoine Peychauds was an apothecary from New Orleans who created the now famous Peychaud's bitters, was said to have created the original Sazerac for a cure, not as a cocktail.
  • The drink is named after its original base spirit, a cognac named Sazerac de Forge et Fils.
  • It was originally a cognac based cocktail, but it seems like rye whisky is the popular base now. 
  • The reason for the shift to rye whisky was either 1) cognac suddenly became scarce due to a bug problem or 2) American whiskey was readily available and very popular (and also very preferred by its local drinkers) so it was used in everything then.
Fun fact: In 2008, New Orleans proclaimed it to be its official cocktail.

One glass for mixing, one for serving; both needs ice.
Strong, rough, spirity, masculine. Likely to cause chest hair growth, LOL. Not for the weak hearted, not for people who do not enjoy the taste of alcohol. The absinthe rinse on the glass lends a scent and taste of anise/licorice - something the Asian tongue may not be used to. What does anise taste like? Think... melted, liquid Hacks. This drink is definitely not for everyone.

IBA standard recipe & method:
5 cl Cognac
1 cl Absinthe
1 sugar cube
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside. 
Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside.
Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the Lemon peel for garnish.

Two glasses and 1 girl.
  • Rye whiskey is the most popular base spirit if you Google the recipe.
  • There are some recipes that hails for Bourbon, then again there are others who taboo the use the Bourbon. I say YMMV.
  • You may use Angostura instead of Peychauds. Bitters is a MUST. Though purists will only use the latter.
  • You could use sugar syrup instead of sugar cube. (1 sugar cube roughly = 10ml syrup)
  • Any other pastis (Pernod. or Ricard. hehe) can substitute absinthe if absinthe is not readily available for you. At the end of the day, it's the anise scent and flavour you're after. Or how about melting some hacks hahaha kidding. 
  • If you're someone who cannot stand wasting alcohol, the absinthe can always be poured into a shot glass... and then chased after with the Sazerac. Seriously, try it.
  • It is NEVER served with ice. EVER.
  • Some writers suggest that you drop the lemon peel into the glass, some implore you not to because the lemon overpowers everything. Again, YMMV.

Thoughts & Observations:
  • This is the first IBA original recipe which I actually found palatable, yeay!
  • Stirring takes more or less 60 seconds to dilute the mix into a flavour I can palate.
  • I thought I would HATE this drink because I HATE absinthe, but it's surprisingly, okay. There's hardly any absinthe anyway. Just a hint of its smell and taste.
  • Rye whiskey is hardly readily available outside of the US anyway so I'll just stick to cognac la.
  • At the time I'm writing this, I'm nearly done with my glass and I can tell you, I'm feeling really woozy. This shit is super strong, no joke. Or I'm just a light weight.

Drink up!
My Preference:
50 ml Cognac
10 ml Absinthe
2 barspoon sugar syrup (about 10ml)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura
1 lemon peel

Add crushed ice into old-fashioned glass.
Pour absinthe in. Leave it aside.

Get a 2nd rock glass and mix all other ingredients (except lemon peel) into  glass with cubed ice and stir. Taste as you go.

Before serving, pour out the absinthe from the 1st glass into a shot glass, remember to swirl the absinthe around the glass first. Strain the 2nd glass' contents into the first. Prior to serving, squeeze the lemon peel into this glass. Serve with the absinthe shot so the drinker has the option to do a little chasing.

Sources & for more:

Click me for the list of drinks that's been covered in the IBA Project

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The IBA Project: Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan  here IS pink. Really. I've got bad lighting. 
The Grandfather Story:
There are too many versions of its origins - so you gotta take your pick as to which one you'd prefer to believe:
1) The Cosmopolitan Daisy, found in a bartending  book from the 1930s, could've been its ancestor. While a lot of the basic ingredients were not quite the same, the end product was characteristically what today's cosmo looked like. Jigger Gordons Gin, 2 Dashes Cointreau, Juice of one Lemon, Teaspoon Raspberry (syrup)
2) Ocean Spray printed its version of Cosmopolitan in the 1960s called the "Harpoon" to sell more of its juice: 2 oz. cranberry, 1 oz. vodka or light rum or gin, over the rocks or tall with soda, with an optional splash of lime or lemon.
3) Apparently it was created by the gay community in the 1970s, by adding cranberry juice into a kamikaze.
4) Cheryl Cook, a bartender from Miami south beach could have invented it in the 1980s. Featuring the absolut citron, she said that it was simply a twist of the kamikaze and named after the fashion magazine. Rose's lime cordial was used instead of lime juice. 1.5 oz Citrus vodka, 1 oz Cointreau, .5 oz Fresh lime juice, 1 or 2 Dashes cranberry juice
5) Toby Cecchini was another bartender in the later part of 1980 who decided to switch the cordial to fresh lime juice (thank god). 2 part Absolut Citron vodka, 1 part cranberry juice, 1 part lime juice, 1 part cointreau. 
6) Yet another bartender, Dale DeGroff , in the mid 1990s was supposedly to have "fixed" the formula into what is known as the now standard recipe for Cosmo, and added the orange peel. Then Madonna (the singer, not the virgin) was seen holding it at his bar - which started the whole cosmo craze back then. 1 1/2 oz. Citron Vodka, 1/2 oz. Cointreau, 1/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice, 1 oz. Cranberry Juice, Garnish with an orange peel.
Whichever version you choose, 3 things are for certain 1) it is a post-prohibition cocktail 2) it was created in America 3) it is crazy popular among the ladies today thanks to Carrie (from Sex & The City, not the horror movie lol).

Squeeze the orange peel over the drink.
Strength & Taste:
Light sweetness from the cointreau, tarty from the cranberry and lime, tasty from the combination of everything. With that lovely orange scent from the peel. It'll make you salivate and peckish. It's not strong at all, at most one shot of Vodka. But you really need to drink it fast while its cold.

IBA standard recipe & method:
4 cl Citron Vodka
1.5 cl Cointreau
1.5 cl Fresh lime juice
3 cl Cranberry juice

Shake all ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Strain into a large cocktail glass
Garnish with lime slice.

  • Some recipes call for cordial but please, stick to fresh juice. I'm not a fan of cordial. Ever.
  • You may use any triple sec instead of Cointreau. I'll stick to Cointreau for now because I'm a snob that way.
  • Blue cosmo =  white cranberry juice + blue curacao instead of triple sec.
  • A Cosmocello = substitutes limoncello for the lime juice.
  • A Francillian = substitutes sangria for cranberry juice.
  • A Peach Cosmopolitan = peach schnapps for triple sec and peach juice for the cranberry
  • A dash of orange bitters could be used for an added oomph. It really subdues the tart, complements your triple sec and adds a tinge of depth with its bitterness.
  • You could flame your peel while you squeeze it - Ups the cool factor by quite a bit. No other reason.

Thoughts & Observations:
  • Original recipe is really sour. Not tooooooo darn sour for me, when consumed super cold. But may be tooooo darn sour for some. 
  • I've come to realise that I prefer a thicker texture to my cocktails. That means a little more liqueur or sugar or something which has high contents of sugar. What I'm saying is that the IBA version is too thin - so I'll either up the cointreau or lower the cranberry/lime.
  • Need to make a smaller drink. All drinks which are not served with ice require a smaller portion as it warms up too quickly when served in Malaysian room temperature and substantially changes the taste of the drink. Bleh.
  • The orange must be in room temperature. Chilled oranges make the peels release less oils. I'm sure there's a good chemistry reason for that which I'm too lazy to Google for, but you can Google it if you wish.
  • I like a huge orange peel. There's something about the smell from the freshly squeezed orange peel that feels like bliss. And squeeze just before you or your guest is about to consume the drink so everyone gets a lovely whiff.

Cosmo. All pink with a bit of orange.
My Preference:
45ml Citron vodka
15ml cointreau
10ml lime juice
45ml cranberry juice
One GIANT orange peel
Frozen martini glass
1 dash of orange bitters (optional)

Pour everything into shaker with loads of big ice. Shake it hard. Strain into glass (optional, but purists want to see clear liquid without shard of ice. Japanese will want their shards). Squeeze orange peel over glass, rub it around the rim and drop it into the drink just before serving.

Sources & for more:

Click me for the list of drinks that's been covered in the IBA Project

Sunday, 2 November 2014

New: Kilchoman Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3 Kilchoman beauties in a row: Machir Bay, 100% Islay & Loch Gorm

The guys at Single & Available organised a couple of tastings to introduce this really new label into the Malaysian market.

First, we learned that Kilchoman is actually pronounced as Kil-HO-man. Must be a Gaelic thing?

Secondly, Peter Willis, who came all the way from Scotland to take us through the tasting, is actually the SON of one of the co-founders.

Isn't it awesome when these companies take some time off their busy worldly schedules to spare a few moments for this tiny insignificant market? This drinker appreciates it very much! :)

So Kilchoman is practically still a baby. The distillery began production in 2005 - it's just about 9 years old this year!

Peter Willis from Kilchoman. He's kinda cute isn't he? ;)

Other fun facts:
1. It's built on what used to be a farm.
2. It's the first distillery to be built in the Islay in 125 years!
3. Founders of the distillery were originally independent bottlers.
4. It is an independent distillery, ie, not own by any of the big conglomerates. It is also very small so their production is a fraction of the bigger boys. On a yearly basis, most of their expressions are limited, and released by vintages.
5. The distillery actually ran out of money prior to production of their first bottle. Thank goodness it found its feet back.

The tasting mat - with all the geeky stuff for your reading pleasure. I seriously need to take better pictures.

6. It is 1 out of only 6 distilleries that practices "floor malting". Ie, laying out the barley on the floor to dry.
7. It is practically the only distillery in Islay that can produce their whisky 100% in-house - eg, growing own barley, malting it, distilling, maturing and bottling. Most companies outsource half of these processes out.
8. One of the owners has all his 3 sons (yup, Peter's dad) working in the distillery, cute huh?
9. While 30% of the malt is grown and produced in-house, the balance is purchased from Port Ellen (a closed distillery which still sells its maltings).
10. Casks used are Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks.
11. All their whiskies are non-chilled filtered and no additional colours are added. So if one bottle's colour is different from another, don't panic.

3 expressions will be brought into Malaysia, and these were also the ones we sampled that night. Let's talk about it!

Kilchoman 100% Islay release.
50% ABV, RM420

It is 100% made in the distillery, from growing the barley to bottling it. If I heard it right, this is 4-5 years old, matured fully in bourbon casks. This expression is limited, and is only produced only once a year. It's in its 4th release now.
From the website:
All parts of the production process for the 100% Islay have taken place at the distillery – from barley to bottle. The barley is grown, malted, distilled, matured and bottled at Kilchoman making for a unique character. Bottled at 50% abv and peated to a lower level to that of other releases, 100% Islay has a lighter, fresher feel to it. Citrus and lemon notes come through with soft peat smoke and a long smooth finish.
Among all 3 this has the lightest peat. It is light, fruity and sweet. Even the scent is sweet! Almost like a Speyside, with a bit of peat. The peat is only obvious at the end, but not distracting. Trust me, I'm someone who is not fond of peat, this was absolutely fine by my palate and easily my favourite among the 3.

You might need to know that I generally like whisky matured in bourbon casks, by the way. :)

Kilchoman Machir Bay
46% ABV, RM280

Named after the bay near the distillery, it's made from whiskies aged 4-5 years old, matured in both Bourbon and sherry casks. Every year it matures, we'll see another release, yeay!
From the website:
The Machir Bay range is Kilchoman’s core expression, first launched in 2012 when it won the prestigious IWSC 2012 Gold Award – Best in Class. Bottled once a year, each release contains more mature casks allowing Kilchoman fans to follow the development of the unique Kilchoman malt as it matures. Matured in a combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, Machir Bay has a well-balanced combination of rich tropical fruit, peat smoke, light vanilla and intense sweetness.
This has a little more peat than the 100%. Still, its peat is nothing close to the peat monsters (eg: Lagavulin and Laphroaig which I'm actually afraid of lol). Spicy and dry (definitely from the sherry), but still retaining its sweetness. It is nice!

Kilchoman Loch Gorm
46% ABV, RM380

Named after a nearby "loch", which is supposedly famous for its peat. It's matured at least 5 years fully in sherry casks. Like the Machir Bay, we'll see a new release with every year it matures, double yeay!
From the website:
Named after a famously peaty loch at the end of the Kilchoman drive, Loch Gorm is the only fully ex-sherry cask matured release from Kilchoman. As with other ranges in our portfolio, Loch Gorm will be periodically re-released as a more mature expression. Each bottling will be differentiated by distillation and bottling years printed on the label. Loch Gorm combines rich sherry fruits and spices with smouldering peat, cloves and lingering sweetness.
Spicier, richer and drier than the Machir Bay, yet still sweet. Most peat among the 3. I can see a lot of people liking this - especially if they have a tendency to like whisky matured in sherry casks.

I like Kilchoman. It is a nice, fruity sweet whisky with just enough peat to remind you of its birth place. And this is coming from someone who doesn't like peat ya! The awesome thing is that the peat is not overpowering, but you cannot ignore that it's there. I can't believe that at so young an age (4-6 years old) they are already so flavourful and have quite a character. Can you imagine what they'll be like when they're all grown up? I can't wait!

At all Single & Available outlets (also the sole distributor for this market)

Here's a fun video on how the 100% Islay is made in Kilchoman:

For more:
About the distributor:
Official website:
Their online store:

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The IBA Project: Caipirinha

A wild Caipirinha!
The Grandfather Story:
  • Caipirinha is derived from the Portuguese word - caipira (hick, hayseed, country bumpkin, rube...) and "inha" suffix (a word meaning little or small).
  • Its beginnings can be traced back to around 1918.
  • It is Brazil's national cocktail and it is drank anytime, anywhere.
  • The ancestor of this drink was  a mix of lemon, garlic, honey - supposedly used as cure for the Spanish flu (still used for colds today). 
Fun fact: Cachaca is about 400 years old. While it is the most popular drink in Brazil (it was apparently invented by the Portugese), it is regarded as a poor man's drink. It's meant to be sipped slowly in small glass or downed as a shot. Brazilians who drink it straight would first purposely spill a few drops for the Saints before drinking it.

Cachaca is also (erroneously) known as Brazillian rum (there is a story behind this, feel free to Google it up).

While both rum and Cachaca are derived from distillation and sugarcane, the difference between rum and Cachaca is this: Rum is distilled from Molasses, Cachacha is distilled from fermented sugarcane juice.

Strength & Taste:
Easy drinking, cold and refreshing. Good for hot weathers! It's a sweeter version of a daiquiri, and the sugarcane flavour is more prominent because of the Cachaca. If you are a fan of the mojito or an original daiquiri, you may like this. I say may, because I don't quite - there is a reason for this, if you don't mind reading on.

Gently muddle. Please don't bash it in.
IBA standard recipe & method:
5 cl Cachaca
Half fresh lime cut into 4 wedges
2 teaspoon sugar

Place lime and suger in old fashion glass and muddle.
Fill glass with (crushed?) ice and Cachaca

  • Cubed ice is the original Brazilian way. Crushed ice became a popular fad and you are likely to see this out of Brazil.
  • Can be served with or without a straw.
  • You may use syrup instead of sugar. (2 tspn sugar approx. 1 oz. simple syrup 1:1)
  • You may add club soda to dilute your drink
  • Replacing Cachaca with Vodka makes it a Caipiroska

Thoughts & Observations:
  • I prefer using sugar syrup as I don't want to risk crunching on any bits of undiluted sugar. 
  • I suspect brown sugar would bring out the sugarcane flavour more. 
  • No muddler? No problem. Any hard phallic object will do. All you want to do is to bruise the limes gently to release the lovely limey oils from their skin and juice the pulp - not squish them into a unrecognisable matter.
  • Unless I'm mistaken, there are only 2 brands of cachacas which are (sort of) easily available in Malaysia's bigger and more "atas" grocery shops - Sagatiba & Cachaca 51.
  • IBA's version is not strong enough for me, neither does it taste of anything substantial because I can't taste the spirit much, nor the lime - probably because the crushed ice melted too fast in this humid weather.
  • Also I suspect that the lime used in the IBA's version is a humongous one because using HALF a lime is simply not sufficient with the teeny tiny local limes we have here.
  • I prefer cubed ice over crushed simply because it melts slower, and doesn't dilute my drink as fast - I would like it to taste stronger (I seem to say this in every recipe lol)
  • I prefer to serve it with a straw otherwise the damn ice gets onto you nose every time you try to take a sip.
  • I'm not sure if it's the cachaca or the way I'm making this drink, but it has a this fermented aftertaste / smell. If that's how it really is meant to taste, this is definitely not going to be a favourite.

 LH: Caipirinha on the rocks. RH: Caipirinha in crushed ice

My Preference:
1 fresh lime, cut into halved wedges + couple more for garnish.
2 shots of cachaca (note: this makes a really strong drink)
1/2 shot sugar syrup (1:2 sugar)

Pour sugar syrup & lime into in double rock glass. Muddle limes. Add Cachaca + ice.
Stir until you feel happy with the strength of your drink.
Garnish it with a couple of lime wedges for added prettiness and squeeze them a little for a limey scent. Serve with straw.

Sources & for more:
About cachaca:
More on cachaca:

Click me for the list of drinks that's been covered in the IBA Project

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The IBA Project: Bacardi

The Bacardi Cocktail
The Grandfather Story:
The cocktail has been around since 1917 and made popular in the USA. The Daiquiri was actually the original Bacardi cocktail which became popular after Prohibition. But when bars ran out of Bacardi, bartenders made the cocktail with whatever rum they had in store. 

This displeases Bacardi a whole lot. So Bacardi said, enough is enough, and took matters to court. In 1936, the Bacardi cocktail was copyrighted. The ruling states that an authentic Bacardi cocktail must be made with using only Bacardi rum. Bacardi then decided to modify the original daiquiri recipe and added some Grenadine to make it THE Bacardi cocktail just to differentiate it from the daiquiri.

Fun fact: Bacardi is Cuban by birth, but it is not longer considered "Cuban" rum as it's not found in Cuba anymore as it moved its operation out in 1960 (this in itself, is a history lesson). Did you know that the Bacardi brand has been around since 1862? Well, now you do!

It's exactly like the daiquiri, except it's pink from the grenadine syrup. Not strong, and easy drinking. Again, gotta drink this fast. Tastes better cold.

IBA standard recipe & method: 
4.5 cl Bacardi Rum White
2 cl Fresh lime juice
1 cl Grenadine 

Pour all ingredients into shaker with ice cubes, shake well, strain into chilled cocktail glass.

You need to strain it, strain it.
  • Many recipes calls for LOADS of Bacardi - 2 shots!
  • Most recipes also hails for equal parts of Grenadine and Lime juice - this also featured on the Bacardi website.
  • You may add sugar syrup to offset the tartiness, depending on how sweet/sour your Grenadine syrup is.

Thoughts & Observations:
  • IBA's version is too sour, not pleasant, very thin mouthfeel. 
  • I did some research on Grenadine and apparently making your own would taste better than anything store bought. Firstly, Grenadine is basically French for pomegranate. So, it's essentially syrup made with pomegranate juice. Be forewarned that a lot of store bought "grenadines" are not necessarily made out of pomegranate. Some mix it about with other "berry" flavours. Most are made of artificial flavours. You can easily make it on your own by mixing (just shake it hard) equal parts of fresh pomegranate juice with sugar. No boiling required. This website has what seems like a legit method. I used this recipe for my own homemade grenadine. Tastes much better than the crappy store bought one I have by a mile. You could however, make it 1:2 (sugar), making the syrup more sweet to your liking. YMMV.

Pink gets me high as a kite.
My Preference: 
I liked the recipe from Difford's Guide (link below) but modified it slightly to make it easier to measure with a jigger. I mean, it's quite hard to measure 7.5 ml or 3.75 ml with a 45 ml jigger loh.

6 cl Bacardi Superior
1.5 cl Fresh lime juice
1 cl Grenadine syrup (homemade, 1:1)
0.5 cl Sugar syrup (1:2 sugar)

You will need to shake it quite a bit to lose the "spirit-y" taste of the Bacardi. But otherwise, this recipe should give you a fuller/thicker mouthfeel, and the tart is more subdued with the additional sugar syrup. 

Sources & for more :
If you insist on buying your grenadine, this website has some Grenadine brand reviews:
The Bacardi history lesson: (it has 3 parts to it!)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Launch: Affligem is Here!

Selamat datang, Affligem.

Kudos to GAB for bringing in a new beer, yeay! It's so nice to see them venture out of their Guinness and Tiger comfort zone. :p

Affligem is brought in by Heineken, which is part of GAB in Malaysia. Heineken actually has a slew of international and regional brands under its umbrella. Don't believe me? Check it out on wikipedia. Don't believe wikipedia? How about verifying it on the official Heineken international website.

(LH): Affligem's got good head. (RH): Affligem girls ready to ply you with Affligem 

So back to how Affligem is here.

At 6.8% it's not something you should chug down like your average lager (because it's not). It's a beer which you need to slowly drink and savour its flavour. The aroma and flavours come out better when served slightly less than icy cold. However, it can be a little pricey. The good news is that all (good) imported beers are already priced around the RM20++ anyways so we should be used to it by now, eh?

Ben Ng, showing us how to pour an Affligem
Very quickly, some info which I know you're dying to know.

What is it?
Affligem is a Belgian Abbey beer founded around 1074 by 6 knights who were done with the war, decided to become monks and brew beer. The recipe has supposedly been unchanged since 1074.

Fun fact: There are only 22 certified Abbey beers in the world today and Affligem is one of them.

The Range
Affligem actually has a few variations under its label:
Affligem Blonde - a Pale Ale at 6.8%
Affligem Dubbel -  a Dubbel at 7% ABV
Affligem Tripel - a Tripel at 9.5% ABV
Affligem Patersvat - a Belgian Ale at 6.8% ABV
Affligem Noel - a seasonal Christmas ale at 9% ABV
It's supposed to be available in both bottle and draught versions but for our Malaysia market, we'll only be introduced to the bottled Blond, for now. Why? I don't know either, but let's hope the rest will come in soon!

The dashing Will Quah was the emcee at the event & talented Poova entertained us with her lovely singing.

Summarised from its official website:
Aroma: Fresh bread, banana, spice, citrus and hints of vanilla.
Taste: Malty, nutty, tropical fruit, dry light bitterness.
Mouth-feel: medium-bodied, smooth, round.
Finish: banana, yeasty spice, hoppy aroma.
If you ask me, I can only tell you that it tastes nice and that I liked it. It has a lot of weight and character. Though some may find it heavy, especially those not used to drinking beer.

There is a technique to this: tilt the glass 45 degrees and pour it out at a certain distance to get sufficient head (bubbles) - while you are pouring slowly tilt the glass upright. Towards the end of the bottle, you MUST swirl the bottle vigorously to dislodge the yeast before pouring the last bits out. This makes a difference to the taste of your drink.

Double Fermentation
If you look closely at its label, Affligem prides themselves of their double fermentation process. Now, the double fermentation process is usually done in champagne whereby after the liquid is bottled, additional sugar and yeast is added into the bottle itself. Why? To create even more gas, taste and ABV.

This process is rarely done in beers today, which is why Affligem is proud of it, and proudly displays it on their label.

Where can I buy it?
Should be made available in selected dining places, bars, grocers and convenience stores nationwide from October 2014.

For more:

Images with thanks from: & GAB

Friday, 10 October 2014

Kirin Glamping Post-Event Report

(Warning, this is a picture heavy post. With loads of horribly taken pictures.)

Kirin ran a promotion through the month of September whereby with any purchase of their beer, you get a chance to participate in something called "Glamping" on 3 October.

Drink more Kirin.

If you're not too familiar with what Glamping means, it's actually a marriage of 2 words - glamorous and camping. So it's a form of camping where you spend some time away from the comforts of your own home in a sort of a retreat (mostly in the forest or nature reserve, like camping lah), but you don't forgo any luxuries like electricity, plumbing, the internet. etc (hence, glamorous).

What that in mind, I actually was expecting an overnight experience and was looking forward to it. But Kirin clarified that it was just going to be an event lasting a few hours with fun "camping" activities and food - ie, more like a party without any of the hassle of needing to stay the night. Fine by me! A party by any name, is still a party! But I was intrigued... what in the world will they be doing to make it seem like one is on a Glamping trip?

Firstly before we even talk about the event proper - the invite was couriered over. COURIERED. Check out the pearly thick paper that was used for the invite! How much thought was put into that man? LOADS!

I am so suakoo. Invite card also take picture.

Before we entered into the event hall, we were given a bunch of paints and brushes to decorate our own Japanese lanterns, which was hung at the entrance of the event hall.

Lanterns. Lanterns everywhere!

After the first task was done, you were lead to the event hall by hot Kirin chicks.

Tall Hot Kirin Chicks. Tall Hot Kirin Chicks everywhere!

And you'll instantly feel like you've been transported into an ACTUAL camping ground.Why? There was grass. Lots and lots of grass! The entire event hall was filled with fake grass! Even the lighting is dimmed to make you feel like you're being in the dark outdoors.... but you're actually indoors! What sorcery!

Grass. Grass everywhere!

Not forgetting nice little cute white tents all over the place and activity booths! Those were so cozy you could just lay down and zzzz.....


The place was filled with hot Kirin chicks in really short Kimonos who keep plying you with ice cold Kirin beer. If you were a guy, this is one version of heaven on earth.

Would you like another beer? YES. TWO DAMNIT!

There were also fierce looking Kabuki dancers lurking around too, hoping to be asked for a selfie. Yes they may look frightening on the outside, but inside, they are just insecure little demons who love taking selfies, just like we do.

Kabuki dancers. Kabuki dancers everywhere.

We were given the chance to play with something called Kendama which looked like a simple silly wooden child's toy - NOT. Getting that darn wooden ball to balance on the wooden stick is almost as hard as algebra. Okay, maybe not as hard as algebra, but it was HARD.

This is how the Japanese play with their balls.

We even got to made our own campfire chairs out of cardboard! This has got to be the most original thing I've ever seen in awhile (I haven't been out much, I guess)! I thought it was so awesome I wanted to bring back the whole lot! And it was sturdy as anything man! Even a baby elephant could stand on that thing! Just look at how excited I still am with every sentence in this paragraph being punctuated with an exclamation point!

Box seats. Box seats everywhere

We get to silk-screen our own recyclable bags to take home. Seriously just can't get enough of awesome free stuff.


Then, we get to create our own bento box meal. Kirin made sure we had plenty of food because there were also servers walking around the camping site with what seemed like a never-ending flow of sushi. An event that makes sure you're always fed and quenched is an event that is deserving of a lot of love. <3

Sempat to camwhore before shoving the food down my mouth.

After we've completed all our activities (lantern paining, silk screening, making our own bento) we get to collect a 4-pack Kirin beer to tarpau home! Kirin, you're seriously too much!
Deep of said his arse was feeling cold.

And what's a fake glamour-camping, without some huge arse fake bonfire?

I can't even begin to describe how starstruck I was when I realised that Deborah Henry was the host of the event. She has got to be one of the hottest Miss Malaysia I've ever met, and crazily intelligent. Not to mention terribly lovely too. Swoon.

Woman, you make me feel like a man.

We were entertained by a live DJ set, live band and a (quite odd) dancing number by the Kabuki dancers (which, in all honesty, wasn't at all an actual Kabuki dance, more like.. spasmic breakdancing. But it was still quite entertaining nevertheless). Which was all great when you have had copious amounts of Kirin beer served by hot Kirin chicks. In short, short kimonos. No, I can't really get over how short the kimonos were.

Entertainment. Entertainment everywhere.

There was a surprise giveaway that night - ONE chosen winner (drawn randomly from a form we had to submit at the beginning of the event) gets to go to an all-expense paid trip to Japan for 5 days for 2 pax. I was gutted that it wasn't me. So gutted that I didn't even want to take pictures of the winner. So HMPH.

No lucky winner pictures. But here are some good advice on some random pillars by the folks at Kirin.

It's not too late though. Because from now till mid-November 2014, if you buy any Kirin, make sure you get a scratch card with it because you'll stand a chance to win a trip to Japan. For more on that check out

Now what is the point of this post anyway? It's so you know that you've missed out on one helluva awesome party. Then next time, when Kirin says that they wanna give you some awesome free stuff, you'll BELIEVE IT.

Thanks for the awesome party Kirin! Please invite me for the next one. Better yet, why don't you just send me straight to Japan? Domo arigatou!

Double fisting your beer is  highly recommended.
#KirinMY # KirinGlamping