Exotic Whisky, Authentic Tastes
40 years of friendship is remarkable. 40 years of marriage is one of a kind. 40 years of devotion to the amber liquid inside casks are both, with extra determination and persistence. Maureen Robinson, having spent 4 decades in the industry, is the Master Blender for Diageo who has profound knowledge of whisky. It is an honor to have Maureen to talk about the finest whisky from Singleton in Hong Kong today, and share with us her ambitions to whisky.
MS: Malt & Spirits MR: Maureen Robinson
MS: How was Singleton started?
MR: Glen Ord, one of the Singleton distilleries, has a long history and can be traced back to 1800s but the Singleton brand is very young. There are also lots of history behind other distilleries of Singleton. Singleton actually started in 2004. I came to Asia to meet customers, trying to understand the Asian palate. I create something just for Asia. I spent a lot of efforts to find out the preferences of the Asian market. I discover Asians like very smooth and fragrant whisky. They like the palate to be less bitter. The first launch of Singleton was 2006 in Taiwan, then greater Asia.
MS: How well has Singleton developed in Asia in recent years?
MR: I think single malt whisky should be growing in Asia. And Singleton has also developed to be an entry malt. There are some people seeking more easy-going single malts rather than overly complex ones. They want a bit of everything. What we are trying to do is you don’t have to study the technical side of Singleton. All you should do is to enjoy the whisky. Singleton whisky can offer a wide range of flavor profile that satisfies what you are looking for from a glass of whisky.
MS: Could you describe the making of Singleton whisky?
MR: One of the things we do Singleton is all about being nice and slow. In this fast world, there is always a hurry to do things and that is why we want to slow down. Basically, from the start to finish, we use slow processes to make the liquid. We adopt long fermentation. When we distill it, it is done very gently and we condense and heat it. We often call the condensation process having conversations with the copper. The more conversations there are, the fresher, fruitier and lighter the whisky is.
MS: Is female blender common is Scotland?
MR: Female blender is not common in Scotland. Today even with Diageo, we have 3 or 4 other Master Blenders but even within the industry, there are only quite a few female blenders. I became a blender in 1996 and have been in the industry for over 40 years. I think I have paved the way for female blenders as at the time I became a blender, there were only male blenders. The industry is still very traditional because we just open up a certain markets. Customers of these markets incline towards smoky and complex whisky. Once other markets develop thoroughly, consumers will look for something different. Maybe the development of the industry in other markets will also drive more female to become a blender. Who knows?
MS: It is a pleasure to taste the masterpiece from Singleton today. Could you introduce the whisky to us?
MR: What we are going to taste are 3 whisky from the Singleton family. The first one we are going to taste is Singleton Glen Ord 18 Years Old Cask Strength. It is going to be quite strong and is produced limitedly. There is a slight touch of pickle on the nose, followed by sweet strawberries and raspberries. It is very smooth on the nose, without any unpleasant and irritating aroma. On the palate, there is an attack of fresh fruits, tangerines and oranges, cut through by sweet cherry notes. You might find some peppery notes on your tongue coming from high alcohol. I often advise people to add a dash of water when drinking Singleton Cask Strength to soften the whisky. Even it is a cask strength, the whisky is accessible and has a creamy aftertaste.
The next one to taste is Singleton 21 Years Old. You still got all the fruitiness of Singleton. Again you can tell it is from Singleton but it is quite individual as it has a distinctive oily aroma. It also has greenness, oiliness and fresh fruits when you smell it. This time you cannot find the peppery notes at the middle of your tongue. You still get a clean and fruity palate as much as in other Singleton. I encourage people to experiment the amount of water added to whisky and how you want to drink it. Sometimes a few drops are enough while in some cases the whisky may need a few more. It is all about enjoyment.
The third one is Singleton 25 Years Old. Not surprisingly, you can tell the whisky is from Singleton due to the consistency of the style of making. It tends to have more mature fruits and less oiliness than the other two. It is absolutely smooth and light on the nose without any pickle notes. 25 Years Old is very rich on the palate, with lots of flavors in it but it is not harsh. The aftertaste is highly complex, warming up your mouth. These 3 glasses show you the diversity of flavors of Singleton and expose you to an adventure of what whisky you are truly looking for.
MR: Singleton其中一座蒸餾廠Glen Ord，有長遠的歷史，可追溯至1800年代，旗下的其他蒸餾廠亦有很多歷史，但是Singleton品牌卻很年輕。Singleton於2004年建立，當時我去亞洲和客人見面，嘗試了解亞洲人的口味，製造只屬於亞洲的威士忌。我花了很多努力去摸索亞洲人的喜好，發現他們喜歡順滑及芬芳，苦味較少的威士忌。Singleton在2006年於台灣推出，接下來是亞洲其他地方。
MR: 我們將會品嚐3款Singleton威士忌。第一款是Glen Ord 18 Years Old Cask Strength，限量生產及味道強烈的威士忌，香味帶有微微醃菜，一些士多啤梨及山莓，非常順滑，沒有任何令人不舒服及刺激嗅覺的味道。入口帶有大量新鮮果味，如柑橘及橙，再被後來的車厘子中和，中段會嚐到一些來自高酒精度的胡椒味。我經常建議飲用人士加少量水於Singleton Cask Strength，把它緩和。縱使這是一瓶Cask Strength，但它容易掌握及帶有誘人的奶油香味。
第2瓶的是Singleton 21 Years Old。你依然可以品嚐到屬於Singleton的果味，輕易地辦別到它來自Singleton，但它有獨特的油質香氣。21 Years Old還有草青味及大量新鮮水果味道，仍然好像其他Singleton一樣，口感清澈，但沒有任何胡椒味道。我鼓勵愛好者嘗試加不同份量的水於威士忌以及鑽研怎樣是最享受它。有時只需加幾滴水但有些威士忌需要更多。一切一切都是享受。
最後一瓶是Singleton 25 Years Old。不出所料的是，Singleton穩定的釀酒風格，讓人立刻知道它是來自Singleton的威士忌。25 Years Old比前兩瓶有更多成熟的果味及較少油膩感。香氣依舊順滑及輕柔，但少了一分醃菜味。它的口感濃厚，味道多變但不會難以嚥下，餘韻複雜，並把口腔暖化。這3杯威士忌帶領你感受Singleton的各種味道及遊走威士忌的世界，希望令你尋找到心中嚮往的威士忌。
Text : Ching Yeung
Design : Inti Kong
Photos : Hong Leung
Venue : Blueprint