Whisky is often seen as a man’s drink, oozing machismo, strength, and power. That is changing though. Francis Hasegawa, part owner and resident whisky concierge of new Japanese whisky bar Lit in Serendra, sees the tide shifting.

“The ratio of male to female customers is close to 50-50. There are a lot of women whisky drinkers out there.” So this is proof that whisky is no longer a man’s world. There’s even a women only whisky club, Women Who Whisky (womenwhowhiskey.club) founded by whisky enthusiast Julia Toffoli in New York and they have members from Geneva to Australia. Hint, hint to whisky brands. Please make ads that feature something other than the usual distinguished gentleman swishing his whisky (maybe even holding a cigar), seated in a chair covered in dead animal skin, and surrounded by books he never reads.

Longrow 14 Year Old Scotch Whisky, Springbank 10 Year Old Scotch Whisky, Ileach Peaty Scotch Whisky, Deanston 12 Year Old, and Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Whisky

There’s a lot of whisky jargon swirling around one’s head that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Terms like peatiness, flavor palate, age statements, mouth feel, and a bunch of other things are enough to intimidate or at least confuse anyone.

Let’s tackle the basics. Whisky is commonly made with malted barley and aged in casks. It is generally grouped in two categories: Single malt and blended whisky. Single malt is used to refer to spirits distilled in one distillery and blended whisky is for whiskies of different ages mixed from different distilleries. There is no such thing as “double malt.”

There’s some confusion between the two spellings: whisky and whiskey. The difference is that whisky comes from Scotland (also adopted by distillers from Japan, Canada, Australia and Europe), while whiskey refers to spirits distilled in Ireland and America. Scotch only comes from Scotland. So all Scotches are whiskies but not all whiskies are Scotches. Follow me so far?

Suntory Old Whisky, Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve, Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Single Malt Whisky, Yamazaki Distillery Limited, Macallan 12 Years, HIbiki 12 Years, and Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Distiller’s Reserve

When I first got a taste of whisky in my college days, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it yet. I murdered my whisky with Red Bull (sacrilege!). Ah, the ignorance of youth! Studying in a hotel school in Switzerland gave me the tools to understand and learn how to taste and drink whisky. It starts with the nose. By taking a whiff, you can predict what the taste would be like. Don’t drink it too fast; it is not a shooter for Christ’s sake! Sip and savor it in your mouth. Every part of the mouth has a different taste sensation so it’s important to coat the inside of the mouth with whisky to experience it fully. But of course everyone’s taste buds are different, so it still boils down to personal taste. After swallowing the amber liquid comes the finish, the aftertaste. The amount of time for flavors to remain is called the length of finish.

5 whisky
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Scotch Whisky, Connemara Peated Irish Single Malt Whisky, Yamazaki 12 Years, Jim Beam Bourbon, and Canadian Club Whisky

Just talking about tasting whisky is making my mouth water. Reaching for one of my current favorites, the Port Charlotte Scottish single malt, and pouring myself a double with a dash of mineral water to open up its layers of sexiness. Just the way I like it. But that’s just me. You could drink it neat (add nothing). You may drink it on the rocks (add ice). Whatever floats your boat. But please, for the love of everything holy, do not add Coke!

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky at Red Rabbit

We partly owe the current popularity of whisky to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Also, the palate of Filipinos is getting more sophisticated. Red Rabbit, a cocktail bar in Salcedo Village, is fast becoming the go-to place for single malts (best to go on Whisky Wednesdays). They carry an impressive collection of single malts that would excite any whisky enthusiast.

Just like the old world and new world wine techniques  that have combined to produce exquisite products, the same goes for whisky. It’s tradition vs. innovation, I suppose. In the 2014 Whisky Bible, not one of the top five entries is Scottish. The 2014 Whisky Bible awarded Japan’s Yamazaki 12 years Sherry Cask as that year’s finest, followed by World Whiskies Awards crowning Taiwan’s Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength.

Suntory Hakushu 18 Year Old, Suntory Hakushu 12 Year Old, and The Chita Suntory Whisky

To get a mouth feel of Japanese whisky, it’s best to sample one or all of Lit’s Japanese whisky flights. Japanese whiskies are generally sweeter and lighter than the Scottish ones, closer to Highland (floral) or Speyside (milder) whiskies. They are smooth, approachable, and drinkable.

I know me saying this might make some purists upset and may merit me being sentenced to the firing squad. But the trends can’t be ignored and begs the question: With the success of Japanese whisky and the recent win of Taiwan, is Asia the new frontier for whisky?

Lit, G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City 0917-510-0014; Red Rabbit, Unit 5, Paseo Parkview Tower, Valero cor. Sedeno St., Salcedo Village, Makati City 501-5203

See recipes for whisky cocktails.        

Restaurateur, expert drinker, creative proprietor of steam punk bar Hooch, SMITH Butcher and Grill Room, Ebeneezers, Poulet Manille, and Ampersand. She wrote The Standard newspaper’s Tipple Tales cocktail and spirits column and co-hosted the Manila episode of the Travel Channel show Booze Traveler with cocktail connoisseur Jack Maxwell. She is DrinkManila’s resident mixology expert.

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