The biggest international whisky event, Whisky Live, was once again brought to Manila by Grand Cru Wine and Spirits to bring whisky enthusiasts together in a highly anticipated festival that we won’t soon forget. Held at Shangri-la at The Fort, the second year of the festival featured over 131 styles and flavors of whisky from all over the globe. Here’s what caught our attention at Whisky Live Manila 2017:

Most in-demand souvenir – Balvenie once again came up with the souvenir that everyone lined up patiently for. This time, they gave away debossed leather cable holders.

Debossed leather cable holders
Balvenie booth

Multi-sensory drinking experience– Dewar’s offered a different take on whisky drinking to the public with their whisky vaporizer. Take a sip of Dewar’s and take a whiff of the vapor for a multi-sensory whisky experience. It almost feels like you’re getting a whisky steam facial.

Dewar’s whisky vaporizer

World’s Smallest Disco – The guys at Monkey Shoulder sure know how to have fun. Their booth was a blown-up version of their famous cage box, which was transformed into the world’s smallest disco, where Brand Ambassador Jay Gray spun some wicked beats and served up Monkey Shoulder cocktails.

Monkey Shoulder Mini Disco Booth
Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassador Jay Gray
Inside the booth

Interactive booth – At William Grant & Sons’ multi-touch table, you could place a glass of whisky on one of their acrylic boxes to see their tasting and crafting notes, their process, and loads of other cool information about whiskies. Definitely a fun way to learn more about Glenfiddich and their other brands. Special Mention to Ardbeg, who gave a tour of the island of Islay through virtual reality goggles.

William Grant & Sons’ multi-touch table
William Grant & Sons’ multi-touch table
Ardbeg virtual tour of Islay
Ardbeg virtual tour of Islay

Multimillion-peso whisky – Enclosed in a well-lit glass case in The Dalmore booth sat the most expensive bottle of whisky found at Whisky Live Manila. The Dalmore’s 50 Year Old costs a whopping P3.5 million, and was purchased by an anonymous buyer, who agreed to have it on display for the festival.

Special Bottles – One of the fun things about Whisky Live is getting to sample special whiskies that are either expensive, hard to get, exclusive, limited, or all of the above. The Dalmore booth served drams of King Alexander III in Glencairn whisky glasses etched with the iconic 12-point Royal Stag emblem. Other special bottles at the event were Knob Creek Limited Edition, Duncan Taylor super-premium collection Dimensions Longmorn 20 Year Old 1996 (P20,000 ++ per bottle), Jameson Black Barrel, Highland Park 18 Viking Park, Glenrothes American Oak 1995, Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask, Teeling Whiskey The Revival limited edition commemorative Single Malt (only 10,000 bottles made and the last bottle in the Philippines was sold at the event), Auchentoshan Three Wood, Tomatin 18 Oloroso Sherry Cask, Craigellachie 13 Year Old (one of the three official Craigellachie bottling released in 2014 and 2017 Silver winner of Scotch Single Malt – Speyside – International Wine and Spirit Competition), and Octomore. The Johnnie Walker booth opened a bottle of King George V, worth over P20,000, a few hours before the exhibition ended. Someone bought the bottle and was generous enough to share with those lucky enough to be around at that time.

King Alexander III

Duncan Taylor super-premium collection Dimensions Longmorn 20 Year Old 1996 (P20,000 ++ per bottle)
Jameson Black Barrel
Highland Park 18 Viking Park
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask
Teeling Whiskey The Revival limited edition commemorative Single Malt (only 10,000 bottles made and the last bottle in the Philippines was sold at the event)
Craigellachie 13 Year Old (one of the three official Craigellachie bottling released in 2014 and 2017 Silver winner of Scotch Single Malt – Speyside – International Wine and Spirit Competition)
Diageo Ambassador and Keeper of the Quaich Alex Whang served Johnnie Walker King George V

For those who went to the masterclasses, bottles of whisky not available at the booths were open for tasting within the class. Diageo Ambassador and Keeper of the Quaich Alex Whang’s masterclass opened a tasting lineup of Glenkichie Distillers Edition, Caol Ila 17 yrs, Mortlack 25 Year Old, and Talisker 25 Year Old.

Unaged Cambus whisky and Lagavulin whisky
Glenkichie Distillers Edition, Caol Ila 17 yrs, Mortlack 25 Year Old, and Talisker 25 Year Old

New bottles for Whisky Live 2017 exhibition – A few new brands joined the exhibition this year: Auchentoshan (one of the last active distilleries in the Scotland Lowlands), Duncan Taylor’s super-premium collection, Dimensions, Asaka Distillery, Wakatsuru White Whisky, AWC brought out Armagnac, and French Whisky from Château de Laubade (the Château de Laubade No. 5 is the one people clamored for; and the Gun’s Bell Rum from France is a good find as well). The brand to watch out for is Koval Whisky from Chicago. This organic whisky brand’s White Whisky and Four Grain Whisky were a hit among whisky lovers looking for something out of the ordinary.

Auchentoshan
Wakatsuru White Whisky
AWC bottles – Hee Joy Rum, French WhiskyWhisky Alsacien de la Distellerie Hepp, Château de Laubade No. 5, Hedonist Cognac, Godet Cognac, and Gun’s Bell Rum, and Whisky Villanova, Berbie
Château de Laubade No. 5
Koval Whisky

Peaty Whiskies – We hold peaty whiskies close to our heart, and the selections did not disappoint. The smoky brands offered were Old Ballantruan, Old Ballantruan 10 year old, Lagavulin 12, Port Charlotte, Smokehead, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Talisker, Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve, Highland Park, and the peatiest of them all, Octomore (which was finished rather swiftly on both days).

Bruichladdich Classic Laddie, Port Charlotte, and Octomore
Old Ballantruan and Old Ballantruan 10 year old
Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve
Glengoyne, Tamdhu, and Smokehead whiskies

Surprise spirit: Gin – Who would have thought that the clear spirit could take some of the attention away from the star of the festival? The standout brands hailed from around the world. From Canada, there was Ungava Gin, which differs from the usual clear liquor because of its neon yellow color that it gets from wild rose hip, Koval Dry Gin from Chicago, and from Japan, Beam Suntory’s first Japanese gin brand Roku, and Mars Tsunuki Distillery WA BI GIN.

Ungava Gin
Roku Gin
Mars Tsunuki Distillery WA BI GIN

Other spirits – There were several local brands as well: Don Papa Rum, Lakan Lambanog, Tanduay Gold and Silver Asian Rum, and Tanduay CLX Rum Chairman’s Reserve. The Brewery at The Palace offered craft beer for those who wanted to take a break from hard liquor or those who were ready to ease into the end of their night (as it’s a common practice for Filipinos to end drinking sessions with beer).

Lakan Lambanog
The Brewery Booth

Mini-Masterclass –  Glenmorangie held mini-masterclasses in their booth, where guests could get to know more about the different whiskies in the brand and get a crash course on how to appreciate them.

Glenmorangie Whiskies
Glenmorangie mini masterclass at their booth

Best pairing with whiskyThere are things that naturally go with whisky, like cigars and golf, that were represented at the event (Tabacalera and Golf.ph, respectively). But we have to hand the best pairing to Tigre Oliva Hand Crafted Chocolate. Made from cacao beans sourced from Davao, these export-quality chocolates go really well with the Glenfiddich whiskies they were paired with.

Golf.ph booth
Tabacalera booth
Tigre Oliva Hand Crafted Chocolate

Free-flowing cocktails – For those who wanted a breather from drinking whisky straight up, there were numerous cocktails to choose from. Most booths offered their own take on classics, as well as signature drinks. Japanese whisky bar, Lit, partnered with Mars Whisky and Philippine Wine Merchants to serve up cocktails and highballs. Dewar’s even invited Whisky Live attendees to make and shake their own cocktails (Dramble and Old Fashioned), because sometimes a cocktail does taste better when you’ve worked for it. Mixologists Dondz Bolante made cocktails for Tanduay, Lester Ligon manned the Camus/Ungava booth, Monkey Shoulder’s Ambassador Jay Gray and guest bartender Poch Ancheta man the mini disco booth of Monkey Shoulder, and Enzo Lim mixed drinks for Don Papa. The Spirits Library bartenders mixed up cocktails on the second day until the event closed. The participants of the cocktail competition also churned out their cocktail entries for the eager crowd.

Make your own cocktail at Dewar’s booth
Dondz Bolante made cocktails for Tanduay
Lester Ligon manned the Camus/Ungava booth
Enzo Lim at Don Papa booth
Angelica Castro serves up cocktails at Bevtools.com booth
The Spirits Library’s Jay Natividad

Cocktail competition with a twist This year’s cocktail competition paired established brands and bartenders with schools and students. The mentors taught the basics of bartending to their apprentices, and the students were the ones who made their cocktail entry for the judges. Ten pairs entered the competition, with the top three chosen from the first day of Whisky Live to duke it out the next day with their final cocktails. Dewars x College of Saint Benilde mentor Niño Cruz and apprentice Brianna Buencamino placed second, while Remy Cointreau x Center for the Culinary Arts mentor Mark Herrera and apprentice Lyka May C. Sinfuego took first place. The champion of the competition was the Remy Cointreau x Center for the Culinary Arts team-up of mentor Joey “Mayor” Cerdinia (Blind Pig and La Maison Cointreau’s PH contender for 2017) and apprentice Arminel Joy C. Moniague. Their entry, Mayor’s Mission Order (Port Charlotte, Cointreau Noir, Fresh Mango, Nata de Coco, Giffard Pistachio Syrup, Coconut Cream, Bob’s Choco Bitters, Sticky rice flavoured coconut and pinipig), was chosen by judge Lee Watson for its nuanced flavors. Joey received P80,000 worth of prizes (P40,000 cash and P40,000 worth of bottles from the five participating brands) and Armi got a three-month paid internship with Lee, along with their tips for the night.

Remy Cointreau x Center for the Culinary Arts mentor Mark Herrera and apprentice Lyka May C. Sinfuego, Remy Cointreau x Center for the Culinary Arts team-up of apprentice Arminel Joy C. Moniague and mentor Joey “Mayor” Cerdinia (Blind Pig and La Maison Cointreau’s PH contender for 2017), Dewars x College of Saint Benilde mentor Niño Cruz and apprentice Brianna Buencamino, and The Spirits Library Lee Watson
Lyka May C. Sinfuego from Center for the Culinary Arts
Apprentice Arminel Joy C. Moniague from Center for the Culinary Arts
Apprentice Brianna Buencamino from College of Saint Benilde

Something OldThe Spirits Library by Lee Watson (his new concept that is still finding its home) mounted a display comprised of hard to find bar paraphernalia, old books, and vintage bottles – including a bottle of Pernod Fils, the most popular brand of absinthe throughout the 19th century until it was banned in 1915 – on either side of the stage, to the delight of history buffs and collectors who geeked out over the rare finds.

The Spirits Library vintage bottle collection

A vintage bottle of Pernod Fils, the most popular brand of absinthe throughout the 19th century until it was banned in 1915
The Spirits Library vintage bottle collection and spirits paraphernalia

Keepers of the Quaich Masterclasses – There were several masterclasses throughout the event, and it was a treat to have not one, but two Keepers of the Quaich holding masterclasses: Glenmorangie Regional Brand Ambassador Murphy Chang and Diageo Regional Brand Ambassador Alex Whang. The Keepers of the Quaich is an exclusive and international society that recognizes those that have shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch whisky industry.

Diageo Regional Brand Ambassador Alex Whang

A casual affair This year, guests came in more casual attire (even if the invitation says semi-formal), as compared to last year. Maybe most people went to the event with comfort in mind, since they would be imbibing a large amount of alcohol. There were also more young people present; perhaps they came as a show of support for the apprentices for the cocktail competition, and also because more millennials are getting into whisky.

Like last year, guests were given a set of chips they used to get a dram of the whiskies of their choice, a blue one to vote for best whisky, and a white one to vote for the best booth. Once they ran out of red chips, they were granted more chips once they passed the breathalyzer test. Each guest was given a bottle of Evian Water and water stations were set up near the entrance to keep guests hydrated. The event started and ended promptly, with organizers reminding everyone that they only had until midnight to have their fill of their favorite spirits, and telling booths to stop serving booze at the designated time. Once the chips were tallied and the festivities were winding down, the Best Whisky was awarded to Glenmorangie and Balvenie bagged the Best Booth for the second year in a row.

A blue chip to vote for best whisky, and a white chip to vote for the best booth
Alcohol Breathalyzer
Water stations
Glenmorangie was voted the Best Whisky Award for Whisky Live 2017
The Balvenie bagged the Best Booth for the second year in a row

Whisky Live Manila 2017 gathered whisky enthusiasts of all ages, brand ambassadors, bartenders, and industry people from all over the world to celebrate “the water of life.” We’re looking forward to what they will come up with in 2018.

Photos and video by Star Sabroso • Assisted by Chiin Gandia

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