A lot of people I have met in Yangon have recommended getting hobby to help fill my days off, which got me to thinking – is whisky tasting a hobby and if not, why not?!
Enter The Yangon Whisky Club, started by James Erskine, an affable Brit who’s enthusiasm for a wee dram is matched only by his seemingly endless knowledge on the subject and who ensures the Whisky tastings are well organised, informative and most of all fun!
The Whisky World Cup started back at the end of April, just before I arrived in Yangon, with Group A comprising a blind tasting of 5 Whiskys; Teerenpeli from Finland, Kavalan Concert Master from Taiwan, Penderyn from Wales, Millstone 5 yr Old from Holland and Glen Els The Journey from Germany.
Teerenpeli, a Finnish distillery that was established in 2002, producing just 40,000 litres of whisky every year, was the clear winner with 49% of the vote, with Kavalan, a Taiwanese distillery founded in 2005 and now in the top 5 Scotch producing distilleries by volume in the world, finishing in second place with 35% of the overall vote.
Group B saw English Whisky Company Chapter 14 from England emerge victorious against Canadian Club 100% Rye from Canada, Santis Malt from Switzerland,Grand Royal Double Gold from Myanmar and Helliers Rd-Pinot Noir Finish from Australia, with 39% of the vote.
Whilst England is not well known for its whisky production, there were a number of whisky distillers operating historically, until the 19th century in fact, however it wasn’t until 2003 that two Cornish distillers revived the art form and there are now around half a dozen English distilleries including the Norfolk based English Whisky Company who produced the Chapter 14 we tasted.
Group C included Amrut Fusion from India, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon from the USA, Bains Cape Mountain Whisky from South Africa, Teeling Single Malt from Ireland and Eddu Grey Rock from France. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Award Winning Amrut Fusion proved far more popular than the safer Irish and American offerings, making its way onto the next round with ease.
Amrut Fusion takes its name from the fact that it uses “a fusion” of both Indian and Scottish barley (Amrut also means “nectar of the Gods” or “nectar of life” in Sanskrit) and was named one of the worlds top 3 Whiskies’ in 2010 by renowned whisky writer Jim Murray.
Group D was where I first attended the tastings, sampling Hibiki Harmony from Japan alongside Auchtenoshan 12 yr old and the lesser known Kekeis Single Malt from Austria, Brukswhisky Single Malt from Sweden and Stokerij De Moleberg Fado Vivo from Belgium. Unsurprisingly the top two whiskys were the Hibiki with 34% of the vote and the Auchtentoshan 12 yr old with 32% of the vote, meaning that the whiskies for the finals were to be Teerenpeli (Finland) English Whisky Company Chapter 14 (England) Amrut Fusion (India) Hibiki Harmony (Japan) as well as Kavalan (Taiwan) as the highest rated runner up.
Last nights final at The Savoy Hotel was the culmination of 3 months efforts and we were all interested to see which Whisky would emerge victorious. It was also the first time we had food paired alongside the whisky which was a great idea, Chef Patrick from The Savoy had some really interesting parings for us, from marinated beetroot and feta to pan seared foie gras, which were a huge success with the tasting panel.
Needless to say England bottled it and the majority of the panel found the Chapter 14 to be overly perfumed, like bubblegum, whilst the Teerenpeli proved far more popular, having interesting grassy notes and a pleasingly oily mouthfeel. The Hibiki that I had so enjoyed the previous round seemed overly caramelly and sweet & paled in comparison to the Kavalan (which received one of my three votes) however it was the complex notes and intriguing blend of smoke and minerals of the Amrut Fusion which saw them crowned overall victors of the Yangon Whisky Club World Cup!
I would recommend the tastings to anyone interested in Whisky (and living in Yangon obviously!) The group was a fun and diverse mix of all ages and nationalities and James is an excellent host, ensuring everything stays on topic without wavering (as you might expect after the 4th or 5th whisky!)