A Peek into Singapore’s Very Own Mahjong Themed Independently Bottled Whiskies.

Mahjong Series

CONTENT: Yiew Kai Jie

If you’re a lover of everything that involves whiskies, there’s a high chance that you’ve heard the term “independent bottlers” being whispered around at your local watering hole as you sip on your glass of whisky. Although it sounds relatively foreign to the casual whisky drinker, independent bottling whiskies such as Gordon & MacPhail and WM Cadenhead’s have been slowly making their presence known to whisky connoisseurs and the whisky industry around the world.

In a nutshell, independent bottlers are defined as companies or a group of individuals who purchase one or several barrels of whiskies from distilleries or brokers to sell them under their own brand. Generally, a whisky that has been released under an individual bottler does not necessarily mean that it is of a higher quality of most top-shelf whiskies out in the market. Instead, independently bottled whiskies tend to showcase a unique flavour profile and quality of what the independent bottler wants to achieve.

The reason why some whisky fans are turning towards independent bottlers for their tipple is due to the fact their whisky tends to be bottled at cask strength and they often do not carry out the controversial process of chill filtering their whisky which can alter the flavour of the original whisky entirely. Once the independent bottlers have purchased their casks from the distilleries or brokers, they can pretty much do whatever they please with the elixir in it- further mature it in a different cask to change the flavour and the finish, bottle it immediately for sale or store it in a secure warehouse to allow it to age for a longer duration of time.

In Singapore, independent bottlers are a relatively unknown concept but have been slowly making their presence known to the local market through private whisky events and strategic placement of their bottles at specific bars that cater to bespoke whiskies such as Tipple and Dram, The Single Cask and The Auld Alliance. However, the odds are stacked against them as independent bottlers have to be careful in purchasing and marketing their swirl as it requires them to part with a significant part of their capital in order to purchase the whisky and get the word out to the masses.

Spirits Castle, a whisky and spirits distributor based in Singapore is one of the few companies that are fighting tooth and nail against the odds to spread the message and raise the awareness of independent bottlers. To that end, they have collaborated with three other companies from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to produce their own lineup of whiskies and centered them around a theme that may be familiar with many Singaporeans: Mahjong!

Popular during annual festivals such as Chinese New Year, Mahjong is infamous for being a bread and butter gambling game that is well known by all age groups in most Asian countries. Although it was rumoured to be a game that was useful in keeping the mind sharp amongst the elderly, the younger generation has taken it as an easy way to win money quickly. Many families use the game to bond with one another or settle any disagreements or arguments they might have in a relatively fair and peaceful way.

As the game of tiles are relatively popular in most Asian countries, Spirits Castle has taken it upon themselves to work with companies out of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to incorporate the essence of Mahjong into the new line of independently bottled whiskies. As such, the logos of the four companies are represented below the laser-engraved tiles on the glass bottles so that customers can feel the nitty-gritty texture similar to an actual mahjong tile when the bottle is held. Each bottle is made to stand out visually on a shelf to be the next conversation piece amongst one’s family and friends during the next family reunion or meet up. To preserve the artistic aspect of the bottles, the boxes themselves are custom made to ensure that customers can display the glass bottles in their homes as a decoration or art piece once the whisky has been emptied from the bottle!

Mahjong 1

At the moment, Spirits Castle has already released the first eight bottles of the Mahjong Series of whiskies. The series commenced with the introduction of the first four bottles in April 2019.

  • Benriach 2011 6 Years Old (Peated) ($230) – The corresponding tile is 一萬
  • Drumblade (Alisa Bay) 2008 8 Years Old ($221) – The corresponding tile is 一筒
  • Aultmore 2008 9 Years Old ($221) – The corresponding tile is 一索
  • Highland Park 2005 12 Years Old ($278) – The corresponding tile is 紅中

Young, dynamic and full of flavours, these four bottles have drawn praises from many who bought and tried it due to their origin from Duncan Taylor’s famous Octave casks. The two particular favourites in Singapore are the Benriach 2011 and the Highland Park 2005.

The next four bottles come in spurs.

  • Craigellachie 2007 10 Years Old ($225) – The corresponding tile is 東風
  • Glen Garioch 2011 7 Years Old ($221) – The corresponding tile is 二萬
  • Invergordon 2007 10 Years Old ($180) – The corresponding tile is 三萬
  • Caol Ila 2008 10 Years Old ($245) – The corresponding tile is 二筒

The next four bottles arrived in July 2019, with the last one, Caol Ila being released on the market on 27th July. Out of the four bottles, the first three were also taken from Duncan Taylor’s famous Octave casks. Duncan Taylor is known for maturing whiskies in smaller casks – about 50 litres – called octave casks, which allow more wood interaction for the spirit inside them. In the end, this process produces a more sophisticated whisky with flavours that are well beyond its age despite being only aged in the cask for a couple of years.

Mahjong 1

 

Caol Ila 2008 10 Years Old deserves a special mention because it is the first cask bought from Signatory Vintage. As a young whisky that is fully matured in a single bourbon cask, it displays fantastic flavours from the spirit character, and yet gives a distinctive bourbon influence. It is also one of the most popular expressions amongst the eight bottles.

Spirits Castle and the three other companies went with the Mahjong theme as all the parties involved are Chinese and they all love a good game of Mahjong. The game itself symbolises the bond and collaboration between the four companies as well as the rather huge risk they have undertaken to bottle the series that will yield a total of 34 bottles over the next three to five years. As Mahjong has not surfaced as a theme for independent bottlers, Spirits Castle and her friends have used it to stand out from the crowd. They believe that the theme of Mahjong also brings the core meaning of friendship, collaboration and even a sense of familiarity across to their customers.

The first eight bottles of the Mahjong Series can be found individually or as a set on Spirits Castle’s website: https://spirits-castle.myshopify.com/

For more information, please email: sales@spiritscastle.sg.

Leave a Comment