Whisky in Hong Kong has a mythology of glamour, sophistication, class, and so much more. Much of this is the creation by our pop culture, Macallan Whisky in Suits, Dalmore Whisky in Kingsman, Old Forester Whiskey in Kingsman II, Jack Daniel Whiskey in The Shining, Canadian Club in Mad Men, Macallan in two separate Jame Bond movies Spectre and Skyfall, and who can forget “for relaxing times, make it Suntory time” in Lost in Translation. The latter movie probably had the biggest impact on the rise of Japanese whiskey, arguably creating the worldwide shortage in its supply we still see today.
Different Types for Different Tastes
The list of available whisky in Hong Kong is wide ranging, our whisky culture is Scottish dominated, but in recent years, Irish Whiskey in Hong Kong has been impactful, given their amazing value for money in price point and quality. Japanese Whiskey in Hong Kong on the other hand, has taken a very different path, with supply very short, and demand overwhelming. Meanwhile, American Whiskey in Hong Kong is undervalued as always, given its amazing flavours, rich culture, and very pervasive appearances in popular culture. We need some Wild Turkey time, or Jack Daniel time please!!!
A very interesting point about whisky and popular culture is that it has divided drinkers of whisky into different corners. Sometimes we see arguments between Japanese whiskey and Scottish whisky, other times between American Whiskey and the rest of the world; and so on. Of course, there are key differences between the flavour, character, and history, for different countries (even regions of the same country). First of all, the raw ingredients are different, corn, malted barley, rye, and so on; and their different combinations and levels make very different whisky. Second, the ageing process, and the vessel in which they age the whisky or whiskey, also makes a huge impact. Thirdly, the weather and climatic conditions where the whisky (and whiskey) are stored, creates an even bigger difference. Therefore, while most people assume that whisky should have a particular profile, or one whisky is more superior to another, in reality we should appreciate whisky from different countries as they are. For example, some may scoff at the “lack of cultural and historical richness of the American whiskey, yet in actual fact, whiskey in America has been a key actor throughout the dramatic events of the nation’s past 400 years.
What is Whisky?
Whisky is made from the distillation process of alcohol, its raw ingredients are grains. Which grains are used depends on the country where the whisky is made, and the market the distillery is targeting. Whilst we think Scotland is the O.G. of whisky producing nations; interestingly the tradition of whisky making is as old in Ireland (some argue older) as in their northern neighbour Scotland. Copper stills are normally used in the distillation process as it removes sulfur-based compounds that would contribute to off-flavours. In most parts of the world, whisky must have an alcohol of 40% abv, and must have had a minimum period of time aged in wooden casks for it to be called a whisky.
The age of a whisky is the time it spends in wooden casks. Most importantly, the number of years denoted on the whisky bottle (its age) indicates the number of years the youngest whisky had aged in the cask. What does that mean? It is not uncommon for a whisky to be a blend from different whiskies of the same distillery, some perhaps from a 15 year old whisky, a small amount from a 30 year old whisky, and finally some from 10 years. For this particular blend of single malt whisky, the label would denote this whisky is a 10 year old single malt whisky; given the youngest whisky in this bottle is 10 years. The age of whisky denotes only the time it’s aged in casks, once it has been bottled, its age is locked, no matter how long the bottle has been left unopened. Think of a bottled whisky as immortalised, a 10 year old single malt whisky will forever be 10 year old.
Drinkers of whisky in Hong Kong often believe that the older a whisky is, the better its flavour. This is simply not true, a lot of relatively young whisky tastes amazing compared to their older siblings. The science behind whisky ageing includes extraction, evaporation, oxidation, concentration, filtration, and finally colouration (yes, some whisky has caramel added to it to produce a more attractive colour). Extraction perhaps is the most critical process given the whisky extracts flavours from the cask it’s aged in. As you can imagine, the flavour profiles of a whisky therefore comes from the type of cask it’s housed in. Some common casks include sherry casks, bourbon casks, new oak charred or toasted casks, port casks, wine casks like Sauternes casks, and so on. All these casks come in different sizes too, which changes their whisky to cask surface contact ratio and therefore, creates a lower or higher extraction.
Types of Whisky and Some Basic Terminologies
There are many terms attached to whisky that can confuse many people, below are some very basic terms one can get familiar with before committing to a bottle of whisky in Hong Kong.
Malt Whisky: whisky made primarily from malted barley
Grain Whisky: Made from combinations of grains
Single Malt Whisky: a blend of malted barley whisky (unless it denotes it’s a single cask whisky) from the same distillery.
Blended Malt Whisky: a blend of malted barley whisky from different distilleries.
Single Cask Whisky: a whisky bottled from an individual cask, with no blending at all (apart from water being added)
Cask Strength Whisky: a blend of whiskies undiluted, or only minimally diluted to achieve the character and flavours most closely loyal to how they tasted in the casks.
Buying Whisky in Hong Kong
Whether you’re buying whisky online or in store, it’s best to experiment with different types of whisky. It’s actually a good idea to have multiple whiskies in your home so that you can taste them side-by-side, and note their differences. Most whisky drinkers have 5-10 bottles at any given time for this purpose. There’s a wide range of Scottish whisky in Hong Kong, we’re spoilt for choices in this category. But for others, such as Irish, and American whiskey in Hong Kong, you may find the choice limited; especially when you’re looking for whiskey online. This is why we strive to have a decent selection of whisky online and in our store, whether it’s the Scottish variety, American, Irish, or Japanese whiskey. Our whisky delivery is prompt, usually the next day if you order before 3pm for Standard Delivery. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know and we’ll look into it.