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Bottling your very own whisky (Amended)
WHISKY appreciation is a lot more than just learning about existing styles. For the real connoisseur, it means going to the next level - creating your own blends. And if you really want to make an impression on your clients or friends, there are companies that will customise not just your whisky but the bottles too, making them very exclusive gifts.
With this in mind, Diageo - which owns the Johnnie Walker whisky brand - has just launched its John Walker & Sons Signature Blend programme in Singapore, which is part of its Diageo Reserve portfolio. It's so exclusive that you can only be invited to take part, and the price of blending your own whisky starts at S$260,000, which gets you 50 standard 750ml bottles and two bespoke packaging options. Anything more exotic costs more.
Diageo started its private client sales team in December, which comprises two relationship managers who can arrange John Walker & Sons Signature Blend sessions held in Singapore or Scotland.
Essentially, these sessions involve Diageo's Johnnie Walker master blender, Jim Beveridge, conducting an elaborate tasting of up to 40 different whisky samples. After each round of tasting, Mr Beveridge alters the formula in an attempt to understand the clients' palates, and to eventually craft a single Signature Blend that everyone can agree on.
The tasting group has to be small - at most five people - partly because of the premium, exclusive setting, but also because consensus among the group is required to decide on the final blend. While individual blending sessions need to be small, large groups could potentially be accommodated by dividing them into smaller groups.
Mr Beveridge conducts about 10 John Walker & Sons Signature Blend sessions a year. He was in Singapore earlier this month to launch the programme here, and said that Signature Blend clients have been two-thirds male so far, although he's noticed that when women do participate, they tend to have a clear idea of the sort of taste they are after.
Of course, the John Walker & Sons Signature Blend isn't your only option for getting customised whisky.
Spirit of Scotland is run by Andrew Skene, and has operations in both Singapore and Scotland. Although it has samples in Singapore that represent various casks customers can bottle whisky from, blending is done by warehousemen in Scotland so a visit there is in order for those who want a custom blend.
Next month, for example, Spirit of Scotland is releasing a 35-year-old blend aged in an Oloroso Sherry cask, in partnership with Scottish company Kinloch Anderson, and it can create similar blends for clients.
Pricing can range from £80 (S$155) per standard bottle for 20-year-old whiskies, to £1,000 per bottle for 40-year-old whiskies in a crystal decanter, wooden box and glasses. These prices include tasting whisky samples in Singapore, bottling in Scotland and then shipping the final product to Singapore.
Quaich Bar is located at Waterfront Plaza, and its prices also vary depending on not just the whisky involved, but the size of the cask, which can yield anywhere from 60 to 300 bottles.
A S$30,000 cask of 11-year-old Longrow can yield 200 standard bottles, which works out to S$150 per bottle. But a S$13,200 cask of 24-year-old Octave Bunnahabain only yields 60 standard bottles, which means a per-bottle cost of S$220 despite the cost of the cask being lower than the Longrow.
Cost per bottle can range from S$150 all the way to above S$1,000. The whisky from invidual casks can be bottled as is or blended with others to produce a unique blend. Quaich's clients also have the option of sharing casks with other customers in order to keep costs down, and there's even the option or purchasing single bottles.
For example, it once bottled a 40-year-old Glenglassaugh in a Glencairn Crystal decanter together with four Glencairn nosing glasses, where the packaging alone cost S$300, but the total price was still more affordable than buying a cask's worth of bottles.
Quaich co-owner Chua Khoon Hui says that his customers range from corporates, all the way to bridal couples who want their own blend to give away as gifts on their big day.
Last month, some customers wanted custom blends for Valentine's Day. Spirit of Scotland's Mr Skene has noticed that custom bottlings are popular as corporate gifts because of the opportunities for branding and customisation.
The price for Diageo's John Walker & Son Signature Blend was wrongly stated in US dollars. It should have been in Singapore dollars. We apologise for the error.