Remember when a whisky’s age was deemed a proxy of its character? That sort of made sense – after all, the longer the stuff sits in a cask, the more chemistry can work its tasty magic on the contents.
But just as any high schooler can point out, time is just one factor in any chemical reaction. Aspects such as temperature and humidity are also key to maturation. Even in frigid Scotland, it’s commonplace to have casks stored in racked warehouses, which makes tweaking these variables easy. Too hot, and you lose more of the alcohol to evaporation – a percentage referred to as the “angel’s share”; too dry, and a lot of water escapes, leaving an overly strong product.
Which is why nobody has attempted to mature whisky in Singapore’s infernal weather. Until now.
Brass Lion Distillery – the same folks behind some of the island’s first gin – has collaborated with The General Brewing Company to roll out the country’s first whisky, aged in an ex-bourbon cask.
“We decided to do it for fun and to see where we land – we’re very experimental,” says Jamie Koh, founder of the distillery, “The weather was a consideration but not a deterrent – if anything, we wanted a [whisky] that was influenced by Singapore’s climate.”
Koh’s team projects an angel’s share upwards of 7 per cent, per year. A cask in a typical Scotch distillery only sheds 1 to 2 per cent. But there are boons to keeping things at “Singapore room temperature”.
“The ageing time won’t be as lengthy,” says Koh, referring to the fact that the beneficial chemical interactions and charcoal filtration occur much faster in local settings. Case in point: Young whiskies from tropical countries like Taiwan and India have stared down some legacy brands and won serious international clout. “We won’t need as many years to achieve a similar quality [to traditional whiskies].”
The proof will be in the pudding in about three years’ time, which is when Koh intends to bottle. There have already been attempts by aficionados to buy the cask.