Spirit Forward: The Balvenie Makers Project, Ki No Bai, and more

It's booze o'clock.
Photo Courtesy of The Balvenie

The spirit world is blossoming here in Malaysia, with new releases or even cross-sector collaboration like The Balvenie’s with Ceres Lau. We wrapped up some of the good-to-haves spirits, from Scotch to Japanese Gin, it’s never too late (or too early) for a nice, soothing glass of drink.

The Balvenie Makers Project with paper artist Ceres Lau   

The collaboration between The Balvenie and local paper artist Ceres Lau for The Makers Project is a match made in heaven. What a bottle of single malt Scotch Whisky and paper artwork with astounding details have in common is the craftsmanship. 

Unveiling five life-sized artworks made out of paper in merely a month’s time, Ceres’ work got us all swooning over. Hailing from the land of Borneo, she revealed that her work is heavily inspired by nature—the influences are not hard to spot. A homage to Malt Master David C. Stewart’s legacy, the installation named “5 Rare Crafts and Craftsmen” depicts the process of whisky-making involving artisans like Farmers, Malt Men, Coppersmiths, and Malt Masters.  

Photo Courtesy of The Balvenie

While the exhibition is invite-only, people who treasured craftsmanship should not miss some of The Balvanie’s expressions like The Balvenie DoubleWood 12, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 and The Balvenie French Oak 16

Launched in 1993, DoubleWood 12 exemplifies the process of “wood finishing”—second maturation with another cask—adding an extra layer of flavour and depth to the drink. On the nose, the DoubleWood 12 is sweet and fruity, with a mellow nutty spiciness taste and long finishing. The Carribean Cask 14, as the name suggests, “finished” in casks previously used to hold Caribbean rum. There’s a hinge of creamy and rich toffee on the nose, rounding off with a fruity aftertaste and a lingering finish. 

Personally, my favourite is the French Oak 16. For someone who enjoys wine as much as my liquors, I like how the second maturation was done using casks that were meant for wine from the French Charenres vineyards. Adding Cognac eau-de-vie to Pineau des Charentes—a fortified wine made from unfermented grape juice—the glass oozes with a balanced floral scent, which I was later told were lotus and geranium flowers, blending harmoniously with a hint of fresh meadow grass and apple peels.

Photo Courtesy of The Singleton

The Singleton Limited Edition 40-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 

The Singleton 40-Year-Old is a maximalist, in time and taste. Crafted by malt master, Maureen Robinson, the 40-Year-Old was made in the Glen Ord distillery. Started its journey as a 12-year-old whisky, a 28-years-long secondary maturation takes place in a specifically selected Ron Zacapa XO casks. 

Possibly one of the longest secondary maturation by the distillery, the effort is greatly reflected in the exceptional taste. Mellow on the nose, the scent suggests dried apples and sweet plums, followed by a soothing oak aroma. At the first sip, the decadently smooth yet slightly waxy Scotch gives me a sweet bang, vibrant and cheery, following a velvety dark chocolate.

Photo Courtesy of The Singleton

Introduced to whisky aficionados as the finale of the Epicurean Odyssey series, the multi-layered expression ends the range well following the first 38 Years that is comparably cheery and sweet, and the succeeding 39-Years-Old that appeals to the drinkers who prefer fruitier expression. 

If the first two expressions from the series pair well with moreish dishes, the 40-Year-Old works seamlessly with desserts. The intense flavour offset the treacly sweet treats and allows you to leave the dinner table without feeling overwhelmed. Save the last for the best, indeed. 

With a limited 48 bottles available now in Malaysia, The Singleton 40-Year-Old is available locally at The Chamber, Starhill at RM 16,999.

Ki No Bi Launches the Ki No Bai Plum and Berry Liqueur

What happens when you take British sloe gin and give it a Japanese interpretation? Japanese gin brand Ki No Bi did just that and birthed the Ki No Bai—a plum and berry liqueur that’s an absolute delight to sip on. While you won’t find any sloe berries in this gin, the brand has instead decided to focus their resources in the land’s native ingredients: haskap berries from Hokkaido and ume plums from Kyoto. These ume plums are harvested at peak ripeness in the summer, while the haskap berries at the beginning of the season. Both fruits are macerated in the Ki No Bi Dry Gin for optimum aroma—nine months for the ume plums and one month for the haskap berries—before being blended together in a Ki No Bi base and sweetened with hokuren sugar from Hokkaido.

The resulting Ki No Bai is a gorgeous ruby red liqueur with fragrant aromas of blackcurrant and cherries, while on the palate it has a delicate balance of sweet, fruity, and tangy with a hint of almond and pine cones. The liqueur can be enjoyed on the rocks as a sipping gin, but it also works perfectly well in cocktails.

Ki No Bai is a limited-edition liqueur available for purchase at selected Japanese restaurants (such as Sushi Ryu) and retail outlets at RM498.