What was your very first experience and response to whisky?
The moment my sister introduced me to single malt whiskies including The Macallan, everything changed for me — I fell totally in love after one sip. I went on to discover what makes single malt so different and what are the varieties out there.
What would you say is the single most distinctive trait of The Macallan in general?
For me, it would be the sweetness that is tinged with dried fruit and citrus notes.
What were the local responses to each launch for The Macallan SEA Rare Cask, The Macallan Double Cask, and The Macallan Edition Series?
Interestingly, the responses were consistent. The attendees of the launches were genuinely excited to learn about what was going to be introduced. The buzz was electric.
What is the newest at The Macallan and how has the response been when you meet people at dinner?
The newest member to the family is The Macallan Edition No. 5. The excitement I saw before and during the launch was just off the charts. We kept the colour a secret until almost the last minute and everyone was just trying to guess it. When they did manage to get their hands on a dram of The Macallan Edition No. 5, their smiles just said it all.
How do you think whisky can be easier to appreciate for beginners?
Beginners should remember that whisky appreciation is a journey of discovery, not intimidation. They should always start by nosing the whisky to see what notes they can pick up. I also recommend that they go experience and remember the smells of different kinds of fruits, spices and food. It would be easier to associate the notes that one smells.
When nosing whiskies, I recommend parting the lips slightly to allow for a bit of circulation, so as not to get hit by the entire 40 percent or more of alcohol hitting your nose. You can even smile as you nose the whisky as this will automatically part your lips.
On tasting the whisky for the first time, remember to relax and don’t down the hatch. Take your time to slowly savour that small bit that you take for the first time. Chew the liquid, biting it a couple of times, give it some time to settle all around your mouth and allow your palate to figure out the flavours. Be patient. Don’t be discouraged if at first, all you are getting is just plain ol’ alcohol.
What do whisky connoisseurs look out for these days?
The complexity of the whisky, if it has a story to tell and sometimes, they just want it a little bit more rough around the edges with enough characteristics to tell their story.
What are your personal favourites in The Macallan and why?
The Macallan Rare Cask — it reminds me totally of Christmas. When I close my eyes, I am whisked away on an experience of a white Christmas in front of a fireplace, with a dram of the Rare Cask in my hands, tasting lovely notes of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, dried fruits and apple, reminding me almost of a freshly baked Christmas fruitcake.
The Macallan Triple Cask Matured 15 Years Old is another of my favourite. Lovely citrus notes with some white pepper that comes through as well as cinnamon and pineapple. The most beautiful thing would be that hint of chocolate at the end. The finish is long, sweet and spicy.
What kind of food pairs best with whisky?
You can pair almost anything with whisky. You just need to put a little thought into what you are pairing it with, making sure the ingredients and whisky go perfectly hand in hand. Pork, a beautiful steak, fruits, chocolate, seafood are all examples of types of food that you can pair with whisky.
One thing to note is that you don’t want the flavours from either to overpower the other. So the type of marinade or sauce used would have to be thought out carefully too. For example, you wouldn’t want to use a spicy Szechuan sauce in your food to pair with The Macallan. Having said that, you can pair many kinds of Asian cuisine with whisky.
Would you and if you do, what are your favourite pairings on a casual day: home-cooked or hawker fare?
When I have the time, it would be home-cooked so I have total control of what goes in. I love experimenting with flavours and styles as well as the types of ingredients I am using.
You’re also a charity athlete. How do you drink and run, and what is your advice?
I don’t drink and run per se. I wouldn’t recommend drinking the day before a race and I always stay hydrated with lots of water and isotonic or electrolyte drink. Limit drinking or avoid it the night before a game or a run. Always drink responsibly, no matter what.