The Malt Vault
Basement, 12 Ann Siang Hill
+65 9026 3466 | www.maltvault.com.sg
The decadence of tasting whisky at half-past five on a weekday afternoon adds to the enjoyment of it all. Luckily, the Malt Vault is buried in the basement of 12 Ann Siang Hill, where no reproachful daylight can enter. Expat Living talks with owner MIKE SOLDNER.
10 Things You May Have Not Known About Whisky
1. The four most commonly available types of whiskies are:
a. Scotch Whisky: Distilled twice; it is made from barley that is traditionally dried over peat fire, giving Scotch its characteristic smoky flavour, and aged at least three years in refill oak casks
b. Irish Whiskey: Distilled three times; uses pure-malted barley as the grain, and is aged at least three years in oak casks
c. American Whiskey: Made from a mash (mixture) of cereal grain and aged at least two years in charred, unused (new) oak casks
d. Canadian Whisky: Uses at least 51 percent malted rye as the grain and is aged at least three years in oak.
2. By law, all Scotch whisky must be distilled and matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks in Scotland, although many whiskies are matured for much longer.
3. An age statement on a label denotes the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle.
4. Scotch whisky must be bottled at a minimum strength of 40 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). Some cask-strength whiskies, like many of the whiskies at Malt Vault, are between 50 and 60 percent ABV.
5. There are two main types of Scotch whisky:
a. Single malt Scotch whisky is made 100 percent from malted barley and must be the product of a single distillery
b. Blended Scotch whisky is made by blending together up to 40 single malt and grain whiskies from different distilleries.
6. Blended Scotch whisky accounts for 90 percent of all Scotch whisky sold worldwide.
7. Scotch whisky is always spelt without an “e”.
8. Whisky stops maturing after it is bottled, so unlike wine it won’t change or improve with time spent in a bottle.
9. An unopened bottle of whisky can be kept for over 100 years, while an opened bottle is all right for five years.
10. Whisky draws as much as 60 percent of its flavour and its entire natural colour from the type of cask used in the ageing process.
What is the Malt Vault all about?
I specialise in bringing the best of Scotland to Asia – not only its premium single malt Scotch, but also liqueurs, traditional craft beers, real ales and even mineral water bottled at the source: the starting point and primary ingredient of all Scotch whisky.
I take pride in being the only establishment in the region representing privately held collections of rare Scotch whisky casks from distilleries past and present. Our bottlings of fine single malts have been personally selected from the warehouses of all the major, many less-known, and even some extinct distilleries across the whisky regions of Scotland, and matured in quality oak casks.
What this means is that while I do carry whiskies from the more recognisable distilleries such as Macallan, Glenlivet and so on, the expressions of those whiskies are exclusive to Malt Vault and are not available elsewhere else on Planet Earth. This is because my partners and I own the entire cask, or what remains in it.
How do you acquire your whiskies?
One of my two partners is Scottish, and we have access to a network of brokers and private collectors. We arrange for the bottling ourselves; it’s all brought into Singapore bottled. It is bottled at cask strength and is not watered down, chill-filtered or coloured.
What made you want to open a whisky bar?
I’ve been working towards this ever since my 17th birthday, when a good friend gave me a bottle of Laphroaig as a gift. That was it; single malt remains my drink.
The Whisky Trail
For the reasonable sum of $90, you can while away a couple of hours with seven ambrosial nips (20ml each). We suggest you share; if not, mind you don’t drown in the loch.
Smooth, light and with the natural sweetness of corn.
Distinctly grassy and earthy.
Floral with a note of white pepper.
Bottled after 19 years in a bourbon cask, it has a full taste and a naturally sweet slipperiness.
Isle of Jura 1990
Unmistakeably briny with a hint of citrus.
Recalls the lingering sulphur of a freshly struck match
Has the distinctive medicinal peatiness, but is again quite different from the commercially available variety; nutty and very pleasant.
What are we going to taste today?
The Whisky Trail: the first is a grain whisky; then follows a dram from each of six malt whisky-producing districts in Scotland.
How does one taste whisky?
I recommend nosing and tasting it neat first, then adding a little water and then repeating the process. It’s far simpler than wine-tasting. For fun, I have a kit with 24 aromas to help identify what you’re smelling.
I don’t provide tasting notes, because we all have different nose experiences. Most of my customers are Asian, and references to Western-centric aromas don’t have much meaning to them. It’s the same for me: I grew up eating durian, salted fish and peanuts – I never ate potatoes or cereal, and the first time I tried white bread was at the age of 12.
Measure for Measure
1 nip = 20ml
1 dram = 40ml
a bottle = 750ml
What can one expect to pay for a whisky at the Malt Vault?
You can come in here and pay $400 for a dram – if that’s what you want. But our prices start from as little as $10 a dram.
Do you have any special rules about drinking whisky in here?
Adding Coke to whisky is not allowed. I’ve had to ask customers to leave. You can order and drink a Coke, but you can’t add it to whisky. But I do a few signature cocktails for those who want something sweet, for example The Highland Cream, which is my own recipe. Using a premium whisky – 12-year-old Glenfarclis, made by a six-generation-old family distillery – I started with an idea of the final taste, chocolate mint ice-cream, and worked backwards from there.