Just In 👉 Macallan Unveils 73 Years Red Collection Whisky D...

Escapades

A Must-Visit Whisky Bar Hidden Away In A 180-Year-Old Church: The Single Cask Singapore

You literally won’t find another set of bartenders who know more about the whisky they’re serving than at TSC.

 

Several years ago when I first spoke with Brendan Pillai, the co-owner of The Single Cask’s bar in Singapore (TSC), I expected a typical exchange of what whiskies are on the shelves and what’s recommended. I can’t remember how the conversation went exactly, but before even ordering a drink I recall Brendan coming out to me as a fellow cat lover.

For what seemed like half an hour or so we became invested in cat talk, discussing cats the same way other gentlemen (who take themselves more seriously) would discuss cars or watches. We began sharing pictures like proud parents, and both of us were completely side tracked from the original plan which was to taste some single malts.

 

 

If you haven’t been, TSC is a gem hidden away in the corner of the stylish Chijmes complex in Singapore. Well, actually, it’s an independent bottler established in 2010 by Ben Curtis from the UK, but has since expanded internationally and made a name for itself in Japan and Singapore.

 

 

TSC is all about single cask whiskies, which means that each bottle of whisky comes from one specific cask without any blending with any other casks. Most whiskies, even single malts, are a mixture of several casks to maintain taste consistency and brand identity. But many whisky enthusiasts love experiencing single cask whisky because it’s almost like going to a craft beer bar with a frequently rotating tap. Each cask has got its own unique and distinctive flavour, and you might get sometimes be pleasantly surprised or intrigued by a single cask whisky from a distillery you are very familiar with. Think of them as Kinder Surprises of the whisky world essentially.

 

The focus of TSC as an independent bottler is on natural colour and no chill-filtered single cask Scotch. They have released an array of award-winning expressions from big names in whisky like Highland Park, Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Glenrothes. After a decade of selecting and bottling whiskies, they’ve also developed a knack for finding some hidden gems and surprisingly good batch of whisky from underrated distilleries. The brand very often spotlights single cask whiskies from these underrated gems – perfect if you’re looking to try something new without spending a fortune.

So, unlike other whisky bars, at TSC you can actually go up to the bottlers themselves and chat with the people who’ve selected the whisky you’re tasting.

Layout, Vibe & Energy

Keep your eyes peeled as the entrance for TSC is hidden away at a quieter corner of Chijmes. The bar itself is a cross between a classic whisky bar and someone’s cosy living room. The space is a warm-lit and welcoming setup with a casual vibe.

 

 

Circular tables and open seating areas makes it a space curated for casual comfortable social interaction with a group of close friends or even people discussing business. There’re also classic specialty whisky bar elements. Shelves are lined with an extensive array of TSC expressions, all coming in the same signature hefty rectangular bottles that you could clobber someone to death with.

 

 

The bar sees a colourful crowd. On any given night you’d find dedicated whisky and spirits lovers here, looking to taste the latest offerings – after several visits here, you’ll soon find each other familiar. One of them even popped open a bottle of Shuijingfang Baijiu and shared it with the bartenders and myself.

 

 

Because of its location at Chijmes, you’ll also occasionally find posh couples stepping in to wind down after a dinner date. Interestingly, I find that TSC has also recently become a magnet for a younger generation of whisky lovers in their early to mid-twenties. I’ve gotten to know a couple of them at TSC and I find their passion and understanding of whisky impressive and infectious.

Another possible reason TSC enjoys support from a vibrant community of whisky lovers is the occasional Craic Night parties thrown by these folks. ‘Craic’ being a Scottish-Irish term meaning "good conversation".

 

 

This is where guests pay about $100 to enjoy a night of free flow single malt whiskies. The turnout for these Craic Nights is usually massive for the modestly sized bar because you rarely, if ever, get access to such good quality whisky at such prices.

The heart and soul of TSC, however, are the three musketeers who co-own the bar: Brendan Pillai, Kwek Yi Xian, and Chee Wei De.

 

(Left to Right): Weide, Brendan and Yixian, the folks behind The Single Cask Singapore.

 

Head honcho Brendan of course, is a beloved personality in the local whisky community with a gift for making you feel right at home, even if you know next to nothing around single malts. Yi Xian sometimes seems more like an improv comedian than a whisky ambassador, though brands are often engaging him to host whisky masterclasses around the island. Wei De is the youngest of the trio with a contagious friendliness and passion for whisky.

Ask Brendan what his favourite brand of whisky is and he might pull up his sleeves to show you this.

 

All three of them are incredibly approachable and bring a very genuine and lively energy to the bar – interactions with them will you feeling slightly tipsy and tickled. There’s no wonder this is a favourite specialist spirits bar with the Gen Z.

Drinks Selection

The standout feature of TSC is that you would be drinking whisky personally selected and bottled by the bartenders themselves. The label of every standard TSC bottling indicates the person who’d selected the whisky. It could be Weide, Yixian, Brendan, or the founder of the company Ben Curtis himself. You literally won’t find another set of bartenders who know more about the whisky they’re serving you than at TSC.

 

 

Single cask whiskies tend to come in smaller batches with distinctive profiles. So while there is a huge selection of whisky, batches tend to renew very quickly – like I said, it’s like the rotating taps of a craft beer taproom. The quality of the whisky is no doubt good (or I wouldn’t be taking the effort to write this!), but because these folks focus on offering whisky is the most unadulterated form directly from the cask, one should note that the ABV level is high with minimal to no dilution - just take small sips initially and you'll do fine!

 

 

In recent years, TSC has upgraded its warehousing operations in the UK, meaning that unlike most smaller-scale independent bottlers (that would simply buy casks off other parties and bottle their whisky), TSC is able to keep an aging collection its own stocks of whisky.

Below are some of the memorable stuff I’ve tasted at TSC recently.

 

 

Weide recommended me this TSC-bottled Tobermory 27 Years Old when I asked him to recommend me a heavily sherried expression selected to be bottled by Weide himself. This was matured in a sherry butt and comes in at 43.5%. This dram impressed me from the get go with this very rich and vibrant jamminess in the nose, and a lovely balanced palate with depths of cherries, prunes and red raisins but not overwhelming you with oak dryness.

| Read our review of the TSC-Tobermory 27 Years Old 1994, Sherry Butt Cask No. 5118, 43.5% ABV

 

 

This 13-year-old Bunnahabhain 2010 bottling commemorates The Single Cask’s 8 th anniversary in Singapore in 2023, and comes in at a generous 65.4% ABV. It has been aged for 13 years but was finished by TSC in a first fill ruby port barrel for an extra oomph.

This is big, bold but surprisingly elegant in the way the flavours seamlessly progress from one to another. It kicks off the nose with sweet sherry and mulled with, turning slightly savoury and nutty. On the palate, tons of stewed plums, prunes and spices with more umami and savoury notes of mushrooms, plus some light wood tannins.

| Read our review of the TSC Family Series - Bunnahabhain 2010, 13 Years Old, The Single Cask Singapore 8th Anniversary, 65.4% ABV

Also, this has a very small outturn of less than 60 bottles – if you’re into this, do check it out on The Single Cask Singapore’s official site.

 

 

Next up, we have one from a cult favourite distillery Ben Nevis – a 25 years old that appears to be aged in a neutral American oak hogshead, coming in at 51.9% ABV. The aroma on this is candied fruits – tons of pineapple and mango gummies, and even peaches and cream – lots of vanilla cream. On the palate, creamy and buttery with more of the tropical fruits like peaches and mangos, with a distinctive touch of funkiness reminiscent of charcuterie. This is an enjoyable creamy fruit bomb with the classic funkiness of Ben Nevis that shows up right on cue! A lovely one for those who enjoy American oak or bourbon barrel Scotch.

| Read our review of the TSC Family Series - Ben Nevis 1996, 25 Years Old 51.9% ABV

Now, apart from just offering their own bottles, TSC acknowledges there are some undeniably delicious stuff bottled by friends in the local and international community. Often you’ll get access to rare finds from favourite local bottlers like Nanyang Whisky, Friends With Drams and Malt, Grain & Cane.

 

 

Nanyang Whisky has only been around for a hot minute but they’ve been bottling some phenomenally well-aged stuff under their Peninsula collection label in very small batches. This collection of 2 whiskies and 1 rum was launched at TSC with a masterclass that we attended. They were all memorable bottlings – a super fruity and elegant Secret Speyside, a complex and expressive Ben Nevis that is much fruitier than expected, and a Trinidad Distillers Limited rum that is full on tinned lychees and a touch of dried longan.

| Read it for yourself: our review of Nanyang Whisky’s Peninsula Collection II

 

 

One of our favourite non-TSC bottlings we’ve tried here is the Whisky Jury bottled Williamson Secret Islay that was matured in a first fill oloroso cask for at least 12 years, distributed by Nanyang Whisky. It is in fact a teaspooned Laphroaig hiding in plain sight.

This is syrupy, spicy and meaty, with tons of sweet red fruits and a savoury funk that feels almost barnyard-like, with a soft smokiness that seems more like an echo in the finish rather than the main character. This is an unusually rich and aromatic Laphroaig with such a subtle smokiness that even peat haters might enjoy it.

| Read our review of the The Whisky Jury’s Williamson Secret Islay Distillery, First Fill Oloroso, 52.3% ABV

Overall Thoughts

 

The combination of expertly selected drinks, the infectious energy and humour of the bartenders, and the warm, inviting atmosphere makes it a standout in Singapore's whisky scene. There is a genuine sense of community here. It's also the kind of place you go to for a post-dinner or post-work drinks but lose track of time (like I often do) and stay for the conversation and camaraderie.

Let’s not forget that it’s also just as much about education as it is about getting tipsy here. The folks here are some of the most talented and respected whisky educators in the country, though you might not have guessed from the amount of fun and mutual teasing you see here.

 

 

Perhaps the most unique feature of operating a bar in a Gothic cathedral is the fact that the nearest toilet to TSC is at the top of a steep 180-year-old spiral staircase right outside the bar entrance. But not to worry - there're several more toilets you can access around the corner without taking this perilous adventure!

@CharsiuCharlie