Nanyang Whisky The Peninsula Collection II: Secret Speyside 1997, Ben Nevis 1996 & TDL (Trinidad) 2002 Rum
Singapore's very own Nanyang Whisky has been around for a hot minute - about 3 years to be exact - and since then they've gone from distributing some pretty solid IB labels from Whisky Jury to Archives, Liquid Treasures, Le Gus't, The Duchess, Swell de Spirits, you get the idea, to bottling their own whiskies.
They started out by co-bottling whiskies with those veritable names they distribute - a very smart move, quite honestly. After all these are no less enviable names! And then more recently they seem to have taken a bigger step forward in establishing their own collection - it's all been a very methodical evolution, which itself exudes a discipline that you've just got to admire. Precision rather than quantity seems to be a formula that works well for them - and sure enough the spirits community far beyond Singapore's rather small shores have begun to take notice. Quite a feat!
And so today I got to attend a masterclass held for the launch of their "The Peninsula Collection II", which comes on the back of last year's inaugural collection which I sadly missed out on - hence I knew I had to keep tonight free; after all before this masterclass was even held, all stock of theirs had already been snatched clean.
With the Peninsula Collection II, they've worked with REJO Beverages to bottle three expressions: a 1997 Secret Speyside and a 1996 Ben Nevis pair of single malts and then a 2002 Trinidad Rum from TDL (or Trinidad Distillers Ltd).
These are some well-aged stock! And at the prices they were going at, you could see why the shelves were completely wiped clean.
On top of that, as with their inaugural collection, they've worked with a local Singaporean art gallery ArtCommune to have the prints of a selected local artist be featured on the bottles - good lord, just look at those gorgeous watercolour prints capturing scenes from Southeast Asia! What a lovely nod to the home of Nanyang Whisky's partners - who are incredibly friendly people by the way.
For the second iteration of the collection, they've collaborated with artist Tan Choh Tee, a notable alumni from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and studied under the tutelage of Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang and Georgette Chen - a legendary ensemble to say the least! His art sees the application of the Impressionist style as expressing and interpreting the visuals indigenous to Southeast Asia.
Word is the artist kept a set of the bottlings to share with his friends - that seems like a really cool full circle moment!
And so as the masterclass kicks off at Singapore's The Single Cask bar, here we go!
Secret Speyside 1997, The Peninsula Collection II, Nanyang Whisky and REJO Beverages, 25 Years Old, 53.5% ABV - Review
Aroma: It starts off honeyed, with alittle bit of that fruit wax, as well as lots of orchard fruits - red and green apples, apple pie filling, even a light muskiness of jackfruit. There’s then a mix of light farm-y notes and also a more herbal eucalyptus minty note too.
Opens up to brighter scents of runny honey, vanilla cream, magnolia florals, orange blossoms - still quite waxy at this point but accompanied by some light citrus, pears and a crack of black pepper.
Taste: Nice burst of fruitiness, honey, candied fruits too - citruses, apples, all still very waxy, with also a side of vanilla cream. It’s medium bodied but with a more waxy texture, almost reminiscent of maltose candy. There’s a slight bit of savouriness - char bitterness here too.
Finish: Alittle more animalic - that farm-y funk, and then a light bitterness with a long warmth. Lingering notes of malt biscuits - very buttery and quite chewy; black tea tannins too.
This had a distinct and pronounced orchard fruitiness and waxiness to it that plays out really well and is supported with heavier notes of honey and vanilla cream, and also a heftiness of its texture that altogether comes across as being quite elegant and refined - almost a dessert dram if you ask me.
If I had to guess blind, I would’ve put it down as a well-aged Glenmorangie but alas it’s a Speysider.
But wait, there’s more! A deviation from that classic Highland - Speyside is technically in the Highlands no? - is this very interesting farm-y note that is nowhere as funky as your Ben Nevis’ or Bruichladdich’s but gives you just a slight hint in that direction, adding that much more complexity.
A special mention to its texture too which was very waxy and got more buttery over time, which I really enjoyed.
Ben Nevis 1996, The Peninsula Collection II, Nanyang Whisky & REJO Beverages, 26 Years Old, 52.2% ABV - Review
Color: Light Amber
Aroma: It’s giving hay, stoney minerals, and of course that farm-y funkiness. There’s more on light lemon zest, along with musky starfruits - that sweat, tart, sourness. Together with the honey almost comes across as being beer-y. More on yellow apples and candied apples, as well as watermelon hard candy.
Taste: Very mellow with lots more honey and candied fruits, with a touch of light savouriness. It grows towards musky starfruit and jackfruits, which then continues to evolve into a more funky, tart citrus - perhaps dried green mango.
Finish: More showing of the candied fruits, honey, stewed fruits, along with more on savoury charred meat - think bak kwa. Here’s a long, deep warmth, with lingering savouriness and sourness.
The complexity on this is really enjoyable - and while it jostles with what would appear like contrasting flavours, it still manages to keep it together to come off cohesive.
I particularly enjoy how forward the flavours are, they’re so expressive and bold, and also I should mention, that it almost borders on not being too classically Ben Nevis - which for me was very interesting.
All throughout there was a deep honeyed maltiness with lots of candied fruits - which is always a crowdpleaser, and yet always takes to the edge by throwing in some muskier fruits that I really enjoyed so much.
This was very fun and enjoyable - definitely very memorable.
TDL (Trinidad) 2002 Rum, The Peninsula Collection II Nanyang Whisky & REJO Beverages, 20 Years Old, 60.9% ABV - Review
Color: Deep Copper
Aroma: Ooooh the good stuff! This is why we love turn of the millennium TDL’s! Tinned lychees, with a touch of light off the vines musky longans - it’s at once bright and confectionary, but with a tinge of more mellow, more intense almost herbal muskiness. Not particularly dry or tannic, bordering on green grapes and white peaches.
Taste: More of those lychees here, distinctly more vinous here. There’s also brown sugar, yellow raisins, natural honey - almost more cognac like. Very fragrant and aromatic.
Finish: Licorice, root beer syrup, more vinous and tannic here but still not drying, in fact somewhat sweeter. There’s alittle more oaky notes here, as well as wine leaves with the light vegetal bitterness.
This was incredibly enjoyable for me! I’m a total sucker for these early 2000’s TDL’s which showcase so much of these lychees - and here’s where I’m going to be abit of a nerd, having tried several such TDL’s, I’ve come to find that they range from incredibly confectionary tinned lychees to tannic, vinous musky longans right off the branches.
My personal preference is somewhat closer towards these more vinous musky notes because they come across as being so fresh and natural to me. This 2002 TDL here nails it right there for me, where there’s a good mix of the both but escapes from being too sweet nor too tannic.
I also found this to showcase more on green grapes and white peaches which I hadn’t found in the other comparable TDL’s. This one’s very Cognac like, complete with even alittle bit of that dusty wood quality.
A great selection overall! You had three solid expressions - a very fruity and elegant Secret Speyside, a complex, super expressive, almost atypical Ben Nevis (with less funk and more fruits), and finally a TDL that had a great mix of confectionary tinned lychees and a touch of musky longans - honestly, they should just call this The Fruit Collection. Was it not a cornucopia of varying fruit baskets? I suppose it doesn't have a good ring to it.
Personally my favourite was the TDL rum because I am just an absolute sucker for those incredibly confectionary and musky lychees and longans, which by the way are a early 2000's thing that only recently began emerging - some say it's the Caroni juice that's gone in. It might as well be lychee juice for all I care - it's bloody great.
But rum aside, the Secret Speyside just narrowly edges out the Ben Nevis for me, though I suspect a good handful might disagree. Hear me out - the Secret Speyside had such elegance from the orange blossoms and honey, which for me is a great combination that I can't get enough of.
But in the interest of playing devil's advocate, I could see folks loving the Ben Nevis more for all the candied fruits and the much more restrained funky farmhouse notes that is admittedly quite the acquired taste; in that sense, this was a particularly more accessible Ben Nevis that also came from the well-regarded 1996 vintage - think all the fruits but less the funkiness.
And with that we conclude Nanyang Whisky's showing of their latest Peninsula Collection II.