It is the time of the year where most people would wind down with vacations to overseas destinations and prepare for the festive season. The latter usually means drinking a toast to the year that’s coming to an end. Dario Robben has a few suggested wise buys on wines and whiskies to stock up.
Festive seasons make a habit of sneaking up on you. We all know they are coming but frankly, there is a lot to prepare for and time has a confusing tendency to run out faster than you expect it to. For those who celebrate, Christmas and New Year’s are fast approaching and marking these occasions with parties or small festive gatherings can make for some of the best memories to carry you through the new year. At least until you get to do it again.
The festive season gives you an excuse to indulge and a chance to celebrate with the people you love or, sometimes equally importantly, the people you need to impress. One of the tools to help make these moments more memorable is alcohol. Whilst Malaysia’s alcohol prices are not exactly a bargain, there are plenty of interesting options worth spending a little more on without being unreasonable.
The Single Malt
A delightful and unique single malt whiskey, Craigellachie 13 has the added benefit of being a potential icebreaker when you are trying to pronounce the name. The taste descriptions of whiskeys often seem to take a lot of poetic license but Craigellachie 13 truly has a distinct smoky and fruity flavour. Due to this distinctness it is not the smoothest whiskey, but it is not so harsh as to make it hard to drink.
Great served plain over ice, you can also use it in the popular Christmas drink–eggnog–to add a special kind of spiciness that I highly recommend. It isn’t the easiest bottle to find but is readily available in duty free zones and can be purchased from Hermiu, an online retailer based in Penang.
An Irish Coffee Twist
Another drink to look out for at airports and other duty-free zones is Sheridan’s coffee liqueur. The bottle is a bit of an oddity as it is split vertically into two separate sections. When poured the dark coffee and whiskey liqueur forms the bottom layer while the white chocolate liqueur floats to the top creating a very pleasant Irish coffee. The taste of white chocolate in this coffee liqueur adds an exquisite touch that other coffee liqueurs don’t quite match.
A Traditional Japanese Liqueur
Choya Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made from the ume fruit. It’s not one of those drinks you have to learn to love or is an “acquired taste”. Most people that try it for the first time, simply like it. There is no noncommittal shrug or a mumbled not bad, it just tastes good. Definitely something to purchase for those who enjoy fruity cocktails. For added sweetness, the honey or royal honey variations are a definite must-try. Luckily this drink is easy to track down in Malaysia, you can find it in most grocers or buy it online if you prefer.
A Tale of Two Beers
For the festive season you may be more willing to spend a little extra on a more unique beer, or two. The first may be off putting to some simply because of its colour, it is pink. Liefmans Fruitesse is a Belgian berry beer and unusually is one of the few beers designed to be served on the rocks. It even says so on the bottle in large red letters, so you don’t forget. It comes in at 3.8 percent and honestly tastes quite a bit like a refreshing type of soda, without being overly sweet.
This beer is relatively new to the Malaysian market so it is not that common however it is currently available at B.I.G. in Public. The other beer, Estrella Damm Inedit has an interesting backstory. Created by Ferran Adrià to be served with food in his Michelin 3-Star restaurant, it tastes similar to a light witbier and is less carbonated, so it won’t leave you feeling bloated. An enjoyable beer with or without food, it is unfortunately very hard to find.
Inedit is available in Malaysia, but mostly in hotel restaurants or speciality Spanish restaurants like Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar in Bangsar. In the attempt to track down this beer I found out the following useful tip: if you come across an alcoholic beverage you haven’t seen before or have trouble finding, inspect the bottle for the distributor in Malaysia. They quite often have a sticker on them with contact information.
This drink is great to show a bit more appreciation for your guests by spending the effort of adding a little ‘cooking’ to your drinking. Mulled wine is one of the favourite Christmas drinks for a reason. It is sweet like most Christmas time edibles or drinkables and has enough wine in it to make things a bit more interesting. There is a myriad of recipes online with contributions from chefs like Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver. Most are worth a try.
Text by Dario Robben. Photos by Ilyas Shukor