The Asian Spirits 2015 results

4th June, 2015 by admin

This year’s Asian Spirits Masters demonstrated the makings of a lively and compelling era for the region, despite its recent turbulence.

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The breadth of spirits available in the Asian market shone at the Global Asian Spirits Masters 2015

According to a recent report by the IWSR, Asia is expected to see the largest spirits volume increase of any region across the industry over the next five years, making it a key component in the long-term development of the global alcohol market.

Asian consumers have always loved dark spirits categories like Cognac and whisky, but with disposable incomes on the rise and a booming cocktail culture, the range of spirits available to them is steadily becoming much more widely accepted.

As our Asian Spirits Masters 2015 showed, there’s quality to be found in a number of categories aside from Cognac and whisky – and so our panel gathered in brand new East London haunt, Bull in a China Shop, to find the finest spirits brands in Asia.

Not wanting to be outdone by the stylish coffee-sipping bearded Millennials who frequent the area, The Spirits Business team made sure to fit right in by hosting our blind tasting before the venue had even officially opened to the public.

Our panel consisted of Ho-kid Cheah, founder of soon-to-open baijiu bar Ori; Cristian Cuevas, operations manager of The M Bars; Luca Cordiglieri, bar manager of China Tang and president of the UKBG; Melita Kiely, senior staff writer at The Spirits Business; and our chair, Becky Paskin, editor of The Spirits Business.

As the Asian market continues to expand, consumers are no longer restricted to the cloying flavours historically favoured by the oriental palate.

Paskin commented: “Often the Asian palate is typified as being on the sweet side, but as this competition shows, there is a breadth of fantastic quality spirits available in the market that offer something for everyone. White spirits like gin and vodka may not have taken off in Asia in the same way as some brown spirits, but if the quality and diversity shown here today is any indicator, Asian consumers are sure to be impressed by the level of choice available.”

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Judges diligently examine the entrants, from Scotch and vodka to baijiu and grappa

With this in mind, our judges began the blind tasting with a monumental series of vodka flights, starting with the Premium vodka category, where Tovaritch! soon blew judges away, scoring the first Master medal.

Cuevas explained the vodka was a “nice surprise” for a premium round, adding: “A lot call themselves premium but they are not up to scratch. This one certainly was.”

Super Premium vodkas followed, with the new Purity Vodka 17 attracting a Gold medal for its remarkable versatility. The Ultra Premium flight produced some “exemplary” medal winners, with Purity Vodka attracting a Master and Purity Vodka 51 honoured with a Gold.

Paskin said: “From an ultra-premium vodka you’d expect depth and complexity, and a balanced spirit that is perfect sipped neat or mixed in a Martini – both medal winners are exemplary examples of the category.” Judges moved on to organic vodkas, which exceeded expectations, resulting in four Gold medals.

Next up for scrutiny was the Smooth category. In previous years, this flight has left judges disappointed, with entries often sacrificing flavour for a smooth texture and soft mouthfeel. However, judges felt the flight demonstrated that both can be achieved, and to an “impressive” standard. Purity Vodka achieved a Master medal, wowing judges with its “flavourful” and “round” characteristics.

The next flight – a batch of micro-distillery vodkas – pleased the judges, earning two Gold and one Silver medal. Kiely commented: “These producers are creating good quality vodkas on a smaller scale, which can often be difficult. Purity Vodka 17 was the most interesting, with spicy and peppery notes.”

Rounding off the Vodka category were the regional classifications, this year featuring Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. After a lengthy debate – particularly on the quality of the European flight – they achieved eight Gold medals between them. As Cuevas explained: “It was a very competitive flight, the judges kept going back to them to decide the medals. The standard was generally high though, and our indecision is a compliment to the product.”

Despite such remarkable success, judges silently gave a collective sigh of relief as we left vodka behind and journeyed on through the paler end of the Asian spirits spectrum with a small flight of Gin, which saw

Berry Bros. & Rudd’s No. 3 Gin awarded a Gold medal.

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There is now a huge variety of brands available in the Asian market

Cordiglieri commented: “It has lot of character on the nose and palate with a very good finish – it would be perfect in a G&T or even a Martini.”

The next round sent a flurry of excitement and anticipation around the table, as judges prepared their palates for the complex flavour notes of baijiu, which was deemed a “great representation” of the market.

Cheah advised: “This shows the complexity of the spirit and how it can’t be compared to anything else. You have to take each baijiu on its own individual merit and it’s about finding what suits your palate.” The standout spirit of the category was HKB, which was awarded a Master medal, but the rest of the category was also a storming success, attracting two Gold and two Silver medals.

Cuevas added: “This was my first time tasting it, and I believe there is a baijiu for everyone. For me, it was HKB baijiu – I liked the lower alcohol content, which allows you to taste more of the flavours of the spirit.”

After a successful morning featuring a plethora of impressive entries, the tone subdued slightly when judges experienced the next flight, Blended Scotch Whisky. Despite attracting three Gold and five Silver medals, our panel were left feeling disappointed. Blended Scotch was a hotly anticipated round, which unfortunately didn’t quite deliver. Paskin commented: “There were several great examples of blended Scotches that demonstrated just how accessible the category is, with soft, fruity flavours and caramel tones, although many lacked a certain complexity desired to really bump up the medals.” Cheah agreed, adding: “Nothing stood head and shoulders above the rest.”

Eager to push on, judges didn’t have to wait long before uncovering a true gem – this time in the Single Malt Scotch round – with Glengoyne 25 YO Highland Single Malt earning a Master.

The medals kept flowing as Glenfiddich Age Of Discovery Red Wine Cask Finish, The Glenrothes Select Reserve and The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve all claimed Gold medals, with The Glenlivet 12 YO, The Glenlivet 12 YO Excellence, and Glenfiddich Age Of Discovery Bourbon Cask Reserve earning Silvers.

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Judges from left to right: Crisitan Cuevas, Melita Kiely, Becky Paskin, Ho-kid Cheah, Luca Cordiglieri

The Asian market for single malt Scotch is certainly one that is attracting a great deal of interest from both consumers and producers, and this was reflected in the variety of entries and awards. Cordiglieri commented: “We had a good round, it was very interesting. Glengoyne 25 YO Highland Single Malt stood out because it was a good balance of complexity on the nose, a lovely palate and a long finish.”

The exceptional quality of spirits did not cease with the rum flight, with both Banks

7 Golden Age and Banks 5 Island White attracting Master medals. Kiely said: “Both were very good. The white rum is ideal for mixing in cocktails, and the gold rum had really nice caramel flavours with a rich and intriguing complexity.”

We next explored the Grappa flight – “an acquired taste” according to our judges – but nevertheless a round that saw one Gold and two Silver medals dished out.

As the day drew to a close judges explored the final flight, Liqueurs. The round certainly left a sweet taste in judges’ mouths, with two Gold medals handed to Karmely Gold and The King’s Ginger Liqueur. Cheah commented: “There was a nice contrast between sweet and savoury expressions, both of which would work extremely well in cocktails.”

Summing up the day, Kiely concluded: “The spirits entered into the Asian Spirits Masters were a great representation of the products available in the Asian market.

“The stand out category on the day for me was Baijiu – the diversity of flavours on offer was so extensive and interesting from savoury notes to chocolatey and sweet.

“If baijiu producers can get Western consumers to latch on then baijiu could well be the next big flavour phenomenon.”

Click through the following pages to see the results of The Asian Spirits Masters 2015.

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