Karuizawa. Bowmore 1966 Bouquet Samaroli. The Hanyu Ichiro Cards Series. Pappy Van Winkle. What do all these names have in common?
These are the names of some of the most legendary and sought-after whiskies in the world. They are also whiskies that are (or were) available at some point at The Auld Alliance in Singapore, arguably THE best whisky bar in South East Asia, and some say, the whole of Asia.
Founded by Emmanuel Dron in 2011 (it recently celebrated its fifth anniversary), Auld Alliance boasts over 1,500 bottles of whisky available for tasting, and a menu that is more than 50 pages long. And the best part is, it doesn’t matter how rare or how expensive a bottle is – if they have it, you can probably try it (provided you can afford it, of course).
“The idea (for the bar) was quite basic – I wanted to have a place where you can drink the best and the most rare bottles,” said Dron, who named the bar “Auld Alliance” because, being French, he wanted to acknowledge the centuries-old friendship France has had with Scotland.
“We have, every month, people flying from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and China just to visit our bar. The main reason is that those people come for all those great museum bottles that we are crazy enough to open by the glass! It became our trademark!”
This truly is a whisky heaven – as you walk into the bar, the first thing that greets you is the rows and rows of whiskies that line the walls. From entry level drams to ultra-rare independent bottlings, Scotch and bourbon to world whiskies from Japan, Australia, and so on, the number of whiskies at Auld Alliance is just staggering. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a connoisseur – chances are you’ll find a whisky that suits your palate at Auld Alliance.
Besides whisky, Auld Alliance also has a fantastic selection of single cask and vintage Cognac from 1991 to 1848, an extensive list of Champagne, over 30 different absinths, and a great rum selection.
“Many people think we are just a whisky bar but we are not. We propose many other drinks that we choose the same way we selected our whisky. There is a lot of work behind each type of product we have here,” said Dron. “We also buy casks that we bottle under The Auld Alliance brand that we sell in our bar, but that are also distributed in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Europe.”
With so many whiskies and spirits on the menu, how does one make a choice at the bar?
Well, according to Dron, it depends on your level of expertise towards whisky. “If you are a beginner, we have ‘The Easy Whisky Menu’ with some recommendations by country of production or by style of whisky,” he said. “We also have tasting sets, which are very popular. We have over 40 flights that follow themes like ‘Taste of Scotland’, ‘Whiskies around the World’, ‘Five Islay Malts’, ‘Japanese Whiskies’ and so on.”
In the end, however, he advises potential customers not to be too shy to ask for advice on what to drink.
“We have a great team at Auld alliance. Natasha, my manager and Arun, my Whisky Specialist, have a huge knowledge of whiskies, and are there to guide you.”
Auld Alliance’s current location at Rendezvous Hotel Singapore is also suitably unique, and convenient to boot. Located in the heart of Singapore’s museum district along Bras Basah, the hotel was recently rebranded to reflect an art-inspired character, and has various art installations on display inside throughout the year.
As anyone who has ever tasted a truly good Karuizawa whisky will tell you, whisky-making is also an art, so seems apt that one of the finest whisky bars in South-East Asia would set up shop at a hotel that also doubles as an art gallery.
Getting there isn’t a problem either – the hotel is a 10 minute walk away from Orchard Road, and just five minutes away from the nearest MRT station.
To Dron, the hallmark of a good whisky bar is not how many bottles it has.
“Any whisky bar driven by passion is a good whisky bar. It is not about the quantity of bottles but about the experience you can get, what you can learn. This is the most important,” he said.
One of the rarest bottles of whisky at Auld Alliance is a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey from 1866. “This is a true piece of history from a great source. The vintage is faded but still visible on the label. It is one of the oldest whiskies in the world for sure,” said Dron.
Still, it is probably not the most expensive whisky in Auld Alliance. “Our most expensive is probably the Karuizawa 1960 52 years old. A few months ago, it was auctioned for a ridiculous world record price of SG$165,000!”
While Dron says that everything the bar stocks is available for sale, he will only sell the rarest of the rarest whiskies to those who will appreciate it.
“Some of our rarest bottles, we only sell them if we know that in front of us the person has enough background to understand what he will drink. It is no longer a question of money, more about the attitude and respect towards the bottle,” he said.
There IS one whisky that he will definitely not sell again, however, if he can get his hands on it.
“I can sell everything because I tried most of the legendary bottles. But I think if I had one bottle left of Laphroaig 1970 Samaroli, I will definitively not sell it. It is my favourite whisky and I would prefer to drink it if I knew I will never get it again!” he concluded.
The Auld Alliance is located on the second floor, Rendezvous Gallery, Hotel Rendezvous (9 Bras Basah Road #02-02A). For more information, visit www.theauldalliance.sg
Did you find this article insightful?