Chin Chin, a Toast and a Gem

Richard Barr is a member of the Whisky Israel tasting society , a blog correspondent at times,  and a good whisky friend and big whisky lover. From time to time he posts his notes and adventures on our blog.

Have you ever heard a friend say Chin-Chin as you were all about to slam back a cold one? In the “pigeon English” of Anglo-Chinese ports in yesteryear, this was a greeting. However it’s now used as slang for Cheers, Bottoms Up, or Slainte. It is also the perfect bar in Hong Kong to practice saying Chin Chin, all the while sampling fine single malts.

Chin Chin Bar (located in the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui) stocks over 120 whiskies for our drinking pleasure. But this isn’t the only reason that it’s ranked as one of the top five whisky haunts in Hong Kong, as I was to find out.

Having read only positive things about the place, I wanted to get the low down for myself and arranged to speak with Connie Chan, the manager running the Chin Chin Bar. Connie was moving like a hummingbird, making sure the bar ran perfectly & that every single person there was well catered for. Being exceedingly busy, she still managed to see that I was well looked after. I also spoke with two other representatives of the Hyatt Regency there; Miss Chris So, Assistant Manager in the hotel’s Public Relations Department and Sebastian, Assistant Manager of the Chin Chin Bar.

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Still rather frazzled from a full day delivering presentations, and with a thick multi-page whisky menu to study, it would have been very difficult for me to choose. Thankfully I didn’t have to as I was presented with their “Iconic Single Malts” selection. This opus of 4 premium drams consists of:

  • The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 year old
  • Highland Park 18 year old
  • The Glenrothes vintage 1988
  • Laphroiag 18 year old

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As the four drams were placed in front of me, I invited Chris to join me. Being a whisky neophyte, she demurred to all four but agreed to join me for the first dram, The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 year old. To be honest, I love being around someone when they first fall in love with single malts, and I believe this was it for Chris. As we started nosing the whisky, I asked her what she smelled. Did she smell Dried Fruits and spice? And so we sat together for the next 20 minutes with the glasses up to our noses, dissecting and analyzing the different qualities & nuances contained in that light mahogany coloured nectar. Finally we took a sip. Being a well aged Macallan, it did not disappoint. It was full of with the flavours of dried fruits, varied spices, orange peel and a touch of smoke. The finish was long and full.

While Chris didn’t share in the other three drams, she did nose each of them and with coaxing, described the nose of each to me, with a huge beautiful smile. Like many of you, I’ve noticed that more & more women are taking to single malt whiskies. I hope Chris can now be counted in those numbers.

With Chris taking her leave, I was left in the capable hands of Sebastian. While this young fellow doesn’t appear to have the years required to be a whisky expert, he can describe just about any bottle you might point to. And when I say describe, I’m not talking about the marketing hype but rather the qualities and subtleties of the whisky in each bottle. I didn’t manage to get a picture with Connie or Chris, but here’s one with Sebastian, taken behind the bar.

While I’m not a huge fan of Highland Park, I thoroughly enjoyed its 18 year old on this evening. The Highland Park lived up to its reputation as a solid all rounder.

The Glenrothes was nice but forgettable beside the other three drams it was matched with. I found it lacked the depth and complexities of the others.

Finishing off the quartet, the Laphroiag 18 year old was perfectly positioned at the far right of the set. Its nose was a softer representation of the signature Laphroiag smoke & iodine, allowing the toffee & spice to shine. I found the 18 year old more balanced and complex than its younger 12 year old sibling, starting with smoke that willingly yields to sweet floral herbal qualities. The finish as expected was long and full.

I wanted to have a go at another few malts but I had to exercise a little temperance and bid farewell to the Chin Chin Bar as I had another full day of presentations to give.

If you find yourself in Hong Kong, you can’t go wrong by spending an evening at the Chin Chin Bar. They’re only open from 5 pm onwards so it better be an evening.

Chin Chin Bar
Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui

18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui,
Kowloon, Hong Kong,

e-mail [email protected]

Richard.

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