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THE ART OF COLLECTING WHISKY

Felix Khoendarto, Ardian Asmari, Andrew Soetiono and Howard Brawidjaya: Share Passion to Appreciate and Invest in The Water of Life.

Text Iwan Martinus Putuhena; Photography Gugun A Suminarto; Art Direction Sari Kusumaningrum; Shot on Location Hakkasan, Alila SCBD

Whisky can be appreciated in various ways. The first appearance can be purely visual, where the design and details of the bottle are interesting in their own character but also convey a sense of the contents, creating anticipation. It’s part of the build-up before opening the bottle, pouring a glass, analysing the colour, inhaling the aroma, and, finally, savouring the flavour.

Some people gain pleasure just by looking at the bottle. Opening is not an option, because it’s part of a collection. But different types of collectors have their own particular approach. Some also develop a relationship with a particular distillery, and others participate in a community of like-minded whisky enthusiast who simply enjoys drinking together. One thing for certain, collectors are an important part of the whisky industry and their purchases represent a significant market.

This month, The Peak had the opportunity to interview four whisky collectors, namely Howard Brawidjaya, Felix Khoendarto, Ardian Asmari And Andrew Soetiono, who shares their passion, collection, and opinions on the whisky industry.

ANDREW SOETIONO

ANDREW SOETIONO

SHARING A COMMON THRIST FOR WHISKY; ANDREW SOETIONO

Andrew Soetiono spends most of his life growing up and working in Singapore for an advertising agency that handles clients in the hospitality and alcohol industry. Today, he is the CEO of Whisky Live Jakarta, an annual whisky fair, and also the chairman of Indonesia Whisky Research Society.

Been fascinated by cocktails since his college days, Andrew often became the bartender at friend’s house gatherings. But his interest in whisky didn’t happen until one fateful night in 2009, where he attended a whisky launch in Singapore, and met Malcolm Murray, back then the global brand ambassador for Dewars, who passed him a dram of Aberfeldy. “I took a sip and it was a moment of revelation, I didn’t know a liquid could be so delicious. I’ve been obsessed with whisky ever since,” Andrew recalls. Andrew doesn’t think that Jakarta has any notable presence for whisky enthusiast just yet, but he is an optimist that the trend is certainly growing. When he co-founded Indonesia Whisky Research Society, 4 years ago, it started with 5 strangers from Indonesia who met at Whisky Live Singapore by chance. Since then, they decided to keep in touch, and eventually creating a community that is currently 40 members strong.

When discussing whether or not some younger age whisky can make a bold statement, according to Andrew age does not link to maturity or any indication of the quality of the spirit. “I have had some terrible 50 year old and among the best whiskies I have tasted in my life are 10 year-old and 4 year old,” Andrew recalls. “Ultimately it is about when the whisky ‘matures’ and what kind of quality the whisky maker wants to impart to the final product,” he adds.

For young aspiring whisky lovers, Andrew advises to approach any whisky with an open mind, don’t let others tell you what to drink and how to drink. Drink it however you like; neat, on the rocks, with soda. Only then you can find out what you like and dislike. Most importantly don’t over analyse, it’s a whisky, drink it and enjoy,” he concludes.

What is your prized collection?

Caol Ila 2001, 6 year old, bottled by ACORN Whisky for Shotaro Ishinomori 80th Anniversary, a Japan-only release. This bottle was virtually impossible to get as you’re not only competing against whisky lovers, but also manga collectors. While the oldest whisky I keep is a 26 year old Prometheus, which is rumoured to be a Macallan.

What is the next bottle on your bucket list?

Yamazaki Age Unknown

ARDIAN ASMARI

ARDIAN ASMARI

SHARING A COMMON THRIST FOR WHISKY; ARDIAN ASMARI

As the Senior Brand Manager at Edrington, the principal company of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes, and other Scottish whisky brands and spirits, Ardian Asmari spends more than 10 years in the wine and spirit industry. However, his interest in whisky started around 6 years ago. Ardian admits that he did not enjoy his first single malt because it was too smoky. “Whisky is very personal, every brand offers different tastes and characters,” says Ardian. “After trying out many, I developed my personal taste that always brought me back to the Macallan,” he adds.

According to Ardian, Indonesia has a big market for spirits and specifically whisky. Over the years the interest in single malt whisky has developed, and now it becomes a trend. “From my personal experience I saw that more and more people, not only in Jakarta but also in Surabaya, Medan, Semarang and Bali are interested in buying and collecting whisky,” Ardian says.

Ardian believes that most people collect whisky because they enjoy the taste, and the gain is a bonus. Nevertheless, it is a smart move to invest in whisky, especially in limited The Macallan bottles. “When Edition No.1 was launched back in 2016, people enjoyed drinking it immediately. Today, the bottles are very rare and its price has increased at least seven times,” Ardian explains.

Ardian had tasted some of the rarest and oldest whisky in the world, such as The Macallan 65 year old while he was in Macao before the launching of the Macallan 65 year old Lalique decanter. Another special experience that he recalls was tasting the Macallan 1949, which bottled in 1999, when he visited the new Macallan Distillery in Spey Side, Scotland, last summer.

From your collection do you personally have a favourite?

My favourite is the Macallan 8 year old fine oak and 10 year old sherry oak.

What is your prized collection?

Collecting is not easy. The oldest I own is 30 year old Highland Park, hopefully, I can get the 40 year old soon.

HOWARD BRAWIDJAYA

HOWARD BRAWIJAYA

SHARING A COMMON THRIST FOR WHISKY; HOWARD BRAWIJAYA

Came from a background in the printing industry, Howard Brawidjaya trained as a graphic designer in Pasadena, California and gained work experience in a fast-paced design agency in L.A. In 2009, he returned to Jakarta to continue the family business, and since then, co-founded Calibre.id and Papermark.id. In 2016, Howard decided to pursue his passion in whisky, and co-owned Whisky Live Indonesia and co-founded Jakarta Whisky Research Society.

My passion started in high school with beers, then in college I started drinking better spirits because I have more money,” Howard admits although he was under the legal drinking age at the time. “I started collecting, which by definition buying but not drinking, about 6 years ago. I hunt for unique and different types of whiskies,” he adds.

Howard’s journey as a whisky collector has been a learning experience where he shares ideas, explore the taste, and build a network with other whisky aficionados throughout Indonesia. “There are many aspects to be considered when collecting whisky, such as the emotional value, the taste, and the resell value. For me, it’s a mix of all three but more towards the emotional value,” he explains. “The whisky that I enjoy, from the value perspective, doesn’t need to be expensive, but more personal,” he adds.

When it comes to his everyday whisky, Howard has no particular distillery or age that he prefers. “It depends on the day, mood and weather. I have a collection of 90 opened bottles to choose from on a daily basis,” he reveals.

According to Howard, new drinker shouldn’t be intimidated to discover whisky. He recommends trying the younger age whisky. “Drink all the 15, 10, 12, 15, 8 or 7 year old, because once you get to the older whisky sometimes your palate can trick you,” Howard explains. “Try as much as you can, and don’t limit yourself to a certain brand or age. You open up your palate by drinking more variety,” he concludes.

What is your most prized collection?

Currently, I have more than 150 types of Macallan in my private collection, and the most prized bottle is The Macallan 40.

What is the next bottle on your bucket list?

The Macallan 50, because it’s difficult to acquire, even if you have the money, it doesn’t guarantee the availability. There is no market price, when you see it you better grab fast.

FELIX KHOENDARTO

FELIX KHOENDARTO

SHARING A COMMON THRIST FOR WHISKY; FELIX KHOENDARTO

Born and raised in Semarang, Central Java, Felix Khoendarto completed his bachelor’s degree in L.A, California. After he graduated, he returns to assist the family business in the railway sector. Felix developed an interest in whisky after he was invited by Edrington to The Macallan Edition 3 launching event in Jakarta. “It was love at first taste and since then I’m curious to learn more about whisky,” Felix admits. Today, collecting whisky has become his passion. “Its dream to have a hobby that can also be an investment,” explains Felix. “I personally prefer to fulfil my passion to explore or research the taste of whisky and financial gain is just a bonus,” he adds.

On the daily, Felix enjoys a glass of single malt sherry whiskies, such as Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Macallan, which is one of his favourite distilleries, other times he also enjoys Islay Whiskies, which known for its smoky characters, such as Ardbeg and Lagavulin. According to Felix, Jakarta is still at a growing phase for whisky enthusiast, and he believes that someday will have a successful whisky community, because every time he attended a whisky event, the crowd is growing larger. “Since 2018, Jakarta now has the biggest annual whisky event in the world, Whisky Live Jakarta, which we should be proud of,” Felix explains “We also have an awesome community, Indonesia Whisky Research Society, where we can learn and try many rare whiskies that almost near impossible to get in Indonesia,” he adds.

For Felix, the best way to enjoy whisky is to drink with another whisky enthusiast and discuss the taste. He also recommends bottle sharing, which means buying an expensive bottle with several whisky enthusiasts and drink it together.

What is your most prized collection?

Macallan is my favourite whisky because it has good taste and investment value. As of today, I have more than 100 types of Macallan for my private collection. The most prized bottle is The Macallan 40.

What is the next bottle on your bucket list?

The Macallan 50