It would be odd to experience snow in Vietnam, but snow has arrived in Ireland, and it certainly wouldn’t be a rare occurrence at Diageo’s Scottish whisky distilleries who provide the main base ingredient for this Vietnamese bottling.
My blog on a Brazilian Whisky of the same name & similar composition here uncovered this Vietnamese Wall Street offering. Fortunately by an opportunistic twist of fate my South East Asian correspondent obligingly brought back a half bottle for me to sample.
Much appreciated Mr G!
Just like the Brazilian Wall St, the Vietnamese Wall St uses imported Scotch whisky mixed with locally produced spirits to obtain an expression that has both the allure of premium quality whisky – yet at an affordable price.
This strategy means Diageo can get some of it’s product into the country but lessens the high import tax which would make the price prohibitive for the mass market. It also retains some degree of aspiration for a superior foreign product – regardless if it’s actually superior or not – yet mixed with locally made distillate – probably of the rice variety.
There is still a culture of home made beer & spirits making in Vietnam as highlighted in a report here. This ‘traditional’ rice based distillate is facing the threat of growing globalisation as younger folks aspire to more recognisable brands – as in this Wall St blended spirit.
I couldn’t find anything on the internet as regards what constitutes a Vietnamese whisky or not – so my assumption is the situation is very much like how Ireland & Scotland would have been before the coming of definition rules & codes of practice laws.
Certainly makes it exciting!
And no – I had no fears in sampling this bottle – Diageo have given it their seal of approval after all.
So what did I find?
Well to begin with I found the bottle design – a neat little WS logo with clear & simple information labels back & front – visually attractive. Those labels also announced caramel was added – something missing on many Irish & Scottish bottles. There was also no tamper-proof plastic cap to hamper me pouring the spirit into a suitable glass.
On the nose I found a soft warm muted caramel aroma which was inviting.
Initially a rather soft mouth feel morphed into a straight – but not unpleasant – alcoholic kick somewhat devoid of any real character or flavour before it faded away to a short ending.
Overall I found it a rather simple easy drinking clear & crisp strong alcoholic beverage with caramel being the only hint of taste.
In a back to back with the Brazilian Wall St I actually preferred the no nonsense honest approach of the Vietnamese Wall St.
The irony for both is there is absolutely no bourbon influence in either expression.
Aspirations, expectations & associations over and above actual reality seem to be a marketing ploy in both countries.
Brazil is a big whisky drinking country. Not only was it once the 5th biggest export nation for Scottish whisky – it also produces it’s own versions.
After a recent economic crash in Brazil, Scottish Whiskey profits worldwide experienced a dip. You can read all about it in a Scottish Whisky Exports Review here.
Now a significant amount of that export order takes the shape of ‘bulk exports’. Simply put, this is tank loads of Scotch sent abroad where it is decanted, blended, bottled & labelled for the domestic market.
Often this process takes the form of added caramel, added spirits locally produced – referred to as ‘ethyl alcohol’ in a wonderfully informative report with the snappy title ‘Chemical Composition Of Whiskies Produced In Brazil Compared To International Products’ available here – and watered down to the legal minimum of 38%.
As my better half recently visited Brazil, my natural curiosity and intrigue to taste some of this ‘nacionais’ whisky was an opportunity too good to miss – so some bottles made it back to Ireland.
Now calling your whisky ‘Wall Street’ – and coupled with a bourbon looking bottle – sends out messages that run counter to the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ on the label. But this is no fake or phony whisky – this is an official Pernod Ricard Brazil bottle. So could there be some Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour in this blend?
The back label is also interesting. It lists a lot of information you don’t normally see on Scottish or Irish labels – ‘corante INS150A’ for example – and if you don’t trust the label – why should you trust the one on Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour? It’s the same company after all.
So what does it taste like?
Well my first problem was getting round the tamper proof bottle top. I’ve not encountered this device before and found it infuriating. Unusual methods were resorted to to get a decent pour!
Finally getting the whisky in a glass allowed me to inhale a cloying sweetness combined with a gentle grainy element.
The taste was surprisingly soft – I had been given dire warnings from an amusing vlog below – smooth & yes, sweet. No real strong flavours or character. Reminds me of a more gentle single grain. No sign of malt in this.
The finish was about the only ‘joy’ in this whisky as a pleasant softly warming burn on the palate hinted to the origins of this drink.
Overall it is an inoffensive, approachable easy drinking tipple that lacks any real bite, spirit or flavour that would grab my attention. The added caramel & ethyl alcohol have stripped the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ of any inherent character. It would make an excellent base for cocktails, adding coke, lemonade or ginger & lime to give it a bit more zing.
Having said that – as the average weekly income in Brazil is only about 135 euros – paying 10 euro for Wall Street as opposed to 23 for Jameson & Johnnie Walker Red – or even 91 for Glemnorangie Original – would soon concentrate your mind.
Ye takes yer money & ye makes yer choices.
I’m glad I chose Wall Street – if only to taste what other blogs shy away from.
My thanks to Iris for sourcing this whisky.
It has come to my attention there is a Wall Street Whisky in Vietnam of similar style to the Brazilian one. Diageo seem to own the Vietnam one according to a blog here.