Whisky’s show of force

CHIVAS Regal Ultis XX unveiled during Whisky Live Manila

WHISKY Live – the world’s premier whisky tasting event – came back with vengeance on Nov. 4 and 5 after a forced two-year hiatus.

This was the 5th Whisky Live Manila to be held since 2016. Whisky Live Manila 2022 took place at Shangri-La The Fort, a sort of homecoming too for the hotel that hosted Whisky Live Manila from its inception year in 2016 until 2018, before the venue shifted to the Grand Hyatt BGC in 2019.

Prior to the 2020 COVID pandemic, Whisky Live Manila attendees had been growing in number annually, and, based on numbers I got from the organizer, the number of attendees this year was just slightly below those of 2019.

SCOTCH WHISKY UP BIGIWSR is the leading source of data and intelligence on the alcoholic beverage market. In the latest IWSR 2022 Executive Summary on the Philippines’ Alcohol Beverage Consumption, whisky as a spirits category grew by 10.8% to 474,400 cases (standard nine-liter cases) in 2021, up over 46,000 cases from 2020.

Scotch whisky continued to dominate the local whisky market as Scotch grew 39.8% over the year and increased its market share in the category to a dominant 70%, up 14.6% from its previous share of 55.4%. Johnny Walker, the de facto Scotch whisky brand, grew a whopping 50.9% from 2020 to reach 238,860 cases in 2021. Johnny Walker makes up 71.8% of all Scotch whiskies, and 50.3% of all whiskies consumed in the country based on this IWSR report.

Another Scotch whisky brand that also made an impact in 2021 was Chivas Regal. Chivas grew their volume by 24.7%, enough to keep Chivas as the No. 2 Scotch whisky brand with a 5.5% share of Scotch whiskies, and just slightly below 4% share of total whisky market.

In the same report, I noted that American whiskey, mostly bourbons, were down significantly in 2021. American whiskeys lost 39.7% of its volume in 2021, almost exactly the gains made by Scotch whisky on the same period. Jack Daniels continued its dominance of the American whiskeys with a modest 7.7% increase in 2021 volume, bucking the trend of the American whiskeys’ decline in 2021. Jack Daniels has now a 67% share of the American whiskeys, and 8.3% of the total whiskies consumed in the country.

It is therefore no surprise that this recent Whisky Live Manila event was a huge success, and, as verified by the IWSR report, Filipinos love their whiskies. Judging too from my talks with industry friends, indications on 2022 whisky consumption volume to-date showed sustained growth from 2021.

LAUNCH OF NEW ITEMSWhisky Live Manila is always a great event to launch new items in the very competitive spirits market in the Philippines. This was exactly what Chivas Regal country brand ambassador Owen Roberts had in mind when Chivas Regal decided to launch its latest premium blend, the Chivas Regal Ultis XX.

As Owen explained, Chivas Ultis XX is a 20-year-old blended Scotch whisky, represented by the roman numerals “XX” and the timing of the launch of this new item with Whisky Live Manila, the biggest whisky event in the country, is just perfect.

“Chivas Ultis XX is the latest master blend iteration from the distillery and is an exclusive blend of our rarest and most precious single malts, married with our signature single grain,” he said. I had the privilege of tasting this Ultis XX with Owen, who himself also had his first sip of this latest blended whisky from Chivas Regal.

This whisky, which should be priced closed to five digits in pesos and available in limited quantities, was indeed a good whisky experience. The Chivas Regal Ultis XX is quite aromatic and sweet-scented, covering various tropical fruits and figs, and it has a very velvety texture with lingering sweet notes at the end.

Another new item that barely made it to its launch at Whisky Live Manila was the Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Cognac. This blend commemorates the reward of excellence bestowed on Remy Martin by the King Louis XV of France in 1738 — this is written in the fine print of the label itself.

According to Ed Guzman, country manager of Remy-Cointreau Philippines, the stocks of 1789 Accord Royal had to be airfreighted to make it to the Whisky Live event on Nov. 4.

Remy Martin 1738 Royal Accord cognac is priced above Remy Martin VSOP, but below Remy Martin XO cognac.

I tried the Remy Martin 1738 Royal Accord cognac in the form of a sidecar cocktail. Sidecar is a popular cognac cocktail made from cognac, orange liqueur (Cointreau, of course), and lemon juice.

Same as the sentiments of Owen Roberts of Chivas Regal, Ed also believed that Whisky Live Manila is the right venue to launch the Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal. Dexter Heng, regional brand ambassador of Remy Martin, also came over from Singapore to be at Whisky Live Manila.

I had to admit that Whisky Live Manila was an amazing sensory experience and while I am not trading my wine glass for a whiskey snifter anytime soon, I am starting to enjoy high-quality whisky in its purest “neat” form rather than on the rocks (with ice) or as a cocktail mix. Congratulations to Johnssen Li and the rest of Grand Cru Wine & Spirits for staging what would turn out to be the biggest wine & spirits event of this year!

Sherwin Lao is the only Filipino member of the UK-based Circle of Wine Writers (CWW). For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, e-mail the author at, or check his wine training website

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