With few exceptions, you don’t often see a spirit with Southeast Asian origins making it onto the world stage – much less talk about whisky, which usually carries with it greater levels of expectation compared to other distilled alcoholic beverages, thus making the barrier to entry even higher.
Perhaps that is why there is a great level of anticipation (and to be honest, some trepidation) with Timah’s arrival on the scene.
The claim to fame for this Malaysian double-peated blended whisky (or whiskey, if you’re a stickler for semantics), is that it has got not one, not two, and not even three, but four international accolades (and counting) under its belt.
Of the awards, the most significant probably has got to be the latest win, at the International Whisky Competition 2021, where Timah claimed top spot under the Best Malaysian Whisky category, a category that was inaugurated thanks to Timah’s participation.
Timah is owned by Winepak, a Malaysian corporation known for producing and distributing a wide range of spirits, wines and liqueurs, as well as various other alcoholic products.
Timah also means ‘tin’ in Malay, and it’s meant to hark back to British Malayan days when the tin mining industry and a sense of whisky camaraderie – as embodied by its whisky-loving label personality Captain Speedy, a real historical figure who was the commander of the Indian troops during the Larut War – was in full bloom.
But beyond those charming affiliations, the Malaysian connection sort of ends there. The base whisky isn’t actually distilled in Malaysia, but rather, sourced from overseas.
Winepak is actually rather upfront about this, stating clearly on their product pages and social media channels that they import two aged peated malts (being careful not to mention exactly where) to create the blend.
The blend, the work of their own master blender, also consists of a neutral cane molasses spirit that is distilled in Malaysia, making at least a part of the bottle’s content Malaysian-made. The completed blend is then also bottled locally.
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While Timah whisky carries no age statement, it was reported that the aged malts were matured for a minimum of 8 years.
Make what you will of all that information. While some whisky fans will undoubtedly take a hardline stance and dismiss it as not being truly a Malaysian whisky since it isn’t 100% distilled in Malaysia, we think there’s still much to appreciate here.
Unlike certain producers, Timah is honest about them sourcing for their whiskies. Sourcing is actually a widely held practice in the whisky-making world, and it is not uncommon for a whisky manufacturer to purchase rather than make their own whiskies.
This is often done to speed up the process, which as you can imagine, could take years and decades if a new whisky producer decides to only use what they have distilled and aged.
In fact, Winepak has decided to make a blended whisky, adding a portion of Malaysia-distilled cane molasses spirit into it, allowing Timah to take on some local characteristics of its own.
The end result is actually really good, and if you believe that the proof is always in the pudding, then the best way to appreciate Timah is to taste it.
You’ll find a distinct nose and tone here. Being double peated, smokiness is an obvious note you’ll pick up. But it’s layered and folded in with tropical fruit aromas and a slight floral bouquet. It is also rather light and carries a rum-like sweetness, and isn’t as overpowering as you might think, making it a great whisky to sip on for peat heads.
In many ways, Timah is a celebration of the peated malts we know and love, coupled with a hint of what Malaysian agriculture and expertise can offer. It is a whisky that walks the middle path well between providing what whisky lovers traditionally like, while pushing the boundaries a little with a touch of local. And it definitely has a place on any open-minded whisky drinker’s bar shelf.
So appreciate Timah on its own terms. Not by comparing it with Scotch or Bourbon or any whisky from any other region, but as a unique creation from Malaysia.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.