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December 17, 2009

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Top spot to sample a wee dram

SHANGHAI whisky lovers will be able to sample some of the finest malt whiskies in the city with the opening of a new club for lovers of the fine Scottish dram.

One of Shanghai's iconic fine dining eateries, T8 has launched the club which will hold whisky appreciation nights and has compiled a list of rare and hard-to-find whiskies for connoisseurs and those discovering the complexities of single malts for the first time.

Located in one of the side alleys in the North Block of Xintiandi, T8 was one of the founding restaurants when the landmark complex opened in 2001.

A true survivor of Shanghai's notoriously fickle food and beverage scene, T8 was rated as one of the world's top 50 restaurants by Conde Nast Traveller when it opened and it has been one of the city's consistent top performers ever since.

Sitting in the sleek, leather clad seats at the long, slender, wooden bar is T8's Swiss General Manager Walter Zahner.

Holding one of the heavy tumblers with a shot of Scotch whiskey, the veteran of more than nine years in the Shanghai food and beverage industry explains that the time was right for a club dedicated to whisky.

"People are appreciating more quality and it is part of the growing sophistication and development of the market in Shanghai," Zahner says.

"As someone with an F&B background I am very happy to see people getting really interested in appreciating fine things. It is all part of the detail of life."

Members will get a bonus on Thursdays when all whisky ordered will be upgraded to a double. Zahner says he will also have visiting whisky experts discuss a feature whisky and give prizes for members to win.

The club has no membership card or joining fee and is designed to provide stylish surroundings for the appreciation of a drink that has been brewed in Scotland since at least the 14th century.

"People who come along will know they are enjoying a single malt in the company of others with a similar appreciation and it is a drink to savor with friends," Zahner says.

The list of whiskies is broken down into three regions or areas: Islay, Highlands (Island) and Highlands.

As well as the expected big names like Talisker, Glenfiddich and Macallan there are some more boutique offerings to entice the curious.

From the Islay region there is a 12-year Caol Ila. The distillery was founded in 1846 and proclaims to have such limited availability of its fine whisky that it is virtually a "secret Islay malt."

Appropriately hidden in a cove near Port Askaig overlooking the Sound of Islay, the distillery uses water from the peaty Loch Nam Ban 1.6 kilometers away.

The water flows through fields, arriving at a waterfall near the distillery and its 12-year matured offering is a dark, smoky whisky with plenty of oak.

The list also includes a 10-year Glenmorangie from a small distillery that produces the most popular single malt in Scotland.

Prices for a dram range from 88 yuan (US$12.90) for the Glenmorangie to up to 498 yuan for a superbly crafted 30-year Talisker.

Of course T8 also offers a fine range of hand rolled Havanas and Davidoffs cigars to accompany a quiet drink in its relaxing dimly lit lounge or bar area.

T8 is located at Xintiandi's North Block near Huangpi and Taicang roads and bookings can be made at 6355-8999.


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