Enjoying a few swigs in Malaysia is becoming a costly affair, and it’s become all-too familiar to us. We wait for every annual budget announcement with bated breath, hoping for no increase in alcohol taxation. Further adding salt to the wound is the current state of our currency, which is pushing prices up because most of these products are imported. Even with locally brewed beer, we need to import the grains; hence, prices are also affected by a weaker ringgit.
Having said that, it’s important to get the best of what you’re paying for, and that would be to wise up as consumers. Avoid just going for quantity deals, but rather look out for quality ones. A change in this habit among consumers will encourage bar operators to work harder on providing better quality drinks. This may sound like a tired cliché, but focusing on quality can change the way we enjoy our drinks. Investing in quality does make us more discerning when it comes to our drink choices. You tend to be more appreciative of every sip.
Head to a bottle shop today and you’ll be overwhelmed by the unique bottles sitting on the shelves silently beckoning you to take them home. You’ll feel very much like a four-year-old in a toy store. From artisanal exotic gins to prize whiskies, the selection seems endless. Most of the time, we are all spellbound by the look of the bottle and the story about the drink. A fair amount of bottles are just as good as the story told. Find out more about what’s really inside before making a purchase. Read the label and try to makes sense of what is printed on it. Look for factual information, such as the distillation process and the ingredients used in the alcohol’s production, rather than a load of marketing “legend”. Lastly, get on your phone and conduct some quick research by searching reviews online. Passionate producers usually give priority to listing facts on their labels, instead of some fancy story.
Price indication can be one of the most common references when it comes to the quality of a drink. But it’s not necessarily the case, as there are really good drinks out there that are a fair deal. A RM500 bottle of 18-year-old single malt Scotch whisky might not be necessarily better than a 12-year-old that costs RM250. Go for one that suits your budget and find out more about its taste profile before buying. And don’t be afraid to explore the lesser-known labels; they may be just as good or even better. Avoid bottles that are overpriced because that’s usually from the investor speculation over their perceived value, such as the recent trend of some Japanese whiskies commanding exorbitant prices, but do not necessarily match up with their taste. If you’re going to pay a hefty sum for a bottle, always find out what the other labels are that you could get for the very same price. You might just be surprised.
First published in Esquire Malaysia, The Music Plays On Issue, November 2015.