The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic uisge, a shortened version of uisge beatha meaning "water of life," also known as aqua vitae in Latin. Whiskey was originally used as a medicine for both internal anesthetic use and as an external antibiotic, predominantly distilled by monks.
How it’s Made
The Grain: If other grains are used, then all grains except barley are first ground into meal, which is mixed with water and cooked. Barley is malted, not cooked. The first step in malting barley consists of soaking it in water then spread out and sprinkled with water for about three weeks, until it begins to sprout, and then dried by heating the barley with hot air from a kiln. (For Scotch whiskey the barley is peat-smoked, a soft, young carbon-rich substance formed when plant matter decomposes, giving the characteristic smoky taste.) The malted barley is then ground like other grains.
Mashing: consists of mixing cooked grain with malted barley and warm water. (In making Scotch, the mixture consists only of malted barley and water and then filtered to produce wort.)
Fermenting: The mash or wort is transferred to a fermentation vessel, usually closed in Scotland and open in the United States. Yeast is added to begin fermentation, in which the sugars are converted to alcohol. The yeast may be added in the form of new, never-used yeast (the sweet mash process) or using a portion of a previous batch of fermentation (the sour mash process.) After three or four days, the end product is a liquid containing about 10% alcohol known as distiller's beer in the United States or wash in Scotland.
Distilling: Scottish whisky makers often distill their wash twice in traditional copper pot stills until most of the alcohol is transformed into vapor. Irish whiskey is often distilled thrice in pot stills three times the size of copper ones. Tennessee whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before it is aged called the Lincoln County Process. This results in a particularly smooth whiskey.
Aging: Water is added to reduce its alcohol content to about 50% or 60% for American whiskeys and about 65% or higher for Scotch whiskeys. Scotch whiskeys are aged in cool, wet conditions, so they absorb water and become less alcoholic. American whiskeys are aged in warmer, drier conditions so they lose water and become more alcoholic. All whiskey is aged in wooden barrels, usually made from charred white oak, because it is one of the few woods that can hold a liquid without leaking but which also allows the water in the whiskey to move back and forth within the pores of the wood, which helps to add flavor. In the United States these barrels are usually new and are only used once. In most other countries it is common to reuse old barrels. Whiskey generally takes at least three or four years to mature.
Blending: Straight whiskey and single malt Scotch whiskey are not blended; they are produced from single batches and are ready to be bottled straight from the barrel. Different batches of whiskey are mixed together to produce a better flavor. Caramel is added to standardize the color, and a small amount of sherry or port wine is added to help the flavors blend. A premium blended Scotch whisky may contain more than sixty individual malt whiskeys which must be blended in the proper proportions. Once bottled, and only in glass, the whiskey no longer matures, unlike wine.
Examples in order of price
Single Malt (100% malted barley from one distillery): Glenfiddich 12, Tomatin 30, Macallan 18
Single Grain (Up to 20% malted barley and up to 80% other grains such as wheat, corn, rye or oats.): Cameron Brig, Port Dundas and Jim McEwan’s Celtic Heartland
Blended Malt (A blend of Single Malts from one or more distilleries): Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Chivas Regal 18, Ballantine’s 17, Chivas Regal 25
Blended Grain (Blend of grain whiskies from two or more distilleries): Johnnie Walker Green Label
Blended Scotch (Blend of 20 - 40% SM and 60-80% SG usually from several distilleries.): Johnnie Walker Black Label, J&B
Rye Whiskey (At least 51% Rye in America. No rules for Canada. No more than 80% alcohol. Only two year minimum ageing in barrels compared to the usual three to four year minimum.): Alberta Premium (made of 100% rye mash), Whistle Pig (also 100%), Knob Creek Rye, Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13
Straight Bourbon (Originated in Kentucky. At least 51% corn, at least 40% alc. Wheat or rye are usually the second grains with a third “flavoring” grain. No added caramel coloring allowed. And aged in new white oak barrels – compared to other whiskeys that may age the whiskey in barrels previously used for other alcohols i.e.: sherry, wine or bourbon.): Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Wild Creek for the more traditional 70% corn and equal wheat and rye. Four Roses for the spicy high rye recipe. Maker’s Mark for a smoother high wheat.
Tennessee Whiskey (Similar to bourbon except it is filtered through sugar maple charcoal): Dickel and Jack Daniels
Hangzhou’s Whiskey Men
Eddie Lim (Owner of Smoky Whisky Bar)
Hailing from Singapore, Eddie started business in China as an importer of fine Scottish fire-water and soon thereafter opened a bar with Stephen Notman, Scotland’s Whiskey Ambassador, called Smoky – play on transliterated words from the Chinese wei xun, meaning tipsy. A good variety of jazz and blues is played at just the right volume to enjoy the simple and elegant ambience of Smoky that exudes an aura of upper-class establishment. Eddie is dressed smartly in a vintage style sports coat and a similarly vintage flat-cap. He orders me a Tomatin 18 neat with a water sidecar. It goes down smooth like syrup and breathes out fire.
My first whiskey experience was in University, playing snooker. And now when I drink whiskey it reminds me of Uni. I see a great potential for this spirit in China because Whiskey is fun. I want to change the mindset of Chinese from drinking Whiskey with sweet greet tea to understanding and appreciating the Magical Experience of drinking W. Whiskey is about enjoying the finer things in Life. Why was W first made? For health. We want to advocate that this is the Water of Life.
What would you consider your more important personal experiences or achievements?
I have been collecting Whiskey for 25 years. Firstly, I am a W distributer and China Importer starting 5 years ago. Now I have a bar. He shows me a bottle of Bladnock 22 Single Malt Scottish Lowland. This is no longer produced, it is imported exclusively by me and my company located here in Hangzhou.
What makes a Whiskey Expert?
I don’t consider myself a W expert. I’m a W lover. I have a long way to go to improve myself. I think there are really only two. Charles McClean and Dave Brum. They do blind tastings, they write books, give speeches and share knowledge.
What about you? Can you do blind tastings and tell if it’s SM or blended or barley or wheat?
As he chews his lamb, he nods knowingly with a smile. I knew you would ask me that question. I knew! Sure, I can get close but it’s not always 100%. They can be very deceiving. Eddie holds W tastings at Smoky once a month.
How do you choose which Whiskeys to place in your bar?
It depends on what is available at the moment. We want every SM on the wall. Unfortunately China is not Scotland. We have to work with the owners, importers, and distributers….some are owned by big companies or private companies and we work with them and the Scottish Development International because we want to import more products. But. Every. Single. Malt. Is different. Some rare, some new and some well-known. Some of the lesser known are good to have, even if we don’t sell them, but you can appreciate them. We want to give people a variety of choice to cater to a wide group of people.
Is price directly linked to quality? When are you overpaying?
I want you to have a practical experience. He addresses the bartender nearest us. Alvin, this is Nicholas from MORE Hangzhou magazine. This is our Mixologist from Taiwan. Can you please pour him a shot of “Big T.” A blended Whiskey from Tomatin. Just like the Tomatin 18, it is smooth going down but a shade less velvety and no fire coming out. To answer your question, this shot is only 10RMB. My eyebrows shoot up in surprise. So even for the student, we can give him a Whiskey and coke for only 20RMB.
So would you suggest all beginners to start at a low price, since quality can still be had?
Depending on what stage of life or entry level you are in. There are three main criteria. Whiskey must be Fun, it’s a Magical Experience, and each bottle has a Story behind it. It’s my job to tell the story. As to Quality or Price we shouldn’t have any filters; Variety is the Spice of Life.
Can you overpay?
Great things take time, Whiskey is one of them. But it’s more of a commercial issue, based on distillery, distribution and how the product brand name is promoted with marketing expenses. In China I can get a Macallan 30 for 30,000RMB or a Tomatin 30 for 7,000RMB. Is Bentley or Rolls Royce overpaid? What production process are you looking for? But I’m walking a fine line, because there are so called experts who may disagree. People ask me: What is the best Whiskey you ever had? I say “the Next Whiskey. And the worst one I ever had…. was the last one.”
How do you feel about Whiskey Cocktails?
He cuts a piece of medium-rare lamb and pours some Whiskey on it and then muddles it with the dark sauce and hand feeds me a bite. If he sold a premixed sauce, I would’ve bought it on the spot. You see? Whiskey can be used as a Universal base for anything. For cooking food or sauces or ice-cream. It can be paired with cigars or dessert. When you have Whiskey with food, does it take away from the purity? Whiskey has many flavors that blend, even with other liquors. Knowing that the purpose of Whiskey is for medicinal purposes and food is for health purposes, W is made of three basic ingredients, malted barley, yeast and water. Its flavor comes from an oaken barrel, maybe already filled by bourbon which gives vanilla flavor. Depending on the production process it already has many flavors. What’s your purpose for drinking W? After dinner I don’t feel like having a high alcohol content; I may have an old fashioned when other ingredients add to its value.
Any important tips to know about Whiskey?
Depending on your mood, maybe you’re drinking whiskey because you’re happy and want to enhance your mood, or maybe just to have fun and celebrate, or maybe you’re sad and want to feel better. But you must control your Whiskey don’t let W control you. Everyone’s experience is different so how can you have a Universal tip. Sure there is a proper way to drink, but who says it’s the correct way? To learn proper etiquette and general info then attend Eddie’s class every Friday night. But I can tell you about the Scottish family. There are four family members representing the four geographical locations Scotch is made. The mother is Central to the family – in Speyside – and she is smooth and motherly. The father is near her side – to the west in Islay (eye-lay) – and is strong, full-bodied, smoky and peaty. The young man – exploring up in the Highlands – is woody and oaky and becoming a man. The young sister – just under her parents’ protection in the Lowlands – is a vibrant, sweet and fragrant young rose. Scotch will invariably have the location labeled, as a matter of pride.
Whiskey culture tends to be male-dominated. Do you feel women are intimidated by this?
That is a question I always indulge in: Women. In fact the three W’s: Women, Whiskey and Wuhan. With these three we can have a lively debate. Take away Whiskey and it’s not very interesting. You need a drink, a city, and a gender base interaction for a lively discussion. All are open and relaxed from the aromas and Alcohol and your lateral thinking may be better. So without women, whiskey is not as fun, nor the city.
Do you believe women have more discerning palates?
Well that could come down to genetics. I don’t want to go down that road and make a distinguishment. But they do have hormones that we don’t. But I will say that I know female Whiskey owners, and lovers who have a god-given talent.
They say you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. Do you feel Whiskey women have to combat social stereotypes?
I don’t think a spirit can be classified as gender based. The distributers don’t want that because they would lose half the potential buyers. It’s because of society. But now that’s changing. Even if I notice a male dominance, I can be aware of this situation but as long as you don’t highlight it, it won’t be discomforting for them. We shouldn’t be gender-racial. I like this term better than sexist, and we if we don’t make it obvious it will become fun for all. Whiskey is Universal, W is not political; it is Apolitical.
Xie Yusuan (Owner of Joy Bar)
Several years back, Mr. Xie opened what came to be known as the first true Whiskey bar in Hangzhou. Since then, he has opened a second in Jinhua, a third on Nanshan Rd. in downtown Hangzhou, and a fourth in Chongqing. We meet where it all began at the first Joy Bar tucked away on the small street of Haiguan Rd. off of Xueyuan Rd. between Wen’er and Wensan, just behind the Zhejiang Sports College. It is a small, dimly lit, rustic locale with mortar walls and exposed brick evoking the times of prohibition. Cigar smoke wafts in the air, and the lively chatter of patrons tells tales of good business. I am presented with a velveteen Four Roses Old Fashioned cocktail with a slice of orange rind curling on a sphere of ice. Mr. Xie is dressed as casually as an American, with jeans, a baseball shirt and Yankees cap.
Usually, Chinese people like drinking Whiskey with green tea. But it wasn’t real Whiskey they were using, and I had drunk some before this way and seen it before. But my first real experience with Whiskey was just one year after graduating University. I had a Balblair 1997 SM and it changed all my previous understandings of what constituted an Alcohol and what they could be. Its aromas smelled so wonderful and the aftertaste lingered for a long time and it felt amazing afterwards. And no matter how much you drink, you won’t get a hangover the next day.
It was always my childhood dream to have a bar business where I could hang out with my friends and have live bands playing music, watching the games on the television and just having fun. For me, the Whiskey business is a great business to get into now because most Chinese people who drink it think it’s great because you will sleep well and feel very good the next day. And compared to baijiu (a strong distilled rice alcohol), it’s much smoother.
What would you consider your more important personal experiences or achievements?
The first time I came to Hangzhou not enough bars had any good Whiskies. Fast forward 3 and a half years, I have four bars, two in this city, and when people previously had to go to foreign countries to get good bottles, they now come to me for advice and bottles. So that’s what I’m most proud of: inciting a Whiskey culture here that was formerly non-existent. It’s difficult to spread W information to all the Hangzhou people, for example ways to recommend people to try W cocktails or getting out of their comfort zone. People are used to coming to the bar to get a single drink, so I aim to persuade people to try different Whiskies or W cocktails. As a result, people may have different bodily feelings or reactions, unlike what they would normally experience. They get more for their money and a higher quality.
What makes a Whiskey Expert?
An expert must collect a vast knowledge and experience, first by drinking a lot of whiskies, then being able to compare one with other different types, and finally finding the precise differences in taste between two different kinds; and this is usually done by research and knowledge of what they are drinking. And then, you may be able to form your own ideas about Whiskey. As for me, perhaps here in China I often feel like a Whiskey expert but not abroad. I am part of an excellent whiskey tasting group – the China Whiskey Tribe – that is composed of many people from all around China. To be part of this club there are three criteria: You must have accumulated enough years of tasting Whiskey; be recommended by a fellow member, and after this introduction you should attend different Whiskey tasting parties for us to see if you are qualified.
How do you choose which Whiskies to place in your bar?
I prefer Single Malt whisky and Single Malt whiskey. I try to get as many SM as I can in my bars after I try them first. They’re all so precious and unique that they are all worth having. I’ll try every Whiskey that I am able to afford.
Is price directly linked to quality?
If you are just beginning, then I suppose I would recommend a few lower priced Whiskies to try first, as you can still get a good quality taste. It’s important to try several so you can gauge what your preference is. Depending on the person and what flavors they enjoy, I may recommend accordingly. Usually for girls who aren’t used to the taste I may recommend a cocktail as a softer sweet drink like perhaps a Whiskey Sour which has sugar and lemon, however some prefer the taste of the alcohol itself. For novice men, perhaps a Speyside.
How do you feel about Whiskey Cocktails?
Well there are so many, but for me personally a Whiskey Sour is like an appetizer, but a SM neat is the main course.
Any important tips to know about Whiskey?
Yes, just try as many different Whiskies as you can. And just sip a little at a time to really indulge yourself in the flavors and try to remember the tastes and how they compare to the previous one. In this way you will slowly start to find which types and then specifics you enjoy. Whiskey tasting expert Stephen Notman revealed that when doing blind tastings, he always has two whiskies and sniffs and tastes them both to better hone in on the flavors of an individual whiskey by the aid of comparison.
Whiskey culture tends to be male-dominated. Do you feel women are intimidated by this?
Yes I know what you mean, maybe a little bit but in my China Whiskey Tribe club I know a lot of females that prefer neat Whiskies just as any man. And in my bars I see many women drinking whiskey.
Do you believe women have more discerning palates?
I think men may have the upper hand for tasting. It is true that women seem to be more sensitive to the flavors but for whiskies that have a higher alcohol percent, say 50%, this may be their downfall because the flavor of alcohol itself is too overpowering and they might not be able to recognize the underlying flavors. For whiskey nosing, experts suggest diluting the sample to about 20% to better discern the range of flavors under the initial “sting” of the strong alcohol
They say you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. Do you feel Whiskey women have to combat social stereotypes?
Some women can drink any Whiskey even when men think it’s too strong so if anything they break the stereotype, especially now more than ever in the past.
Inspired by the skills of martial artists Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, 18-year old Tim Vukan and his friends were intrigued by this ancient art. After seeking guidance and training from Ving Tsun Gong Fu instructor Jan Hantelman, a connection was made for life. He shared with us stumbling across a tiny Chinese bookshop and discovering hundreds of books detailing the very art he loved. Intrigued by the images he found within the pages, he often went back to look around. It was here that he found the book that would change his life: Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. Being the only book he found written in German, it became a part of him, attached to him day and night. After watching a live performance from the Shaolin monks in Hamburg he knew it was time…
After six years of intensive training and teaching in Hamburg and Münster, Tim took the plunge and moved to Dengfeng, Henan to practice directly at the source. Home to many academies and thousands of students, he chose to study at Wushu College where a little girl took him by surprise: “The best teacher I had was a nine-year old girl. She taught me high kicks and how to perform very difficult techniques. She taught me to be honest and kind to people.”
What was the most difficult part of your course?
The most difficult part was we had to train very hard every day no matter what condition our bodies were in. Training started at 5:30am and continued all day until 6-7pm. After three weeks of intensive training, I couldn’t walk up the stairs and suffered from heavy muscle tension pain in my legs. Once I was lying in bed, I felt calm and peaceful until the loud Chinese march music woke me up in the morning and it started all over again. This pain is necessary to understand your body. If you want to perform Shaolin Gong Fu and to reach a high level we must go further to feel what it means to have focus.
In Chinese there is a saying 先苦后甜, which means after hard and bitter work there will be sweetness. It means that we have to work hard if we want to achieve something. Everything we do is to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and to learn how to control our body and our mind in different situations. Our body is sometimes weak. Learning Gong Fu is a way to train our minds to tell our body what to do and when to stop. I learnt jianchi 坚持 – it doesn’t matter if we fail or succeed, it is more important to go on. Our body and mind each have their own language and we are able to control our body with our mind. If there is a strong mind and a clear heart, there is a strong body. Many diseases are based on an imbalance of our body and our mind. If we stay focused in the moment, we can prevent illnesses and have a happier life! Gong Fu is a way to choose health and happiness in your life.
After Henan, Tim moved to Yangshuo, Guangxi province to continue with taiji quan classes. There he met a woman who was offering taiji sword lessons and became her student, learning taiji next to the Li river. She taught him many things like Chinese cooking and the art of bartering. He felt happiness getting to know a culture which he had always wanted to learn more about.
During his travels in 2004, he really enjoyed Hangzhou. Growing up in Hamburg, he was a part of nature. In Hangzhou, he found he could still have that in the beautiful mountains and bamboo forests surrounding the city. From the beginning of his martial arts career, he often came into contact with Chinese medicine. In 2005, he decided to start studying it. In ancient times, masters of Gong Fu were often also doctors of Chinese medicine – it was a natural progression. Zhejiang Chinese Medical University offered him a place.
We hear a lot about the pressure of education in China, did you feel a lot?
The Chinese education system can be very challenging for foreigners. First to master the language and then to get used to the way of teaching. Asking questions doesn’t have much space in classroom; it’s very different to the west. Chinese students are not used to communicating with their teachers, only listening to gain information. This caused a lot of pressure while studying. Preparing for a test required memorizing and repeating facts instead of putting the theory into our own words like back home. Every culture has its own specialties, especially when it comes to education. Now, I often meet young people in the clinic telling me about their life and study and that it made them sick. Young students are often overwhelmed with pressure. I start telling them my story, hoping to inspire them to find their own way to learn.
You’ve founded your own company, how has that been? Do you have good support?
I founded Wushan TCM, a Chinese medical network, with the goal to connect the east with the west and to offer Chinese medicine education to students and current practitioners. There are live webinars and recorded online courses about the theory and practice. I also arrange local treatments for foreigners with Chinese medicine and take care of the language translations and clinical arrangements. I work in cooperation with Chinese medical doctors whom I’ve met during my studies and practice over the past twelve years. I want to help people to come to China and to gain their individual experiences.
You’ve studied tai chi, TCM and lots of other ways of healing. What would you say is the best medicine?
In our modern times a practitioner has to have knowledge from both western and Chinese medicine to offer the patients the most accurate and suitable diagnosis and treatment. Even though western and Chinese medicine are very different from each other, they can be combined in many different ways. While western medicine is treating the illness, Chinese medicine is treating the symptoms of the patient and finding the source. An example of how they work in harmony would involve undergoing surgery for an external injury (western) followed by Chinese medicine to strengthen the patient help to recover in a more comprehensive way. Both medicines have their limitations and their benefits.
I won’t say that TCM is the best medicine. I believe Chinese medicine can help a lot of people, where western medicine cannot. Above all, the best medicine is when people take better care of themselves and gain more understanding of how we can keep healthy and prevent illness. It’s about our lifestyle, our emotions, our living and working environment, our family situation, our nutrition and so much more. I want people to gain more sensibility about their lives and what makes us ill.
What plans do you have for the future?
I would like to combine my life in China with the life in the west. At the moment, I am preparing the German natural license test to be allowed to work and to treat in Germany with Chinese medicine. In the future I want to offer more lectures, seminars and tours in Hangzhou and to give more students the great opportunity to learn from professional doctors. More and more foreigners are interested in coming to China to study TCM. I want to help them however I can. The world will become more connected. Let’s become a part of it!
Tim Vukan has been studying and practicing Chinese medicine for more than ten years at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University in Hangzhou. He founded Wushan TCM in 2008 to connect Chinese medicine practitioners and students by offering Chinese medicine online courses and training tours to enable an authentic education in the theory and clinical field of Chinese health cultivation methods. To learn more, visit the website at www.wushantcm.com.
I first visited Georgetown, the capital city of Penang Island, Malaysia, in 2008. This was just before Georgetown gained Unesco World Heritage designation. I vividly recall the beauty of the decaying historical buildings dating back to the late 18th century British colonial rule. The multi-coloured shop houses with peeling paint stood stoically, telling countless stories of the centuries gone by.
In 1786, Britain established Georgetown to rival the Dutch trading port Malacca in a bid to gain control of the important trade routethrough the Straits of Malacca which connected Europe, the Middle East and India to the west with China, Southeast Asia and Japan to the east.Georgetown began attracting Chinese, Indian and Malaysian merchants and settlers. Each group broughtalong their language, food and religion making Georgetown a very special mix of cultures living together in harmony.
Georgetown’s Unesco World Heritage zone is a compact, easily manageable area that you can walk around in two to three hours. Start at the grand KapitanKeling mosque, built in 1801 by Indian Muslim settlers with its Mughal-style domes and Indian-Islamic minaret, from where the call to prayer can be heard five times a day.
Then wander around Little India with Bollywood music blaring from shops and colorful silk saris on display. Tantalizing skewers of tandoori meattempt you to stop and nibblewhile tables piled with samosas and Indian sweets are hard to resist.Then further to the north, near the coastline are the British colonial buildings that now house banks, western bars and restaurants.
Turn a corner and head towards the Chinese area with colourfulclan houses, temples and shops. Bustling hawker stalls line the streets, selling Penang’s famous street foods like CharKwayTeow, Chee Cheong Fun and HokkienMee. The Chinese community has roots from Hokkien, Cantonese and Hakka and they here are a linguistically talented bunch who easily switch between conversations in Cantonese, Mandarin, their own Chinese dialects, English and Malay.
By the time I visited in 2008, much of the historic area had fallen into disrepair. Then came the Unesco World Heritage designation breathingrenewed life to Georgetown and historic buildings were restored and converted into cafes and boutique hotels. Previously, Georgetown mainly offered budget guesthouses and one very top end hotel. Now, there’s a growing range of boutique heritage hotels for visitors to choose from.
Campbell House was one of the first boutique hotels to open in Georgetown, and work on converting the building into a hotel began even before the Unesco World Heritage listing was announced. The owners, wife and husband team Nardya Wray and Robert Dreon, both saw the potential in Georgetown and had faith in its future. Nardya has a personal history with Penang, having been born in Malaysia before moving to UK andthen often returning to Penang to visit family.
Robert and Nardya bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, both coming from successful careers in London’s luxury hospitality industry.The couple embarked on restoring the hundred-year-old corner shophouse, completely gutting the building down to the original beams and structure.Working tirelessly over three years, they lovingly restored the building and filled their dream hotel with antique furniture sourced from around the region.
Campbell House offers eleven suites, each with an individual character representing a different element of colonial Malaysia, such as the Colonial Room with a four poster bed or the Sari Room graced with a headboard made from sari silk.
The rooms are luxuriously appointed and feature modern fixtures and technologies like flat screen TV’s, Nespresso machines, chilly central air-con, rain head showersand newplumbing. You may be staying in a heritage hotel with antique furniture, but you will not lackfor any modern comforts.
Campbell House is located on Campbell Street, right in the heart of Georgetown and makes a great base for exploring the city. The next street over is LebuhChulia, one of the main roads of Georgetown, where you’ll find many bars and street food.
Leaving behind the chaotic colourfulstreetlife and stepping into the peaceful tranquility of Campbell House, the first thing you will notice is the lovely lemongrass scent. Then the friendly receptionist will get you checked-in and pull out a map to show you where to find the best food and attractions.
Respecting the original architecture, there are no elevators in this three story house, but the hotel staff will use a clever pulley system to get your luggage to the top floor. Smoking is not permitted indoors, but you can do so on the rooftop terrace.
As is the tradition in Malaysian houses, guests have to leave their shoes in the public area before proceeding upstairs to the rooms. This ensures that the living areas are immaculately clean and you get the warm feeling that you are an honoured guest in a private house. Each guest receives personalized attention and you can even make special requests for breakfast to suit your dietary needs. The library invites guests to lounge and chat with each other and we had many lively conversations with our fellow travelers there.
Rooms are cleaned twice a day, and atnight they will leave iced tea and some sweet treats in the fridge. The soft and fluffy king-sized feather-topped bed is so comfortable, there seems to be a magic spell around it because as soon as you lay down you almost immediately fall asleep.
Breakfastis served in their Italian restaurant from 8am-12pm, so guests can leisurely sleep in or go out for an early morning walk before temperatures get too hot and still have ample time to return and enjoy breakfast.The breakfast spread includes a basket of freshly baked bread, a selection of housemade jams like coconut, orange marmalade and pineapple, a large platter of fresh fruit and a choice of entrée such as Eggs Benedict or Welsh Rarebit.
Their Italian Restaurant, Il Bacaro, draws on Robert’s Italian roots and offers an alternative to local cuisine. As much as I love curries and fried noodles, sometimes you just crave a fine Italian meal. It’s become a trendy dining destination for travelers and locals alike.
Georgetown is a city you can come back to again and again and never grow tired of.The Unesco World Heritage designation came just in time to save many heritage buildings from demolition. Though developmentis bringing about changes, its soul and authenticity still remains, just a scratch beneath the surface. The introduction of a heritage hotel like Campbell House means you can now visit Georgetown and stay in style and comfort.
Campbell House is a World Luxury Hotel Award winner and is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for B&Bs in Georgetown. Rooms range from 600-800RMB per night.Air Asia flies from Hangzhou to Penang, transferring in Kuala Lumpur.
The Hyatt Regency welcomes Raul Avendano, a 31-year-old chef from Chile, to “spice up” their restaurant and buffet. This South American hottie creates a flavor so refreshing it will whip your taste buds into shape and wake you up from a world of slumber. This talented chef started his career in the hotel business studying administration, but after one year he decided it wasn’t for him. He changed majors to be in the kitchen and everything fell into place.
“When I put on my uniform and take my knife, I feel different. I get this intense feeling, just taking the raw ingredients and transforming them to something incredible.”
Raul has been cooking in top hotels all over the world. After four years traveling in Mexico, he moved on to Macau to open a new branch of the Banyan Tree. He was also the chef in the pre-openings of Dubai’s exclusive beachfront bar and restaurant Zero Gravity and the Grand Hyatt Casino Hotel in the Bahamas.
His Mexican Flautas are a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with Latin cuisine. Succulent chicken breast cooked in a tomato base and wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla, topped with sour cream and fresh salad. Next, we tried the Pork Loin Roulade with onions, garlic, dried cranberries, nuts and apple sauce, pan seared and finished to perfection in the oven. This was served with roasted potatoes and a chorizo-like sausage. If that wasn’t tantalizing enough, the final surprise was the Green Lamb Chops marinated with lemon and served on a bed of creamy quinoa risotto that really got our tongues tingling! We managed to have a chat and find out ‘more’ about the man himself for all you readers of MORE Hangzhou.
So Raul, you have quite the resume! Can you tell us which of your experiences have been the most rewarding so far?
A great place for me to work was Dubai. It was challenging at first because of the religion and restrictions. In Chile, we like to cook with red wine and experiment with new ingredients and spices, but there I could not use alcohol or pork. But, the supply of fresh meats, vegetables and spices was endless and we had good contacts with the suppliers. In the end, I really honed in on other techniques and flavors. It was a memorable time.
We all know how difficult it is to get certain ingredients here. Why did you choose China?
The fascination came from when I was a kid, you know. Growing up, I loved the Chinese movies with Jackie Chan, and I was amazed by the different culture and, of course, the food! Then I worked Macau and I learnt so much! I thought “I’m here! I’ve done it.” China is a place that people from the west think they know until they arrive here and it all opens up. It’s a whole new world. After I left Macau and went back to South America, I thought… “Something is missing in this kitchen… the woks!” Working on a line with these tools and producing a different taste was incredible, and I am happy to be back working with a talented group of individuals.
What’s the greatest difficulty you have here?
It has to be the language. I’m learning slowly but it will take time. I always say “I have no problems, just challenges,” and because I have no problems, I have more time to find solutions. I love working in this team. To these chefs, it isn’t just a job, it’s their passion and that’s what make this food very special.
Where did your motivation come from? Did your mum cook at home?
Oh no, my love for cooking comes from my Dad’s side of the family. My aunt and my Grandmother, they have good taste. My teachers too, they really inspired me to do more. I hope the people in Hangzhou can be open to try new flavours and enjoy eating my food as much as I enjoy creating it.
If you would like to join the taste fiesta, then head down to the Hyatt Regency hotel for their Latin Festival which lasts until April 10th. The buffet, which includes the dishes we tried, will run you 348RMB from Sunday to Thursday and from Friday to Saturday 368RMB (both prices have a 15% service charge).
Raul is in the process of creating a whole new a la carte menu that will be available after the festival with other dishes of Latin taste to tease you too! For more information on this, go ahead and contact the hotel or pop by for a sneaky peak at Raul himself hard at work in Café at the Hyatt. Buen Provecho!
To be honest, this is not exactly how I saw my Saturday morning going. After a good deal of persuasion, I had given in and decided to come to CrossFit Qiantang to see what all the fuss was about. Standing in a room full of about twenty-five athletic-looking sorts limbering up, little did I know that I was about to experience what would be one of the more intense twenty minutes worth of exercise I had done in my life.
In the car on the way to the gym, after having signed up for the class, we found out what the WOD (workout of the day) was. That day it would begin with 150 Burpees, a movement which involves going from standing to lying, to standing and a jump to finish. Then, 100 Wall Balls, requiring you to throw a medicine ball to above a line high on the wall. These two exercises were to be completed as a team, shared and in rotation. The final part, 5x200 meters, would be an individual effort.
After stretching and warming up, we were put into teams of three, our team name placed on the board, thereby riling up the competitive spirit in each and every athlete present. As the countdown began from ten, the crowd erupted, and as the music got louder, the tempo in the room sky-rocketed and the anticipation became unbearable.
Then, the room exploded as the battle for supremacy began, each team pitted off against each other in an effort to achieve the best time. During the next twenty minutes, I found strength in me that I didn’t know existed as my team and trainers (and even the opposition!?) spurred me on to reach the finish line in as fast a time as possible.
So this was my experience of CrossFit, a way of working out that has taken countless countries by storm and is now rapidly spreading through the mainland of China. For a better explanation of what CrossFit actually is, I spoke with the founder of CrossFit Qiantang, The General. Summing up my experience perfectly he told me, “It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone. CrossFit is fun, but at the same time it can be brutal because it pushes you to your limits. The purpose of CrossFit is to train at your threshold area, which means you need to push your margin out.”
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit has three core fundamentals: constant variation, functional movement and high intensity. The first, constant variation, aims to improve your overall fitness, offering new and completely different workouts each time, using muscles you never knew you had, in contrast to a more focused improvement that some sports or traditional gym training offer: “We want every single one of our athletes to have a great general, broad fitness, which means they are prepared for the unknown,” said The General. In addition, you only find out the WOD after having booked the class, so if it’s something you don’t like, there’s no backing out: “You have no idea what you are going to be doing that day, just like real life. Life is unpredictable... CrossFit is the same thing.”
Functional movement involves using non-artificial movement – many gym machines promote a movement that is not entirely natural, whereas functional movements are more daily-life based and can therefore be used more in everyday situations.
High intensity is fairly self-explanatory, the benefit being you can put in less time but get more benefit. Rather than spending countless hours on a treadmill, CrossFit can condense this into around fifteen or twenty minutes of actual workout time (not including warming up or down), and yet offers results to match and even surpass longer, less intense workouts.
Why do CrossFit?
Aside from obvious health benefits, the most valuable thing CrossFit can offer is community. Looking lost on my first time in the gym, I was warmly received by trainers and members alike, as they approached me to introduce themselves and confess their great love for CF. Jenny had been CF-ing for around six months and was quick to praise the social aspect CF offers. She’d been working out in traditional gyms for years, rarely meeting anyone new: “I would be next to a guy on a treadmill every week for five or six years and have no idea about his name or who he was. Coming to CrossFit, there is a real feeling of community; everyone is very friendly and a strong bond is formed.”
This bond can only serve to improve your workout input as when you are making that final push, those around you shouting your name are sources of admiration and inspiration, team members who want nothing more than to see you do that extra rep, sprint that last 100 meters. They expect nothing less than 100%, and that is exactly what you should give them.
Furthermore, CrossFit supports and encourages its members to leave their comfort zone behind and do things they never thought they were capable of. The General explained, “The vast majority of people in this world only want to do the things they can do well… we like to give you something that you’re not good at… just use four or five hours a week to do this and your life will change completely.” So rather than doing something which comes easily to you, something you’re used to and can handle with relative ease, why not improve yourself by doing something you’re terrible at. Makes sense, right?
Some go to church, others go to CrossFit
For most, CF is more than just a workout. It’s way of life, a way of thinking that seems to make people want more from themselves. For one member, Adriana, CF was the missing piece of the puzzle, and after discovering it, her life came together, leading her to quit her job and become a shareholder in the company. Like many of the members here, you too may find yourself starting a new chapter of your life. Discover a new you, meet new friends. There’s really no excuse, so go on down and meet the CrossFit Qiantang family.
Give it a shot
For those of you thinking of joining, the first step is to sign up for one of their trial classes, either on Saturdays at 10am or Wednesdays at 8pm. The Saturday morning class will include members, so you’ll have a chance to meet the whole gang, something I strongly recommend, whereas the Wednesday evening class will include prospective members only. Also, many different membership schemes are available depending on your availability, ranging from a one-off drop in fee to a five-times-weekly membership.
Etienne Jeanne, guitarist with gypsy jazz band Three of a Kind, has been living in China for almost ten years. His Russian bandmates are based in Paris which means he mostly gets to play with them when he returns to France in the summer. This year however they are recording a new project in April and are hoping to embark on a world tour next year. I asked Etienne some questions about the band and the musical genre of gypsy jazz.
How did you meet your bandmates?
The three of us met in Paris in 2002. I had just moved to Paris when I was 18 in order to start my career as a professional musician, and met Aliocha and Vladi separately while doing gigs in Paris. It was the beginning of the "gypsy jazz revival" at the time. They were performing in an old Russian cabaret every week. I went to jam with them and found we had a strong connection right away so we decided to form a band. We've remained friends ever since.
How do you define gypsy jazz?
Gypsy jazz is a musical genre developed by the late great Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the late 30's, on the initiative of Hugues Panassié and Charles Delauney who wanted to build and promote a unique type of European jazz. That is why the Hot Club de France were the first "strings only" jazz quintet ever, innovating jazz music with a totally new sound never recorded before.
Is gypsy jazz the hardest genre to play on guitar?
It definitely requires strong guitar skills to play gypsy jazz, but not only that. A certain knowledge about jazz and gypsy culture in general, and an acuity for improvisation are also important.
Do you think there is a large audience for this type of music?
There is undoubtedly a large audience for gypsy jazz as this type of music is getting more and more popular. When I started to play this music, it was kind of a geek thing known principally in France and a few countries around (England, Germany, Holland, Italy), and now there is a Hot Club in every major city in the world, such as San Francisco, and even in Beijing! This style of music is pleasing to the ear, non-aggressive, and visually strong as you can see guitar players and violin players going crazy on their instruments! Plus it involves the guitar, which is the most popular instrument in the world, so people tend to identify themselves with it even more, especially metal guitar players.
What's the best thing about playing to a live audience?
Two things; the reward of an intense practice at home for years when people are clapping their hands, and the freedom to re-arrange our tunes, improvise, and make people surprised with a brand new show each time. To record is to leave a trace in time, to play live is to feel carefree again.
Where's your favourite place to play in Hangzhou?
I personally like to play in JZ Club because the venue is well adapted for live performances. There are many other places in Hangzhou offering the possibility to watch live bands, but not enough in my opinion. That is why I still need to work in Shanghai regularly since there are more opportunities. Fingers crossed about more musicians coming to Hangzhou in the next few years.
Has Chinese music had any influence on the music that you play?
Chinese music had an influence on the way I write originals indeed, we also cover a few songs from the early 30's Shanghai jazz repertoire.
Which bands are you following at the moment?
In the field of gypsy jazz, there are a lot of good musicians upcoming from all around the world although I think this type of music is precisely the legacy of Django Reinhardt, and hasn't really improved yet. People tend to copy the "authentic gypsy style" too much instead of working on their own interior music, which I think wouldn't have been the wish of the creators of this revolutionary musical genre.
If you would like to see Three of a Kind playing live, you can check them out at the venues below.
April 2nd @ ABC Café (Starts at 7:30pm)
1/F, Changjian Mansion, 415 Huanxing Rd, Binjiang, 滨江环兴路415号长建大厦1楼
April 8th @ Amigo (Starts at 9pm)
8 Yugu Rd, 玉古路8号
April 17th @ JZ Hangzhou (Starts at 9:30pm)
6 Liuying Rd (Nanshan Rd) , 柳营路6号（靠南山路）
April 22nd @ Reggae bar (Starts at 10:30pm)
131 Xueyuan Rd, 学院路131号
April 23rd @ Schänke (Starts at 9:30pm)
Room -3 and 2-2, Building 32, Qingchunfang, Qingchun Rd, 庆春路青春坊32幢1-3室和2-2室