Taste Test: This New Chinese Single Malt Is an Unusual but Intriguing Whisky

Have you tried Chinese single malt whisky yet? If the answer is no, you are likely not alone—and for good reason because until very recently it just hasn’t really been a thing to try. But the introduction of Goalong Single Malt to the US market could be a sign of things to come, and curious drinkers should give this whisky a try.

Over the past few years, there’s been some news about major drinks corporations like Pernod Ricard and Diageo claiming a spot in the Chinese whisky market by investing in new distilleries there. But it will be some time before these are distilled, aged and ready for us to try. In the meantime, there’s Goalong.

This whisky isn’t brand-spanking-new, but it’s only been available here in the US for about a year and really hasn’t been covered much during this time. The details are a bit sparse on the distillery’s website (there seems to be a translation barrier), but we’ve managed to piece them together using information from the US importer. The Goalong Distillery is located in Changsha, which is the capital of and largest city in the Hunan province. The mashbill is comprised of 100 percent malted barley from Australia, which is not the usual source of single malt whiskies. The first release was aged entirely in bourbon barrels, but this latest version was double matured in bourbon and brandy casks for five years. The whisky is relatively young, but apparently the climate where it’s aged is such that there’s quite a bit of interaction between the wood and liquid.

The bottle is ornate and fancy looking, more like something you’d expect from a limited-edition bottle of Hennessy instead of a whisky. And maybe there’s some intention behind this, given the popularity of pricy cognac in China. The whisky is good, but perhaps the flashy decanter is putting some lipstick on a pig. This is a tasty and fruity single malt, even if the mouthfeel does register a bit thin. In fact, there’s a bit more fruit and spice notes on the palate than vanilla, really, with some green apple and citrus that seem to be common with a younger malt whisky. Ultimately, it holds up, although I suspect that many seasoned single malt drinkers might find the flavor a bit underdeveloped. That is not a fatal flaw, however, because a five-year-old whisky might not have as deep a complexity as one twice its age—that’s just often the nature of a shorter maturation.

By far, the most popular type of alcohol in China is baiju—in fact, because of the number of people consuming baiju in China it is ranked as one of the most consumed spirits in the world. But there’s a big market for imported spirits there as well, especially Cognac and single malt scotch. With a price tag of somewhere between $130 and $150, depending on where you find it online (rumor is it’s available at some Costcos as well), the producer of this whisky seems to be positioning it into the ultra-premium category. Anyone interested in whisky that isn’t from the usual suspect countries should give this a try if they can find it. Goalong might not become your go-to bottle, but it’s a whisky journey you won’t regret.

Score: 83

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this 

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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