EWA Alumni: Enrique Villareal
If you ever needed reminding that single malt whisky touches the hearts and minds of people the world over, look no further than Enrique Villareal. Based in Switzerland, he travelled to Scotland recently and became the Academy’s first Filipino alumni. We caught up with him after his Diploma to talk about his experience in the whisky world.
When did you first get into whisky?
When I was a young man in the Philippines, I remember my father always used to open a bottle of Scotch when we had visitors. But I hadn’t really heard of Single Malt Whisky until I emigrated to Switzerland in the 1980s to work for a Japanese bank. Expatriates and Trainees of the bank, after visiting Japan, always used to bring Japanese whisky with them and, as the bottles accumulated, we always used to wonder when the best time to open them might be. So we started our now famous ‘Friday Club’ at the bank where colleagues come together every Friday to open a bottle or two after work; usually making sure the bottles are emptied! We started with the Japanese whiskies – Hibiki, Yamazaki, Nikka. But we soon branched out into Single Malt Scotch Whisky. After tasting Glenmorangie I fell in love with Scotch. Bonding over whisky has been a lot of fun and brought us all together.
What attracted you to the EWA and our Diploma courses?
I attended the Linguarama school to study business English in the City of Bath last March. In December, I thought of doing something similar and started to plan. It came to mind that as a passionate Single Malt drinker and collector, I was not, so to speak, drinking it in the ‘proper way’. Drinking Single Malt is an art in itself so I thought: why not learn to drink it as such? I researched whisky courses and the Edinburgh Whisky Academy struck me as being the best one available, as I could also learn about the production process as well as the wider industry.
Which aspects did you find most fascinating about the Diploma?
Being so passionate about Single Malt Whisky in particular I loved learning about the distillation process and how pot stills influence the final product in so many ways, making each whisky unique. I had seen pictures of whisky stills in the past and they inspired me. When we visited Glenkinchie Distillery as part of the Diploma it was really special to see them in person and understand how they fit into the wider production process. It was my first ever distillery visit. To me, it was a similar feeling to getting your first car as a young man. I will never forget the experience.
How have you used your Diploma and new-found knowledge since you graduated?
When my EWA SQA certificates arrived I was so proud, and immediately put them into the whisky cask frames I ordered and into my whisky room at home. I sent pictures of them all to the Academy, who in return posted them on Facebook and social media. I shared the post to my own page and a couple of Facebook groups that I belong and I think they’ve gone viral! I am due to retire soon, so in the future I might open a Single Malt Whisky bar here in Switzerland or back home in the Philippines. I’m also using my education to help friends get the most enjoyment from their whiskies and help educate them on why it tastes like it does.
What’s the whisky scene like in your home, Switzerland, and your native Philippines?
Blended Scotch Whisky has dominated both markets in the past, but Single Malt is catching up as people are increasingly choosing to drink it. There is a growing online presence to buy whiskies in the Philippines and, with over 100m people in the country, there are a lot of thirsty people to cater for! In Switzerland there are now some distilleries that produce Single Malt and Bourbon whisky. People here like to drink it neat, but in the Philippines there is a culture for putting ice in whisky as it’s such a hot, humid climate. But as they move towards enjoying Single Malts instead of blends we can start educating them on how ice might influence the flavour and change the way they enjoy it.
Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions
First whisky you ever tasted?
Ballantine’s Blended Scotch Whisky. I got a glass from my father. I was just 14…
Best whisky you’ve ever tasted?
I’m a huge Glenmorangie fan – I’ve never been disappointed by any of their expressions or bottlings.
Who is your ‘whisky hero’?
David Tye. He is an Englishman who I worked with at the bank in Switzerland. He was key factor in setting up the Friday Club. He knows so much about whisky, as well as red wine, so I’d love to host him for a tasting if I hold one.
Ultimate bottling for your collection?
An old and rare Macallan, if I could find one.
Favourite non-whisky drink?
Cognac. My brother loves it so I started collecting it with whisky.
Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Spanish jamonada with a Glenmorangine port cask finish.