The Most Ambitious Crossover Event In Beverage History: Durian Whisky
All images by Cheryl Tang.

There are some words which you never expect to see in a sentence together: Laksa Burger. Chinese democracy. Prime Minister Tharman.

So when someone at RICE sent me a link for Durian Whisky, I was not merely stunned. I was angry. Surely this must be Fake News; an SGAG punchline gone wrong or some newly-minted meme format. 

Furious, I stomped upstairs to give my colleague Shaun a 5-minute lecture about the dangers of ‘deliberate online falsehoods’—only to return chastened and in shock. Not only is Durian Whisky real, it has been out for at least almost a whole month without anyone noticing.

Aghast, I spend the next 15 minutes reading their website in slack-jawed astonishment. 

Nasi Lemak Burger. Raffles Tea. Durian Whisky. We have truly entered the age of
>meme foods
>Before you know it, they will be awarding Michelin stars on 4chan.

The idea of a Durian Whisky is disgusting. It sounds like something the People’s Liberation Army might use against Hong Kong protesters or a torture device favoured by the secret police of resource-rich autocracies in Central Asia.

I don’t know much about Durians or Whisky, but surely no one enjoying a good D24 has ever said or thought: ‘Man, if only I had a bottle of Macallan to wash this down.’

The branding doesn’t inspire confidence either. ‘The Durian Whisky’ brand is ‘Estd 2016’, but the drink has somehow been aged ‘20 years’. The Mao Shan Wang used in its production is of the ‘best-grade’ and comes from ‘vintage trees’. It claims to be No.1 in Singapore, but I seriously doubt if Durian Whisky is our nation’s best-selling single malt, or ranked first in taste by experts. 

Most likely, they mean ‘first-of-its-kind’, but that’s a bit like saying you’ve invented the first life-vest for ducks or an Avocado-powered Tesla Coil. Innovation is not an end in itself.

From here, it’s all downhill. The rest of the website is devoted to an explanation of why Durian + Alcohol won’t kill you. 

Citing studies by the University Of Singapore and the University of Tsukaba, Japan, they reiterate that consuming Durian with Alcohol is ‘NOT DANGEROUS’, and that there are ‘NO RESULTS SUGGESTING DEATH WHEN ALCOHOL IS CONSUMED WITH DURIAN’. 

The studies check out, but suffice to say they did not whet my appetite. 

In an ideal world, the safety of your food should be a given, and not the subject of ongoing academic inquiry. This is a bit like visiting a restaurant, ordering the pork cutlet, and then getting a short speech from the waiter about how China’s Swine flu Epidemic is totally under control, thanks to aggressive culling by Ministry Of Health inspectors.

Thanks, but I think I’ll have the salad instead.

Thus, it is with great trepidation and reluctance that I poured myself a dram of Durian Whisky. The sales staff suggested drinking it cold, so I rattled out three ice cubes and watched with revulsion as a viscous yellow slime dribbled from the bottle to coat the glass, leaving streaks as it uncoiled and settled.

It did not look appealing, to say the least. But to be fair, neither did the first version of any food now popularly consumed with relish. The first pineapple or the first lobster must have looked just as terrifying to the hungry desperadoes who ate them. It is only with time and effort that they became accepted and widely loved. 

Furthermore, I did not want to be that prejudiced western tourist who flees towards KFC at the first glimpse of Durian or Century Eggs. Culinary-boundaries are pushed by the brave, not the meek, the squeamish, or those who travel in ‘hermetically-sealed Pope Mobiles’.

Expecting immediate regurgitation, I raised the glass to my lips for a sip, then another, and another, and another.

Umm. Eh. You know Bailey’s? That creamy Irish Liqueur popular with confectioners? 

Durian Whisky is basically Durian-flavored Bailey’s. It is thick, creamy and incurably sweet, like an alcoholic milkshake. (It even has the same alcohol percentage of 18%). 

There is almost no taste of Whisky at all. No smoke. No peat. No oak. Only the faintest taste of alcohol going down. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of the Durian smell. The beverage has no lingering odour and its Durian-y bouquet is not more intense than a Potong Durian Popsicle.

In fact, it’s quite a delicious beverage once you wrap your head around the ludicrous concept. Everyone in our office agreed. If you like Durian, you’ll probably enjoy its aroma. If you like matcha lattes and Frappuccinos, you’ll enjoy its texture and sweetness. 

As the staff recommended, do drink it cold because the warm product tastes slightly off.

After 5 glasses of Durian on the rocks, here’s the verdict.

Durian Whisky is not really a whisky. Marketing it as a whisky is a disservice to both Durians and Whisky, whose rabid fan bases will foam at the mouth at such blasphemy. Instead, it is more like a Durian-flavored liqueur along the lines of Amarula or Limoncello. Indeed, the details of its manufacturing process seem to confirm this thesis. As the website claims, Whisky is added to the Durian mix. It is not produced by the fruit’s fermentation.

That being said, it is quite a lovely afternoon drink. I had prepared many harsh phrases for this review, like ‘Abomination unto god’, ‘no redeeming features’, and ‘banned by the Geneva convention’, but I am forced to discard them. It is a good drink if you like Durians. It is even better for people who are determined to drink despite hating the taste of alcohol, because even mild durian will mask all other scents. 

Bakers, confectioners, and makers of dessert will probably find some use for it in their sundaes, smoothies, and pancakes.

However, the price-tag is a slap in the face. At $198, it is $30 more expensive than our life-changing melon and 4 times the price of Raffles Tea. I’m not sure if I would pay for it without the benefit of a company credit card. I understand that Mao Shan Wang is an expensive raw ingredient, but the final product—whilst pleasant—is not nearly orgasmic enough to justify such exorbitant, eye-watering prices.

I suggest making a D13 Whisky for plebs like myself. After all, even the working man needs a stiff Durian every now and then.

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