It’s The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show this weekend, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to remind you of the best bars in which to gulp the golden liquor. And, as it’s Friday, you can clock off from work and head straight there – we certainly plan on holing ourselves up in one (who are we kidding, all) of these dens for the weekend.
Whisky Bar at the Athenaeum Hotel, Piccadilly (above)
Taking a cue from sometime guest and muso-turned-foodie farmer Alex James, things may well become a Blur thanks to the 300-strong whisky menu here. Top-flight drams and Mr James’s artisan cheeses work well together: sample 12-year-old Balvenie Double Wood with creamy compatriot Blue Monday, or there are some truly regal Caledonians if money is no object.
Barbecoa, St Paul’s (above)
Okay, it may be a BBQ restaurant rather than exclusively a bar but alongside the food, these guys have the widest range of American whiskies in the UK. Not content with that, they also have their own single barrel of 12 year old bourbon, which they purchased in its entirety from Heaven Hill in the U.S (Barbecoa Elijah Craig single barrel) while Monday is bourbon and ribs night. And you can’t really argue with that.
Boisdale, all branches (below)
Whether you choose the Belgravia, Bishopsgate or Canary Wharf (pictured) branch, you will not be disappointed by this ode to all things Scottish. To complement tartan and cigars, you’ll find a selection of Scotch whisky that’s among London’s finest, to be enjoyed surrounded by true Caledonian, tartan-clad cosiness.
The Britannia, Borough (below)
A wall of whiskies – more than 100 in total – is a standout feature of this sympathetically renovated local boozer round the back of Guy’s Hospital: check the backboards to see what’s on offer, or ask the helpful bar staff for some spirited recommendations.
Golden Arrow, Euston
Hard-edged, shiny and sleek, the Golden Arrow is designed in the style of an old cross-channel Golden Arrow ‘boat train’ with its luxurious Pullman carriages. Although somewhat lacking in personality, with a mouth-watering range of 200 fine whiskies, Calvados and Cognac on offer, lacklustre décor pales into insignificance.
Library Bar at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park (above)
Lined with bookcases and leather-bound volumes, this bar majors in luxurious, sink-in sumptuousness: where better to sink a wee dram? Choose from a range of malt whiskies, while those gasping for a hand-rolled Cuban can go alfresco in the Garden Room, where Cohiba cigars are sold at extravagant prices.
Milroy’s, Soho (below)
Pull up at the copper-topped bar at this Soho institution and test-drive numerous whiskies from around the globe. Then push through a door disguised as a dusty bookcase to enter The Vault. Despite styling itself as a ‘speakeasy’, this rough-around-the-edges cellar is the antithesis of a twee themed cocktail bar. Typical killer slugs from £9.50 including the Hot and Cold (pictured), which pairs a cold glass of Byrrh (a quinine-flavoured, wine-based aperitif) with a hot blend of Michter’s rye whiskey and orange zest.
Salt Whisky Bar, Paddington
Combining the merits of a neighbourhood shisha and curry joint with a specialist bar devoted to whisky and its sister spirits, Salt really does have a wide-ranging, if slightly odd, appeal. Serious glass-sniffers will take great joy from the expertly curated, 200-strong list, which includes some special drops ranging from 1970 Bruichladdich and exceedingly rare 1973 Edradour to George T Stagg and WL Weller Barrel Proof from across the pond.
St Pancras Grand, King’s Cross
Looking every centimetre the classic French brasserie, but boasting a thoroughbred British menu, this restaurant within St Pancras International is born out of the best of London and Paris: a true culinary entente cordiale. Head over to the bar, however, and you’ll find a detailed, 70-strong selection of whiskies, including rare bottles from now-defunct distilleries such as Port Ellen, and special cask finishes.
Whisky Lounge at Hilton London Metropole, Paddington (above)
Drams on offer in this whisky wonderland include some of Scotland’s finest, alongside their cousins from Ireland, Wales, USA, India and Japan. Blends and three-part tasting flights are a useful introduction to novices, while those serious about their whisky could splash out £110 on the rare Johnnie Walker Odyssey triple malt. That’s us sold.
This article was published 2 October 2015