Do you prefer your whisky with or without water; do you spell whiskey with an ‘e’; or are you a Japanese-distilled whisky aficionado (try saying that after a few drinks)? There’s a great choice of whisky bars in London; Christian Rose-Day and Jonny Payne pick five of the best.
Golden Arrow at Pullman London St Pancras
With around 200 whiskies, Golden Arrow at Pullman London St Pancras is the perfect place for a wee dram. Try one of the organised monthly tastings or ask resident whisky expert, Sarah O’Donovan, for advice on the perfect bottle to match your tastes. We joined her masterclass in Scottish peaty whiskies, and learnt about how whisky is made, which factors make whiskies so different, and how smoked salmon or chocolate are the perfect accompaniments to Scotch.
This restaurant and bar has a chic and airy feel, with attention drawn to the fabulous glass display case of whiskies – some of which are limited editions. Fine wines are served by the glass here as well, making use of its Enomatic dispenser, while the kitchen dishes up European specialities.
The Whisky Lounge at Hilton London Metropole
This lounge in Hilton London Metropole is so whisky-focused, it even features decanters as light fittings. The bar is flanked on either side by display cabinets showcasing more than 70 whiskies. “Whisky Flights” are available for novices to “tour” the best of Scotland, or the best picks from the rest of the world. There are more unusual bottles to sample, such as Indian whiskies, while arguably the pick of the bunch is a Johnnie Walker Odyssey Triple Malt served from a show-stopping swinging decanter.
Boisdale Canary Wharf
As we all know, the home of whisky is Scotland and there’s no more Scottish home-from-home in London than Boisdale Canary Wharf. This East London restaurant, jazz club and bar is loved for its meaty treats (including haggis) and live music, but it’s the 12m backlit back bar that’s possibly the most impressive aspect. More than 1,000 bottles of amber deliciousness adorn the shelves, representing 400 varieties of whisky – some of which were produced by distilleries that no longer exist. If you can’t find a whisky you like here, you’re not a fan of whisky.
The Whisky Bar at The Athenaeum
This classy Piccadilly hotel’s whisky bar features more than 300 versions of the grain-based liquor. The aptly named and intimate Whisky Bar serves nibbles and cheese pairings with its whiskies, while connoisseur Ivo is on hand to help with your selection. Whisky-lovers of all sorts will be catered for at The Athenaeum, with a large menu of malted and blended Scottish whiskies, as well as Irish, North American and Japanese bottles – there’s also the chance to try Welsh and vintage tipples.
Red Bar at Bam-Bou
Fitzrovia is fast becoming one of the best areas in London for bars. Red Bar on the third floor of Bam-Bou restaurant is furnished with red leather seating and lit by candles, giving the secret cocktail bar a sexy lounge vibe. To match the Asian cuisine served below, Red Bar boasts 75 different Japanese whiskies, including bottles from the Yoichi, Hakushu, and Yamazaki distilleries.