Whisky is a special drink for many reasons and it can’t just be knocked back, it has to be savoured. Its history as an alcoholic beverage is also worth noting, being the only drink legally dispensed through pharmacies during the 14-year Prohibition. London, as in most cities of culture, boasts plenty of the best whiskies from around the world and here is a selection of the finest places in which to get your hands on them.
Courtesy Salt Whiskey Bar
Salt Whisky Bar & Dining Room
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary
For what was once a traditional Whisky bar, Salt has branched out into Indian cuisine and also dabbles in shisha. The drinks menu is so extensive that it boasts 200 whiskies, with a very impressive Scottish contingent to enjoy as well. Located just off of Edgware Road, there are plenty of places to go and try more exotic cuisine before you retire to your single malt. If you are happy with Sub-Continental treats however, the menu caters perfectly.
Boisdale of Canary Wharf, London | Courtesy Bam Bou Restaurant
Boisdale is an absolutely colossal venue and a one-stop shop for Scottish food and Scottish whisky, this is the place to go to enjoy the full romantic imagery that accompanies traditional whisky drinking. Established over 20 years ago, the collection of over 900 single-malt whiskies, some from defunct distilleries, can be enjoyed alongside the rich variety of cigars and a packed schedule of live music and Jazz, which the Boisdale boasts is borne of their connections with Jools Holland. Expect a more corporate and clean-cut feel compared to some of the more casual bars around town.
The only bar on this list to specialise in Japanese whiskies, The Red Bar sits on the third floor of Bam-Bou, a Southeast Asian restaurant. The venue is not clearly marked out on street level, you have to go through the restaurant to get to it. Japanese whisky is now considered by many aficionados to be on a par with its Scottish counterpart, so the 75-strong Japanese whisky collection on the Red Bar menu, one of the largest outside of Japan, makes it stand out as one of the better places to sample it in London.
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Any article about London culture would be missing something without the inclusion of the East End – they just do things differently over there. The East London Liquor Company in Hackney is the first Distillery in London to produce gin, whisky and vodka in over 100 years, and it emulates the resurgent trend of craft alcohol in America. They also have their own in-house bar, where you can try their own produce as well as some of the many imported craft liquors advertised on their sleek website. It constitutes perhaps less of an obvious choice for those who want an orthodox whisky experience, but definitely one for anyone who wants a younger, more cosmopolitan induction to the drink. They do tours and interactive visits if you are looking for history with your whiskey.
A compendium of four bars over six floors full of Irish charm, Waxy O’Connors is a destination for tourists and locals as a venue for quiet drinks or a heavy night out. Live music four nights a week accompanies the dozens of Irish whiskies on offer in this Irish labyrinth. Again, this isn’t one for someone who wants to sit and appreciate an obscure whisky in peace and quiet, as the atmosphere can become a bit raucous, especially after dinnertime.
Angel in Islington is definitely a place for foodies, but Slim Jim’s also makes it known as a fine destination for whisky. Every day has something happening and on Fridays and Saturdays, things heat up into more of a club scene. On Tuesdays, Pickle Back is flavour of the day, as the bar offers one shot of whisky and one shot of Pickle Juice, but even then it is four for £10 and a bargain all round. The bar promises ‘Premium whiskeys from all four corners of the world…stacked high behind the bar’ and if those don’t take your fancy, they do two for one cocktails from 4pm to 8pm every day.