*** UPDATED APRIL 2015 ***
London is a city full of life, culture and vibrancy. It presents hundreds of aesthetics, options and experiences, and this should be reflected in its establishments. The whisky bars represented here each live up to that standard, and present something a little different, while still generating the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a high quality malt.
Milroy’s of Soho
Milroy’s of Soho re-launched in 2015 as a whisky specialist, retail shop and basement cocktail bar in the heart of Soho. New owner Simo, formerly of Coal Vaults, promises to take London’s oldest existing whisky specialist and breathe new life into the brand, giving whisky the attention it deserves.
Simo comments ‘I wanted to build the already established Milroy’s brand, bringing it back to its former glory and making it a name synonymous with whisky once again. We also wanted to create a cocktail bar hidden away from the world where people can escape, relax and enjoy a good drink.’
Milroy’s of Soho was established in 1964 by John and Wallace Milroy. The Milroy brothers are credited with bringing single malt whisky from Scotland and establishing it in London. The first of its kind, it is the oldest whisky specialist and shop in London. Even before Milroy brothers took over in 1964 the space had been used as a liquor shop.
The Milroy Brothers gave advice and wisdom to the world from their shop in Soho. Hugely respected for their plain speaking and great knowledge of whisky, they are admired internationally for their simplicity, clarity and plain speaking. They are credited with bringing single malt whiskey from Scotland and establishing it in London. Even before the Milroy brothers took over, the space had been used as a liquor shop since the 1930s. The shop originally had a basement bar and was used as a whisky heaven for people to enjoy a glass surrounded by the good company of other whisky lovers. The brothers loved their shop so much they even built a bedroom upstairs. It was a place built on community with people travelling from all over London.
The Milroy’s brothers became ambassadors of whisky for London and to this day are regarded as royalty amongst whisky lovers and the alcohol industry.
Boisdale of Canary Wharf
The Boisdale of Canary Wharf also has a proud Scottish history and theme. Their tagline, “In a modern world – The very best from ages past” alongside their Scottish menu harks towards this. They are also however, a very diverse restaurant, with nightly performances from some of the best Jazz and Blues musicians in London. They are very well known for this fact, and boast Jools Holland as their patron. Alongside this, their Cuban cigar library and choice of over 900 whiskies, including some that are rare and no longer produced, make for a well rounded establishment. The atmosphere provided at the Boisdale is accommodating and welcoming, it is somewhere to properly sit back and enjoy a glass of the best Scotch, which they will no doubt have available.
The Whisky Bar at The Athenaeum
Found at the 5-Star Athenaeum Hotel, The Whisky Bar is the perfect setting for whisky appreciators and novices alike. Easy going and chilled, with plenty of red velvet sofas to sit down and relax, The Whisky Bar provides a comfortable backdrop for customers to avail of the 300 or more whiskies served here. The drinks served are also complimented with the various selections of cheeses available. Working alongside musician-turned-farmer Alex James, The Whisky Bar has created a menu that presents expertly chosen whisky and cheese pairings that are made to delight. The Whisky Bar is a must for any one wishing to indulge their whisky sensibilities
Salt Whisky Bar and Dining Room
Salt offers up not only a vast array of international whiskies but also some of the best Indian cuisine around. The classy, hard wood interior of Salt compliments the quality of both food and drink available here. It allows for an atmosphere of urbane elegance where good food, good whisky and a good time can be had. Salt also sells the contemporary experience of Shisha, and is said to be one of the best Shisha bars in London. This is a great place to enjoy the conservative traditions of whisky drinking alongside perhaps some new experiences that may prove to go together very nicely.
Albannach was a restaurant and bar with a strong Scottish theme. It had a sophisticated setting, with a sleek monochrome colour scheme that only served to emphasise the golden sheen of the quality Scotch they served. The restaurant’s Scottish history was proudly reflected in both the décor, adorned with antlers and stags, and the menu, including “haggis, neeps and tatties with gravy”, and other such delights. Downstairs at the Albannach we find the atmospheric, vaulted bar, The A Lounge. This bar epitomised the London nightlife. It gave off an aura of suave sophistication, and was the perfect contemporary setting to enjoy a good quality whisky.
On a personal note, Albannach was part of my first date with my now wife so the memory will live on, even if they’ve called last orders.
This self-titled “dive bar”, was located in the basement of Japanese BBQ restaurant Bincho, was unique. Serving the largest range of Japanese whiskies to be found in London, customers could not only enjoy the country’s finest spirits straight, but also with a dash of water. The name “Mizuwari” means just that, “mixed with water”. Mixing water and whisky is a typical way of drinking spirits in Japan, and Mizuwari brings that tradition to London. The bar itself was dark and brooding, and gave the perfect place to enjoy the golden delights of Japan’s best distilleries. Mizuwari was not only a great place to visit for whisky connoisseurs, but also for the discerning drinker interested in learning a bit more about a whisky culture that is not often explored. It will be truly missed.