From Scotland to Japan via Ireland and Wales, there’s a whole world of whisky to discover, and London has just the bars for the job.
Whisky at Black Rock, Shoreditch
This insane Shoreditch bar has two ‘whisky rivers’ flowing through a huge 18ft English oak tree trunk table. Not forgetting the whisky cabinets, which hold around 250 bottles and are organised by flavour. If you don’t fancy it straight, there’s a short whisky-focused cocktail menu to keep you busy.
Black Rock, 9 Christopher Street, EC2A 2BS
Whisky at The Connaught, Mayfair
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‘The World’s Best Bar’ The Connaught has for years been renowned for its plush 1920s decadence and incredible cocktails. But more recently it's become known for its Whisky Concept Tastings too. The experience involves pairing a bespoke handmade chocolate with a top-notch whisky. The bar has also teamed up with The Dalmore to create a one-off Connaught Cask single malt, which you can try, or purchase as a bottle when you’re there.
The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
Whisky at The Blues Kitchen, Camden/Shoreditch/Brixton
A proper Camden institution and staple of any night out in the area, this American fun-time bar, restaurant and live music venue excels when it comes to Bourbon and Tennessee whisky.
There are over 80 Bourbons alone to choose from, before you even get started on the other stuff. And, of course, you could also have them slung in a cocktail or drizzled into a milkshake, should you feel so inclined. The list is a serious one, but there’s nothing else about this bar that takes itself too seriously at all.
The Blues Kitchen has venues in Camden, Shoreditch and Brixton
Whisky at Bull In A China Shop, Shoreditch
To fit with their Asian-inspired menu of charcoal burger buns and katsu curries, these guys have one of London’s biggest Japanese whisky collections, featuring a few rare ones like Karuizawa — all served with carefully hand-carved ice. Team it up with some Whisky Glazed Rotisserie Chicken or the Poached Asian Pear & McCallan Whisky Trifle, and you’re golden.
Bull in a China Shop, 196 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6LG
Scottish whisky at Boisdale, Canary Wharf
Home to all things Scottish in London, the Boisdale brand now extends to four sites in Belgravia, Mayfair, Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf. It’s the latter which boasts not only the most impressive space (read: it’s frickin’ massive) but also the greatest whisky selection. The list stretches to an incredible 1,000+ bottles, of which the vast majority are Scottish (although Irish and Japanese options can also be found).
Prices range from just over £7 to around £100 for 50ml measures of some rarities. Boisdale knows its audience, so if you’re drinking the more common stuff you’re likely to be able to find it cheaper elsewhere. But if it’s something unusual you’re after, or you want maximum choice, then there’s no doubting this is the place to go.
Boisdale has venues in Belgravia, Mayfair, Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf
Whisky at Milroy’s of Soho
Head to London’s oldest whisky shop — there’s a bar with 300 whiskies from all over the world (but a heavy focus on Scotland). If you’re stuck for choice, order a tasting flight. Also, if you purchase a bottle you can stash it in the liquor lockers and come back for more another day. Make sure you also visit the secret cellar bar, The Vault. Enter through the hidden door in bookcase at the back. Down there you can tuck into a heady whisky cocktail list — at least 70% booze.
Milroy's of Soho, 3 Greek Street, W1D 4NX
Whisky at The Britannia, Bermondsey
There’s a tendency for bars specialising in whisky in London to lean to the stuffy side, probably not least because by its very nature a few drinks can very quickly start to add up. That’s what makes this place so refreshing. An unglossy old boozer on a quiet back street near Borough, it might not be where you’d expect to find a stellar whisky lineup, but there are well over a hundred offerings on the cramped back-bar.
If you go regularly, you’ll also appreciate the ‘malt of the month’, providing a constantly changing dram of something a little special. Reasonably priced whiskies, a pleasant terrace and a laid-back atmosphere combine to create a true London gem; albeit not that hidden a gem, judging by how busy it can get around end of work time.
The Britannia, 44 Kipling Street, Kipling Estate, SE1 3RU
Whisky at Salt, Marble Arch
Set just off eclectic Edgware Road, there’s no getting away from the fact that Salt is weird. From its clubby, neon-signed exterior and anything-but-salt-of-the-earth shiny bar, through to its inexplicable combination of Indian dishes, shisha and whisky. We won’t even go into the fact that there are also burgers and falafel on the menu.
But it’s the whisky we’re talking about here, and Salt has no fewer than (cue darts voice) 180 of them from around the world, including England, Ireland, Wales, India, Canada and Japan, as well as American bourbon and Scotch. We also like the menu’s descriptive tasting notes. Prices are modest for some of the straight-up spirits, and there’s a fairly decent selection of whisky-based cocktails to lure you in, too.
Salt, 82 Seymour Street, W2 2JB
Whisky at The Bar at The Athenaeum, Piccadilly
Inside this decadent five star hotel, you’ll find this well-stocked whisky bar. It's recently trimmed its collection to around 52, but what’s left are rare and special bottles including The Athenaeum’s own special blend. Whiskies range in price from £9, to £342 for a Glenvit 1984 — so this is definitely the place to splash out on something special. The new-look bar has a swish, lounge vibe, with a view of what feels like a ‘jungle’ outside.
The Athenaeum, 116 Piccadilly, W1J 7BJ]
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Slim Jim’s Liquor Store, Islington
This Upper Street dive bar-styled venue with bras hanging from the ceiling has a surprisingly good selection of Bourbons and American whiskies considering its laid-back good time vibes.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Bar, Farringdon
It sounds like serious stuff, and it is. You have to be a member to visit, hence it didn’t make the grade for our main selection, but if you do get in you will be treated to “the largest selection of single cask, single malt whisky in the world”. Impressive.
Soho Whisky Club
Set above the excellent Soho Whisky and other spirits shop is this members’ club with more than 400 different whiskies from around the world. Once again, it’s members only unfortunately.
Written by Ben O'Norum and Helen Glaberson.