From the neighborhood pub with a surprising collection of whiskies, to an Indian restaurant which eschews the frosted bottle of Cobra for a wee dram of an Indian single malt, London has plenty to offer the whisky beginner and aficionado alike. Here Alex, master dipsologist at foxandbeagle.com offers five of his favorites.
From the outside The Britannia is a pretty, traditional-looking English pub like any other in the backstreets of Southwark. Once inside however, if the back bar collection of over 100 whiskies doesn’t catch your eye, maybe the wall-length blackboard list divided up by region will? Either way this cosy pub is a great place for a wee hauf n hauf (that’s half a pint and a dram to the non-Scots speakers among you) or a wider foray into whisky exploration. The staff are friendly, the food is good, and all within stumbling distance of London Bridge for the last train home.
Live jazz, Scottish food, and a wide range of whiskies and cigars; what more could you want from a night out? There’s tartan everywhere and the red walls may speak of a 1980s city boy’s drinking den, but behind this lies a passion for all things Scottish, not least the water of life. Beyond the Scotch, there is a full calendar of bourbon, cigar and wine tasting and live jazz, blues and soul bands play every night. On the upper floors a cigar terrace allows patrons to sample from the Boisdale Vintage Selection, but for many it is the encyclopaedia of whisky that really steals the show.
Location: 15 Eccleston Street, SW1W 9LX
Hours: Open 12pm-1am.
Recently reopened after a change of ownership, Milroy’s, “London’s oldest whisky shop,” is now home to two bars. One, on the shop floor, offers a selection of over 250 whiskies. Pull up a stool and engage the staff in conversation and they will take you from the five regions of Scotland to the extremes of the whisky world in Europe, the US and Asia. Alternatively, make your way to the back of the shop, passing the large range of spirits for sale, through the bookshelf and down the stairs and you will find The Vault, their new speakeasy-style cellar bar serving modern cocktails mixed with house-infused spirits, syrups and tinctures.
If you can beg, borrow or blag your way in to this members’ bar then be prepared for whisky nirvana. The SMWS bottles its own choice of the finest single cask single malt whiskies from around the world. At any one time, therefore, they have over 150 bottles behind the bar all of which offer an unusual dram of some description, but all of which hide themselves within identical bottles only identifiable by a cryptic numerical code. Ok, so the code isn’t that cryptic once you know it stands for distillery and bottling number, but it’s fair to say the bottles don’t give much away. Fortunately the tasting notes are loquacious and rich in imagery: “ambulance brake pedal” anyone?
Just shy of 200 whiskies from around the world are what set this Indian restaurant at the south end of Marble Arch apart from any other in London. They offer guided tours of Scotland from the comfort of their contemporary leather seats with five 20ml tasters and one 50ml measure of your favourite coming in at between £25 and £40. The bar also offers a wide range of whisky or champagne-based cocktails and the food is well worth a try. Well, we wouldn’t advocate all this drinking on an empty stomach after all…