The World’s Best Whisky Bars for Beginners… According to our Whisky Ambassadors
For those serious whisky drinkers and connoisseurs (see: our Whisky Ambassadors), it’s easy to take having a sound knowledge of good quality whisky for granted (and also spending all our money on them…) However, it’s easy to forget what it was like not knowing your Islay from your Speyside, your Highlands from your Lowlands, your peat smoke from your bourbon.
Because of Scotch’s surging popularity with an increasingly wide demographic, and a subsequent loss of its oft-frightening relegation to lofty whisky buffs and self-appointed experts, we at the Whisky Ambassador believe there’s no better time to acquaint yourselves with some of the finest whisky bars around. To this end, we asked some of our Whisky ambassadors for some of the best bars that helped cement their appreciation for Scotland’s national drink.
Note: This isn’t, of course, a comprehensive list, there’s plenty more bars that our Whisky Ambassadors know, love, and run.
The Pot Still, Glasgow
Starting with our very dear home city, the Pot Still is simply put, a Glasgow institution, and a strong contender for Glasgow’s best stocked and most beloved Whisky bar. In operation in some form since 1861, with over 700 whiskies from all across the world, there’s a few lifetimes’ supply of the finest, characterful Whisky stock here, whilst the Pot Still’s incredibly knowledgeable and friendly bar staff are more than happy to make recommendations and answer any questions you have. Central to any Scottish whisky institution, there’s a fantastically friendly atmosphere at the still, with an ever-changing selection of newcomers and regulars, experts and novices, all striking up new friendships with people all across the world, spreading prized whisky knowledge and sharing good-quality drams.
Bon Accord, Glasgow
The Bon Accord is another fantastic entry point for those less well-acquainted with Scotland in a glass. Selling more than 400 whiskies from its gantry and 800 different real ales per year, the Bon Accord is well prepared for the discerning tastebuds of newbie and veteran alike. Served by friendly and well-versed staff, the Bon Accord has helped to define a Glasgow whisky bar. Home to the Bon Accord Whisky society, the Bon Accord is an infamous Glasgow institution perfect for taking a first dive into our wonderful world of whisky. You can view a selection of their finest whiskies at their shop here.
The Piper, Glasgow
Another vital introductory Whisky bar based in Glasgow, the Piper serves up over 150 whiskies from all across Scotland. More importantly, however, it’s a fantastic entry point to Scotch, hosting regular Whisky tasty events, where they serve up rare and desirable whiskies. Moreover, with friendly and knowledgeable staff, they’re easily able to make recommendations to either seasoned amateurs or relative novices. You can view a selection of their whiskies here.
Self-appointed ambassadors of the ‘spiritual’ side of whisky as a “saintly and noble” quest, Edinburgh’s Usquabae have one of Scotland’s largest whisky selections. Offering up premium quality drams to tourists from all around the world, Usquabae’s staff have more than enough intimate knowledge of each Whisky’s individual character so as to satiate the tastes of foreigners and Scots alike. The Usquabae’s relaxed, jovial atmosphere will undoubtedly seal the deal for those from abroad looking for the authentic whisky experience.
A recent addition to Aberdeen, CASC has quickly become one of Aberdeen’s must-see nightlife spots, mixing a naturally-occurring friendly and warm atmosphere with a cosy interior. With an incredible selection of beer, whisky AND cigars, and staff members who really know their way around all, CASC is undeniably the must-see spot for those wishing to dip their toes into whisky (not literally…) and experience some good old Aberdonian hospitality at the same time.
Golden Promise, Paris
One of Paris’ swankiest whisky offerings, Golden Promise nonetheless lives up to every inch of its fantastical origins. Hidden away in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement as a ring-to-enter bar below La Maison du Sake, the Golden Promise offers 200 whiskies at the bar and a further 800 whiskies in its gallery. With prices ranging from €10 to €290 for a glass, it’s on the expensive side, but the love and expertise of one of Paris’ finest sommeliers and ‘whisky psychics’ François Piriou means that anybody who ventures into Golden Promise is sure to find something that suits their appetite, experienced or not.
The Auld Alliance, Paris
In stark contrast to Golden Promise, and aptly named after the centuries long military/trade alliance between Scotland and France, the Auld Alliance is a homely Scottish-themed pub dedicated to recreating and appreciating Scottish whisky and cuisine. Featuring an impressive selection of whiskies from all across Scotland, the Auld Alliance functions as a hearty injection of Scot spirit into downtown Paris, expertly emulating the character of your traditional Scottish pub as well as its spirits. The Auld Alliance’s website is also a fun and interesting history lesson on the continued relationship between Scotland and France.
Boisdale of Canary Wharf, London
Styling itself the “embassy of Highland hospitality,” the Boisdale is the premier institution for Scotch whisky connoisseurs and those new to the game alike. Boasting one of the biggest and best Scotch collections in the entire world, the Boisdale nonetheless serves English, Japanese and Welsh whiskies too. However, make no mistake, the Boisdale is quintessentially Scottish, with tartan seating, crimson red walls and a warm and friendly atmosphere to turn even the furthest fliers into locals in no time. There’s even a heated terrace for those who’d like to combine their whiskies with a nice cigar.
Widder Bar & Kitchen, Zurich
Though most of the bars in Zurich are cocktail bars offering a range of spirits, the Widder is one of only few with a world-class reputation for its whisky collection, having over 250 single malts to choose from. Bar Staff are knowledgeable on their Scotch in particular, making this a fantastic spot to visit if you’re a newcomer to whisky as well as a similarly world-class whisky amateur. Just be wary of the spooky statues and old wooden decor as they’re capable of giving you a fright!
Brevings Whisky Bar, Riga
The bar with likely the best selection of whisky in the Baltic states, Brevings whisky bar came highly recommended by our ambassadors. Featuring a healthy mix of both official and independent bottlings, Brevings has done much to import the homegrown Scottish experience of drinking Scotch for patrons to enjoy alongside the ambience of Old Riga. Despite serving a good selection of draught beers, Brevings’ is an excellent spot for those wanting a taste of whisky in Riga, offering their stellar selection straight out of Glencairn glasses.
The Dam Pub, Thornbury, ON
Canada’s long had a love affair with Scotch whisky, but few establishments can match Ontario’s Dam Gastropub for its incredible range of over 800 whiskies. Situated in a quaint 1870s house, Whisky Ambassador Stephanie can provide spot-on Scotch recommendations good enough to attract whisky connoisseurs from all across Canada. Maintaining levels of wonderful rustic charm and ambience good enough to make Scotland proud, The Dam Pub is an excellent place to learn more of whisky and develop those Scotch tastebuds.
Buchanan’s Chop House & Whisky Bar, Calgary, AB
Despite a solid reputation for thick steaks and juicy burgers, one of Buchanan’s Chop House’s strongest assets is having one of Canada’s best Scotch selections. Its expensive-looking interior may cater to a suit-wearing crowd, but being designed for those sometimes un-versed in all of the palettes and flavours whisky has to offer, it deserves a place on our list, presenting a fantastic entry point for diving deep into ‘Scotland in a glass’ for beginners and amateurs alike.
The Single Cask
One part bar, one part whisky education, Singapore’s the Single Cask is committed to helping customers sample independent bottlers and lesser known distilleries with a marked emphasis on Scotch and single malts, carrying a whopping 300 single malts alone. It’s this emphasis on education and bringing small producers into focus that makes the Single Cask the perfect place to cut your chops on Scotland’s national drink whilst discovering hidden gems that even whisky experts may be unaware of.
The Auld Alliance, Singapore
Not to be confused with the Parisian pub of the same name, the Auld Alliance couldn’t be further from it. First of all: bottles. Bottles everywhere. This fancy Singapore joint stocks a ridiculous 1,350 varieties of whisky from Scotland, Ireland, USA, Japan, enough to warrant a 70 page booklet on the selection. But have no fear, for whisky novices, there’s plenty of friendly, helpful staff on hand to help you make your choice. Also of note is the glorious old-fashioned, upper-crust club decor, helping to ensure the Auld Alliance is a touching old-headed tribute to international whisky.
The Angel’s Share, Hong Kong
Described by Lifestyle Asia as ‘the ultimate destination for any whisky lover,’ the Angel’s share is distinguished from many other bars by its rotation of full-sized oak barrels. In addition, either for those less well-acquainted with Whisky or those wishing to expand their palette, the Angel’s share’s whisky flights of four different 25ml glasses of whisky is a fantastic addition, allowing patrons to sample their stunningly wide variety of world whiskies whilst facilitating the Angel’s share on our list.
Stockton, Hong Kong
Provided you can afford it, Stockton is one of Hong Kong’s best whisky bars. Inspired by the opulence of London in the 1890s, Stockton is a fashionable and bougie visit for any whisky fan. With fancy vintage furnishings and a ‘retro-vintage’ aesthetic, Stockton may put some whisky novices off, but beneath its gentleman’s club interior, is a warm and vibrant whisky bar with a wonderful selection of whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, America and Japan.