Milroy's of Spitalfields
Jason Allen 02/07/23
If a bar choses just one spirit to specialise in..
…it can be a little whisky.
And when it is, it can be a little fantastic, as demonstrated by these fine establishments, who’re showing the rest of the city how to serve this liquid gold correctly. Behold, our finely cask-aged guide to London’s best whisky bars…
Black Rock | Shoreditch
A sleek, subterranean whisky bar boasting a huge 185 year old oak tree for a table with two ‘whisky rivers’ running through it; three cabinets of booze arranged by flavour profile; and a fleet of friendly, knowledgeable staff on hand to help you navigate them.
Details: 9 Christopher Street, EC2A 2BS | Book here
Milroy’s | Soho
Before it was one of London’s best whisky bars, Milroy’s was London’s first specialist whisky store, founded back in 1964. Upstairs you’ll find over 500 separate whiskies from every lauded spirit-producing nation on earth, including a selection of handpicked, cask-aged tipples from which you can pour your own bottles and make your own whisky blends. But make sure you check out the downstairs, accessible through a secret door hidden within a false bookcase, where a brooding, underground, candlelit cocktail bar called The Vault resides.
Details: 3 Greek Street, W1D 4BD | Book here
Milroys Of Spitalfields | Shoreditch
Second to the highly successful bottle shop and bar in Soho, Milroy’s Shoreditch is a four-story whisky playground boasting a beautifully-designed, industrially-styled whisky bar; a dedicated cocktail bar; a private Members club (with its own cigar smoking terrace); and a blending room.
Details: 76 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6LY | Book here
Silverleaf | Liverpool Street
A bar to suit everyone’s tastes: this suave City slicker (headed up by the founder of Milroy’s, his old colleague Chris Tanner, and Callooh Callay’s Liam Broom) does a fantastic line-up of cocktails with one of the most intriguing menus in town. But given the Milroy’s connection, you won’t be surprised to hear that they also have an impressive library of whiskies, too – housed in their own golden vault recessed into one of the walls…
Details: 80 Houndsditch, EC3A 7AB | Book here
Bar Swift | Soho
Swift is a bar of two halves. Upstairs is a light, breezy bar for martinis, spritzers and aperitivi. But head downstairs, and you’ll be enveloped by a warmly lit drinking den specialising in nightcaps and cocktails with darker spirits. There’s live jazz and blues on weekend nights, and you can pick from a globetrotting selection of over 250 whiskies; a collection that’s expanding… swiftly.
Details: 12 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TQ | Book here
The Walmer Castle | Notting Hill
A decadent Scottish Highlands hunting lodge appears to have been transplanted into this old Notting Hill boozer, bringing sumptuous furnishings, elevated Scottish scran and over 400 bottles of Scotch blends and single malts with it…
Details: 58 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AJ | Walk-ins only
Merchant House of Bow Lane | Bank
Tucked away on Well Court, just by Bank, you’ll find the whisky haven Merchant House. The nautical-themed bar has a vast selection of spirits for connoisseurs to get their teeth into, including some 600 whiskies plucked from around the world. And if you’re not a connoisseur yet? Book into one of their masterclasses, where over the course of an hour you’ll become an authority on distillation, cask ageing and peat smoking thanks to four samples, and a nightcap of something ‘fine and rare’…
Details: 13 Well Court, London EC4M 9DN | Book a table here, or masterclasses here
Spey Bar | Covent Garden
When you want to get something absolutely right, to a tee, asking the experts for advice is always a smart way to go. So when Browns in Covent Garden thought they would add a whisky bar to their £50 million refurb, they only went to Quaich Bar in Scotland’s Craigellachie Hotel to lend them a helping hand (a legendary relic of a whisky bar in Crieff that opened in 1703). And going the extra mile shows; up a grand staircase you’ll enter a high ceilinged room that could have been plucked from an old manor somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, filled with armchairs, low tables & dim lamps, taxidermy, vintage clocks, rugs and of course, a considerable collection of whiskies of all ages, mostly hailing from Speyside. There’s even Irn Bru and haggis scotch eggs…
Details: 82-84 St. Martins Lane, WC2N 4AG | Book here
Bull in a China Shop | Shoreditch
Shoreditch’s Bull in a China Shop manages to create a unique blend of Japanese izakaya, Scottish whisky bar, and Midwestern American prohibition hide-out, with a low-lit blend of ‘30s glamour and industrial chic. Their library of aged booze consists of around only 100 bottles, due to their ruthless discrimination of anything remotely low quality. The list is predominantly Japanese/Scottish, and there are even ‘rarities’ from closed distilleries, or legendary small-batch releases.
Details: 196 Shoreditch High St, E1 6LG | Book here
Boisdale Canary Wharf | Canary Wharf
With over 1,000 malt whiskies on offer and a whisky list consisting of 83 pages, it seems very fitting that Boisdale has a 12m long bar hailed as a ‘glowing amber wall of liquid gold’. And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, you can also have a little gander around their oyster bar & grill, cigar terrace, Cuban cigar library & shop AND their restaurant.
Details: Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4QT | Just walk in
The Sun Tavern | Bethnal Green
This 1850’s corner house has been converted into an all-day craft beer and cocktail-infused drinking den. Located inside a handsome old tavern on Bethnal Green Road, it features an expertly crafted list of high quality cocktails and the largest Irish whiskey collection in London, including a shelf devoted to rare drams. While you’re there, it’s worth having a tot of poitin, too – a previously banned Irish grain spirit.
Details: 144 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN | Book here
Sakaya | Belgravia
Sakaya is a pint-sized spot for a dram. This bottle shop & masterclass bar at Pantechnicon (the Grade-II listed, five-story Japanese & Nordic haven in Belgravia), is a mind-blowing experience for folks who appreciate whisky. The shelf behind the bar boasts some of the rarest and most exclusive Japanese bottles you can find in London, including single malts from Nikka, Japan’s second largest distiller. These can be sipped neat, via meticulously-assembled cocktails (like highballs) and through tasting flights. Then once you’re done, you can move on and explore the rest of the building, or Sakaya’s equally impressive sake collection…
NOTE: If you can’t get a spot in a tasting session, or fancy something less formal, head down to the bar at Sachi in the basement. They make a wagyu beef Old Fashioned…
Details: 19 Motcomb St, London SW1X 8LB | Book a tasting session here
Tonkotsu Mare Street | London Fields
Yes, bear with us – this is actually an excellent whisky bar masquerading as a chain ramen restaurant. Tonkotsu’s Mare Street branch has more than 60 whiskies on offer (with an extensive range from Nikka and Suntory, as well as Paul John in Goa and several from the Taiwanese Kavalan), and a sleek zinc-topped bar at which to enjoy them.
Details: 382 Mare St, London, E8 1HR
Soho Whisky Club | Soho
This private members’ bar is for the true whisky lovers. Located in the heart of Soho, above The Vintage House Whisky Shop, you’ll find more than 600 types of whisky available by the dram. If you do decide to become a member, you’ll be able to enjoy complimentary whisky tastings throughout the year as well as making use of their outdoor cigar terrace, and if you don’t… well, you can book a private whisky tasting as a non-member, too.
Details: 42 Old Compton St, W1D 4LR
Scotch Malt Whisky Society | Clerkenwell
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an unconventional club to say the least. Arguably, it’s the best whisky bar for both expert enthusiasts and complete newbies, because in its 500-strong collection there won’t be a single name you recognise. That’s because the club’s expert tasting panel tour over 150 Scottish distilleries to taste malts straight from the cask. They then bottle them up with anonymous SMWS labels, and utterly bonkers names like ‘Salted Caramel Axel Grease‘ and ‘Follow The Furry Cheesemonger‘. Non-members will be glad to know that you can hire out rooms for private tastings, or buy bottles directly off their website, too.
Details: 19 Greville Street, London EC1N 8SQ
Already tried all of London’s best whisky bars? We have you covered with London’s best gin bars, too…
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