I’ve distilled my thoughts down to 3 easy to digest items.
Bars that don’t attain these items are not in my book Whiskey Bars – but they can still be thoroughly enjoyable places to visit and even have interesting whiskeys to drink!
So what elevates a bar into a Whiskey Bar?
Simply put – there has to be at least 50 expressions on offer.
Irish Whiskey releases available right now easily reach above 100. Add in a few discontinued or rare bottles and 150+ is possible.
Throw some Scotch and Bourbon into the mix and you’re into the 200+ territory. And I’ve not even started on India – Australia – New Zealand – Germany -France……
So yes – 50 is the bare minimum.
2 A Whiskey Menu
Bars can be crowded places. It may be difficult just getting served – let alone scanning the shelves for that prized Single Malt you’ve never tried before. A Whiskey Menu means you can browse the pages salivating at the tasty drams on offer knowing a glass of liquid gold will soon be yours.
Middleton has stolen a lead here.
It offers pubs a whiskey menu only featuring their releases.
Whilst this can often be a step up – I was very pleased when my local Radisson Hotel and Ritz Gastropub in Athlone first introduced this menu as the whiskeys on offer shot up to about 20 varieties – but really!
A decent Whiskey Bar will print up their own menu including a wide variety of brands – styles and countries together with tasting notes and possibly a brief history of Irish Whiskey for the icing on the cake.
3 Tasting Trays
A Whiskey Bar should offer a tasting tray of 3 or 4 small servings of whiskey for the customer to sample.
These can be a Single Grain – Single Malt and a blend for example.
Or a peated malt – a sherry finish and a rum finish.
The permutations are endless.
They can be from the same distillery – different distilleries or even different countries.
Whatever combination – the idea is to introduce the customer to the styles – tastes and variety of whiskeys out there. After they have sampled the tray they might have a better idea of which expression suits their palate and order up a standard serving to enjoy.
Whiskey can be a minefield for the uninitiated.
Tasting trays help both new and old aficionados develop their own understanding of the myriad of flavours found in a glass of uisce beatha.
So that’s my basic 3.
Anything less than the above is just a bar selling whiskey.
However many Whiskey Bars offer more.
4 Whiskey Glasses
When I was in Belgium recently I loved the way each beer came in it’s own style of glass. It may not have added anything to the flavour – but it did add to the occasion.
I think drinking whiskey is an occasion that also requires decent glassware.
Sadly – a square tumbler just won’t do.
5 Whiskey Tasting Evenings
Whiskey tasting evenings are great fun. You don’t even have to be a Whiskey Bar to hold them. I’ve had a few very successful tastings in my house. But having one in a Whiskey Bar is even better.
And the ultimate crowning glory?
6 Own Brand Whiskey
They all have a whiskey expression exclusively made for them.
Where do you go from there?
I know where I’d go.
To the bar and order up a glass!
If you have a favourite whiskey bar that complies with the above criteria – tell me about it.
The more I have to visit the better!