Whisky is a journey. It might start diluted with cola and end as neat peat. You could go from sherry casks to experimental blends to batch strengths. As the world shrinks, and Scotland and Ireland compete with Japan, Taiwan, and even South Africa, the amber liquid is now truly a global tipple, which means wherever you go, you’re likely to find a good whisky bar. And you don’t need to go far… there are some gems just around the corner.
Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom is every local whisky lover’s nirvana. It’s an unlikely spot. From the outside one can’t imagine the 1 300 different expressions it houses, many for sale inside. This selection — the largest in the Southern Hemisphere — is paired with a team of encyclopaedic experts who are more than happy to share their knowledge over a dram.
The bar offers customers multiple themed experiences, curating different menus, such as Speyside Ramble and Eastern Origins, each focusing on distinct whisky regions and profiles. Wild About Whisky has been awarded a gold medal four times by Whisky Magazine’s annual Great Whisky Bars Of The World publication, an unprecedented achievement.
If you don’t have plans to leave Jozi for the weekend, then Bottega Café in Parkhurst has an incredible range of whiskies from all over the world. You can pair a dram with your meal, or leave with a bottle or three of your favourites. Bascule Bar in Cape Town not only boasts expansive views of the city’s Waterfront, but also offers more than 500 sought-after whiskies.
But if you’re travelling abroad, and you love whisky, then Scotland is a no-brainer. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but The Pot Still, situated in the centre of Glasgow, is a special one. It’s been noted that the bar staff “hop about like demented librarians in a library of golden liquid”, and so they should, because with more than 700 whiskies to choose from they’ll be kept busy keeping you happy. The Pot Still is family-owned, and, with homemade pies on the menu, it’s a hearty welcome to whisky’s warm roots.
As Japanese whisky continues to grow, a small institution in Tokyo is taking charge. At Bar High Five there are no menus, only questions about your preferred tastes. Once you’ve answered them, it’s time to trust. And if you do, then head bartender Kaori Kurakami is likely to serve you the whisky, or cocktail, that you subconsciously lust after. It sounds a bit mystical, but by all accounts the hit rate is incredibly high.
Lastly, as a purely indulgent pilgrimage, why not visit Catedral do Whisky in Itatiba, just more than an hour outside São Paulo? Here, whisky enthusiast José Roberto Briguenti houses his collection of 7 000 whisky bottles in a purpose-built replica of a church on the grounds of his farm. It’s an amazing sight to behold, and a near-religious experience, but pack a hip flask, because unfortunately a lot of the bottles are empty, and those still full are not available for tasting.