O you, my muse! Good old Scottish drink!”
Thus wrote the Scottish poet Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous exporter: whiskey. Every year on January 25th, Scotland celebrates its life with a haggis talk called Burns Night, an evening that includes bagpipes and ceiling dancing as guests arrive.
It also tends to be celebrated with our Welsh-speaking friends drinking Scotch whiskey – “water of life” or “uisge beatha”. And fortunately, the celebration of Bobby Burns has long been a part of London’s January plans – so here we’ve rounded up some of the best whiskey bars in London for a drink and three one-off Scotch whiskey experiences. raise a toast to the late great poet. Slainte!
Grab a drama
Sibin, the whiskey bar hidden behind a faux wall at the Scotland Yard Hotel, is almost a fitting place to celebrate the old Rabbie Burns. The seriously extensive whiskey list includes old classics, experimental releases, and very special dramas in a plush but chilled living room-style space – if your living room has a ceiling made of empty bottles. Try a surprisingly easy-on-pocket dram like, say, smoky Lagavulin 16 or Macallan 12, or spend some cash on a 22-year-old Springbank or 24-year-old Ardbeg. Scotch whiskey flights are also excellent, and for those who enjoy a palate cleanser, whiskey cocktails should be more than enough, including a classic Bobby Burns (scotch, vermouth, Bénédictine).
3-5 Great Scotland Yard, SW1A 2HN, hyatt.com
Milroy’s of Soho
It’s always a good idea to go to London’s oldest whiskey connoisseur on Burns Night – or any other night, for that matter. Opened on Greek Street in 1964, the small but perfectly formed bar at street level has some seriously cool whiskeys behind its stool-lined bar. If you know what you want, they’ll likely have it – or the incredibly knowledgeable team will direct you to something that fits your favorite flavor profile. One-off bottles, Milroy’s special bottlings and brand new products are often hidden in its thriving collection. A new favorite drama discovery spot.
3 Greek Streets, W1D 4NX, milroys.co.uk
This unassuming pub near London Bridge is known for its excellent barbecue food – but the bar boasts one of the best collections of whiskeys in south London, with over 100 on offer, of which around 40 are from Scotland. From Arbelour, Ardbeg, and Ardmore through Dalmore, Glenmorangie, and Oban, to Springbank, Tamdhu, and Tobermory, it’s pronounced like a Scotch alphabet. Get this job. A special Burns Night dinner will be served on the evening of the 25th, but if all you’re after is drama, this is the perfect place to give a humble nod to Scotland’s favorite poet.
44 Kipling Mansion, SE1 3RU, britannia.smokd.co.uk
Canary Wharf Boisdale
The map of Scotland, complete with the Loch Ness monster on the “whiskey bible” menu in Boisdale, is enough to get everyone excited about what’s behind the bar. A clever drawing divides 73 Scotch into four flavor profiles – rich, vinous, delicate and smoky – tasting notes like butterscotch, seashore, tobacco and cereal give guests an idea of what to expect. A favorite detail is the distillery glossary, which provides a background of their history as well as their importance in the whiskey world and, perhaps most importantly, how to pronounce it.
1 Cabot Square, E14 4QT, boisdale.com
Not for the funky (or those with shallow pockets) the generous selection of Scotch at Claridge’s Bar quadruples for a drama. On top of that, Macallan has some very special bottles of Lalique, but it’s also a good set of memorable dramas that aren’t all that eye-wateringly expensive. Try a few classics under £20 with the Auchentoshan 1998 (£35) or the 25-year-old Glenfarclas (£55). After a whiskey cocktail? Opt for the Royal Stag mixed with 15-year-old Dalmore, or try an Angel Share using Talisker 10.
Brook Street, W1K 4HR, clarridges.com
Cocktails are often the first stop on a trip to any of the three Swift bars in town, but head over to OG on Old Compton Street and there’s a pretty cool Scotch whiskey menu: great, because alongside the usual suspects, the crew is more affordable but less common. made a list of some liquids. From the blended whiskey game-changer Compass Box, to an Ardmore released only in Japan, to a hard-to-find peaty Glenturret, and more, this is truly something out of the ordinary. Dramas also come in two sizes – so find your favorite and make it big. Fortunately, prices start at just £5.
12 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TQ, barswift.com
Beneath the streets of Shoreditch you’ll find Black Rock, one of the capital’s bars known for its dreamy whiskey selection. They are organized by taste, so whether you are an expert or a novice, the staff will guide you in the right direction. An 18-foot carved oak tree trunk sits snugly in the middle of the bar, and one of the two rivers running through it is a house mix – check out a Scotch mix for something a little different. Dramas are £8, £10, £12 or £13 and up and Perfect Old Fashioned blends of at least three Scotch whiskeys: 12-year-old Balvenie, 12-year-old Glenfiddich and Aisla Bay.
9 Christopher Street, EC2A 2BS, blackrock.bar
Go to all haggis
Normally known for their delightful range of Irish whiskeys, Bethnal Green’s Sun Tavern goes Caledonian for 25 in partnership with Highland Perthshire’s 12-year-old Aberfeldy. Three cocktails on offer for the evening include the team’s take on the classic Scottish dessert Cranachan, while those after the simpler pleasures can enjoy a Beer and Bump (a shot of Aberfeldy and ginger ale). It doesn’t stop there, though: expect a traditional appeal to haggis, haggis bites at home, and a commentary or two of Burns’ poems – and Rennie of Scottish band The View will DJ the night.
From £8.50, 441 Bethnal Green Rd, E2 0AN, thesuntavern.co.uk
Peat and poetry lovers should head underground to Nomad’s newest bar, Common Decency, where smoky Laphroaig will be the centerpiece of a signature cocktail menu for said night. Three Scottish ingredients—honey, dandelion, and sea buckthorn—will be made into two different cocktails, each featuring peaty Islay whiskey. Burns’ poem will be read throughout the evening by drag artist Maxi More, who no doubt will add a blue tone to the proceedings – we’re already excited for their rendition of Holy Willie’s Prayer…
£18, 28 Bow Street, WC2E 7AW, thenomadhotel.com
Milroy’s of Spitalfields
For true Scotch whiskey heads, Milroy’s of Spitalfields – the sister of the aforementioned Soho stalwart – will host a Burns Night “distiller’ edition” tasting. Distillers’ versions are single malts from well-known distilleries that go through intriguing barrel coatings that add a different dimension to the much-loved spirits. Beginning at 7 PM, guests will be treated to five whiskey flights from five distilleries: Glenkinchie, Oban, Cragganmore, Talisker and Lagavulin. The tasting will take place upstairs in the Drama House, so then head to the bar for cask highballs or a dram of 1,000 whiskeys.
£30, 76 Commercial St, E1 6LY, milroysofspitalfields.co.uk