Some of the Best-Designed New (and Newish) Whiskey Bars Across the Globe
Bertie’s Bar is located at the Fife Arms, a 19th-century hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlights owned by art power couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth, cofounders of the art gallery Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Courtesy of The Fife Arms
Whiskey may have originated more than a thousand years ago—between 1000 and 1200 A.D. in Ireland and Scotland, to be exact—but bars dedicated to the spirit are having their moment today. New whiskey-centric watering holes have opened across the globe, from the Scottish Highlands to Beverly Hills, with the Irish countryside and Nashville in between.
Whiskey is as traditional and untrendy as it gets when it comes to spirts, according to Julian Enright, the manager at Doyle Bar at the DuPont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C., which features more than 100 whiskeys on its menu. However, he says that it’s come into fashion lately thanks to media and the spirits industry. “You see it on TV more and more, and it’s the focal point of creative cocktails at top bars everywhere. Unusual whiskey lists are also a movement,” Enright says. “All of these factors have made whiskey cool, and whiskey bars are proof of that.”
Kudos, for example, to the new Bertie’s at the Fife Arms, a 19th-century hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlights owned by art power couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth, cofounders of the art gallery Hauser & Wirth. Their hotel is near Balmoral Castle, and the bar was inspired by Queen Victoria’s hedonistic heir, King Edward VII, who was also known as Bertie. The bar offers 365 whiskies from Scotland and around the world that were chosen in collaboration with World Atlas of Whisky author Dave Broom. These whiskies are organized by flavor profile: fragrant, fruity, rich, and smoky, and include rare drams such as Caperdonich, Imperial, and Pittyvaich.
The Fife Arms also has a new whisky ambassador, Katy Fennema, who offers experiences for guests such as flights, tastings, and tours of local distilleries. The design at Bertie’s is as notable as the whiskies themselves: The jewel box of a space was designed by Russell Sage Studio, who is behind the hotel’s maximalist design, and features dark wood, 15 seats upholstered in deep red velvet, and whisky bottles arranged like books on shelves. The tables have uplighters, giving the spirit a glimmer as it’s poured into the glass.
Inside the Next Whisky Bar in Washington, D.C., boasting a selection of over 280 different whiskeys.
Staying in Scotland, The Balmoral, a Rocce Forte Hotel in Edinburgh has a bar, Scotch, with a list of more than 500 Scottish whiskies. Housed in an oak-paneled cabinet, they include expressions from the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Islay, and Speyside. Scotch’s whisky ambassadors are on-hand for guided tastings and to educate guests about the art of distilling a fine whisky.
Moving to Ireland, a country with a strong whiskey culture like Scotland, Dromoland Castle in Clare features a 30-page whiskey menu with Irish whiskeys and whiskey cocktails. The Wheel of Fortune, crafted with Jameson infused with vanilla tea and coffee beans, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white is among the most ordered ones.
The next three bars on our list take us to the United States.
The Next Whisky Bar at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., features a menu of 280 whiskeys that include domestic bourbons and international selections from Japan, Ireland, India, and more. The space also has a striking design with 2,500 whiskey bottles, custom-made chairs, and uniforms by Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant.
On the West Coast, the Maybourne Beverly Hills is home to The Cigar and Whisky Bar, a drinking destination with an extensive whiskey menu and a glamorous setting that includes wood-paneled walls, leather armchairs, and banquettes illuminated by Lalique wall sconces.
Finally, Gertie’s Whiskey Bar, with locations in Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, is named after Gertrude Cleo Lythgoe, a prominent bootlegger during the Prohibition. The lists at both venues feature more than 700 whiskey varieties. For $8 per two-ounce pour, guests can imbibe on Jim Beam, but if they’re willing to spend $450, they can experience a Heaven Hill from the early 1990s. Proprietor Matt Bolus says that his goal is to have a thoughtful whiskey list that people with any taste preference can enjoy. “I have customers who tell me that they don’t like whiskey and walk away asking where they can buy what they tasted,” he says. “It’s the most diverse spirit that everyone wants to drink.”