Whisky is a drink with a long heritage, with a sense of mystery and maturity around it. But let’s face it – it’s also an acquired taste, especially when drunk neat. While you might have sipped a JD and coke without thinking anything of it, the world of whisky is as nuanced as wine.
According to Andy, there are six main branches in the whisky tree: single malts (a blend using only barley), blended whisky (a mixture of malts and grains), blended malts (a blend of different single malts, also known as pure malts), bourbon (primarily made from corn and produced in the US), grain whisky (using any grains except for barley) and rye whisky.
For all whisky, the fermented grain mash is then distilled and aged in oak barrels. Scotch whiskey (made in Scotland) must legally be aged for at least three years. The oldest recorded malt whisky was aged for 70 years before going on sale!
America and Scotland have long been known for whisky, but Japanese whisky is now gaining global popularity. According to Andy, Japanese whisky seems to be a crowd favourite because of its balance of taste between smoky and smooth. Whisky that’s heavily smoky in flavour, like some very aged scotches, can be overwhelming.
“There’s no correct way to drink whisky; some people prefer it neat while some rather it with mixers. Enjoy whisky however you like because there’s no fixed rule, merely guides,” says Andy.
Whisky tastings or “flights” allow people to taste a range of whisky in one sitting. Flights are a g good way to try all the different types of whisky on your palate, from fruity and light to oaky and peaty.
Next to The Steakhouse at Changkat Bukit Bintang, you’ll find the restaurant’s sister bar with an extensive whisky menu. Over 400 bottles are stocked and showcased throughout the bar. Feast your eyes on some vintage bottles of whisky (although the price tags alone may make you need a drink). The Whisky Bar also have a variety of cocktails which are concocted with whisky and different flights for you to try.
46, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 50200 KL.
Open Sunday-Thursday: 4pm-1am, Friday-Saturday: 4pm-3am.
Jazz music, a sleek interior, sharply dressed bartenders and a secret room – it all feels very Prohibition Era at Hyde, despite being in Damansara Uptown. Specialising in liquors, Hyde is the place to try whiskies – as well as other spirits and craft beers – that aren’t featured in most bars. Choose your poison and the bartender will mix up a cocktail accordingly. Find the bar tucked away above The Good Batch behind a sliding black door.
53M, Jalan SS21/1A, Damansara Utama, 47400 PJ.
Open Tuesday-Sunday 5pm-2am.
This relaxed speakeasy is hidden within the Intermark – look for a door bearing deer antlers. Inside, you’ll find a refined drinking den with a pool table, leather couches and private booths. Tate specialises in whisky and its range includes the First Editions and All Malts single malt casks (where each bottle is produced only from one barrel). These are exclusive to Tate and its sister bar, Mr. Brooks.
Ground Floor, The Intermark, 182 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 KL
Open Monday-Saturday, 5pm-2am.
Another speakeasy with a hidden entrance. Find your way to the bar via a telephone booth hidden at the back of Samba Brazilian Steakhouse. Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot is a membership establishment but drop-ins are encouraged – however a bottle must be purchased first. The bartenders are happy to pair a suitable cigar to the whisky of your choice or vice versa.
L3-3 & L3-4, Level 3 Avenue K, 156 Jalan Ampang, 50450 KL.
Open Monday-Sunday, 12pm-12am.
Torii might just have the largest collection of Japanese whisky in any bar in Malaysia. Japanese drinks aside, their selection also includes a wide range of scotch, and various whisky cocktails to boot. But the bar also serves up yakitori – a menu of charcoal-fired skewers – and other light Japanese bites to satisfy both the hungry and the thirsty.
No. 8-6, Ground Floor at Jalan Batai, Damansara Heights, 50490 KL and 18 Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 KL.
44 opened just a few months ago and, in true speakeasy spirit, operates from a very unexpected location. You’ll find the part-time pop-up bar in a printing warehouse and factory building, Art Printing Works (behind Pulp café). 44 specialises in craft and artisan liquors from the US. This includes several small-batch whiskies from boutique distilleries, including Alaska Outlaw and Moonshine, which are not sold anywhere else in Malaysia.
Art Printing Works, Jalan Riong, 59100 KL.
Opens Wednesday-Saturday, 5pm-1am.
UPDATED: 10/02/2015 to clarify the term “pure malts”.
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