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A whisky wonderland below Shoreditch’s Mac & Wild.
Please note, Kaleidoscope has now closed. Time Out London Editors, October 2018.
Me and whisky bars? I’ll admit, I’ve had my dalliances. Some left me forlorn and penniless, some were just too far away to commit to and with some I just lacked the chemistry. But I’m now a taken man, my head will turn no more. I’m in love with Kaleidoscope, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s second non-members’ bar (the first goes by the same name but is up in Edinburgh). It’s sleek, sexy, low-lit and has the feel of a gentlemen’s club minus the cigar smoke.
The premise is this: a chap called Euan tours Scottish distilleries and samples single casks before they’re blended. Each cask has its nuances from the distillery without the final distinct flavour. If he likes it, the SMWS buys it and bottles it. Whiskies are then sold at the bar in 25cl measures, with price brackets ranging from A through to K – on my visit, I got lucky with a promotion where anything up to G (£15.90) was being sold for B prices (£6.90). Because each bottle hails from a distillery without being the finished and familiar article, the SMWS labels each dram with just a small description, number and age. Knowledgeable bar staff will reveal the distillery if you really need to be in the know.
I’d recommend telling the barman what you’re into and seeing what he can do – it’s magical. My first tipple turned out to be a 20-year-old from Islay’s Bowmore – initially sweet, then familiarly peaty and with a smoky aftertaste, it was quite possibly the best I have ever had. And then, like having a second child, I found a whisky I loved just as much, taking a trip to Speyside for a 26-year-old that was sweet to start, with a hint of tobacco and leather at the back. My mouth still waters just thinking about it. If whisky is your thing, don’t hesitate to visit this bar. I’ll definitely be back (unless they let me take Euan’s job up in Scotland).
9A Devonshire Square
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