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Black Rock Tavern
Andy Parsons

The best whisky bars in London

Our favourite London dens in which to sip a dram of whisky – in cocktail form or served neat for nursing slowly

By Laura Richards
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Maybe the thought of whisky conjures up the image of your old man. But in London, the dark spirit’s street cred is on the up. Cool cocktail bars and whisky specialists are making it a more accessible drink to all ages. And now the capital is even distilling whisky for the first time in 100 years.

So whether you fancy exploring drams from Scotland, rare whiskies from Japan, top-quality bourbon or any of the above whipped up into a tip-top cocktail, check out Time Out’s list of the coolest bars serving whisky in the capital.

London’s best whisky bars

Black Rock

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Moorgate

At this revolutionary whisky bar, there’s no actual bar. With help from staff pacing the room, work your way through three cabinets filled with over 250 bottles of whisky, which are organised by flavour profile: smoke, fruit, spice etc. Dots placed on each bottle give you the price – one, two or three dots; £7, £9 or £11 a slug. In the middle of it all is half the trunk of a magnificent 185-year-old oak tree, laid flat and topped with glass. It acts as a table but doubles as a ‘whisky’ river, within which the bar’s own blend is aging. 

East London Liquor Company

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Bow

It’s a beautiful bar with a great pedigree: an old glue factory transformed into a gin and whisky distillery. ELLC were the second to produce whisky in London in over 100 years (read more about that here) when they released their London Rye at the end of 2018. So stop by the bar to see if any new distillations are available to sample and savour, as well as exploring other drams from around the world that are kept in very strong stock. London whisky has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?

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bull in a chinashop, whisky bars in london
bull in a chinashop, whisky bars in london
© Yusuf Ozkizil

Bull in a China Shop

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shoreditch

This bar at the foot of Shoreditch High Street serves an extensive selection of over 30 rare and premium whiskies hailing from Japan and Scotland. It’s the Japanese range that makes this bar such a destination for whisky lovers, though – one of the largest collections in the capital. The line-up includes Nikka From the Barrel and rare Karuizawa bottlings. There are some brilliant Scotches too, and a list of inventive whisky cocktails – no bull.

Black Rock Tavern
Black Rock Tavern
Andy Parsons

Black Rock Tavern

Bars and pubs Izakaya Moorgate

The sister to Black Rock below, this ground floor bar is modelled on a Japanese izakaya, complete with red Japanese scroll paintings filled with manga characters on the dark walls. From the compact bar, order whisky by the highball, the trendiest way to drink it right now. Essentially poshed-up whisky mixers, they are served long over impressive shards of ice and make for a great introduction to the brown stuff for less avid drinkers.

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Boisdale of Canary Wharf

Restaurants British Canary Wharf

If for you whisky and tartan go hand in hand, Boisdale should be top of your list. This easterly branch of the Scottish restaurant group is a fantastically tartan-strewn celebration of food, jazz, cigars and, of course, whisky. It’s not cheap, but neither is a quality drop, and this is perhaps the best place to drink your way round Scotland (apart from actual Scotland, of course). The bar’s most recent Scotch list is an epic 70-page read that takes you through the Highlands, the Lowlands and all the bits in between.

Swift

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

While upstairs is dedicated to light, bright aperitivi, the basement at Swift is all dark and brooding – the perfect place for the bar to hide away its ‘Whisky Library’. There are 250 drams to explore. Over half of them are Scotch while the rest hail from Ireland, Japan and America. Yet they’re listed alphabetically rather than regionally, so hopefully you can go on a voyage of discovery. A 20-strong cocktail list supports the selection; half the cocktails have whisky at their base. Make this your nightcap destination.

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The Vault of Soho

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Soho

Lovers of the malted grain have being paying homage at the whisky specialist Milroy’s since 1964. It has accumulated an enormous range of whiskies: around 400 from Scotland alone. A copper-topped tasting bar on the ground floor is the best place to sample it straight-up – it’s whisky-and-whiskey-only here. If you’re looking for other spirits, head downstairs. The basement bar, aka The Vault, is a ‘speakeasy’ hidden behind a fake bookcase where cocktails are king. Make ours an old fashioned. Milroy’s has recently launched a spin-off in Spitalfields, so you can also get your whisky fix out east.

Venue says We'll be back in September. Until then, visit our Outdoor Terrace,  where we serve bottled cocktails, beer and whisky Thursday-Saturday.

The Sun Tavern

Bars and pubs Pubs Bethnal Green

The Sun Tavern – a pub since 1851, but with a more modern approach these days – focuses on nearly 40 brands of Irish spirits. While its poitín stash gets a lot of attention for being rare and wonderful, the pub’s collection of Irish whiskey is also something to behold, celebrating many new distillers and resurrected brands. There are over 70 to sample, as well as a few whiskey cocktails populating the menu. Visit on Whiskey Wednesdays to discover the bar’s distiller of the month and drink to them in the form of ‘a beer and a bump’ or a cocktail with the whiskey at its base – both cost just £6.  

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Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Piccadilly

While the minimal, wood-clad basement bar at Ollie Dabbous’ Green Park restaurant is dedicated to all of the spirits (with specialist knowledge from partners Hedonism Wines), whisky gets its fair share of attention. There are close to 100 scotches to select from, while bourbon and rye are in healthy supply. Japanese and Irish whiskies follow up the charge, plus English, Swedish and Australian drams for the adventurers. Some of the rarer drops come in 10ml measures so you don’t come too close to bankrupting yourself on the water of life.

Dropkick Jonnys
Dropkick Jonnys
Photograph: Richmond Foodie

Dropkick Jonny’s

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Richmond

Richmond has its very own secretive whisky saloon, nestled above popular pub The Tap Tavern. While there are more extensive whisky lists in London, what’s on offer is well-chosen, poured in 35ml measures that start at £7. They also mix up cocktails from their boozy collection and keep the door (albeit a fairly hidden one) open until 1am from Wednesday through to Saturday.

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