Here’s a three-fer for you: The Belljar is a restaurant, dram and cigar lounge, and ‘Whisky Academy’ spread across three levels of a shophouse in Boat Quay. Co-owners Andrew Pang and Yang Min Xiang started out selling bottles online until 2016 rolled along and they decided to set up a bar that’s designed to demystify the arcane world of whisky for a younger audience. So while you’ll find only about 120 expressions – mostly Scotch and Japanese – here, it’s the approachable nature of The Belljar that keeps us coming back.
For one, you won’t be handed a menu when you sidle up on one of the plush leather couches in the bar. Instead, servers ask for your flavour preferences and familiarity with the spirit before making recommendations. You might be offered a flight of Ichiro’s Malt expressions, served with a cup of water and a dropper, or, if you can’t stomach a dram neat, a Henry and Clare cocktail ($20): Monkey Shoulder, elderflower, lemon, vanilla and a Turkish Delight on the side to lessen the sting.
And the Whisky Academy has been conducting workshops ($300-$400) since the beginning of this year. Led by Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, the Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich, the classes are full-day affairs that cater to the novice and experienced drinker alike.
Here's one for the connoisseurs. The smartly furnished outlet of this institution, in South Beach, stocks over 500 expressions, 90 percent of which are Scotch. It also specialises in ultra rare bottles, like the Yamazaki 50, which costs in excess of $120,000, and small-batch bottlings from Kilkerren (from $37/dram), one of only three distilleries in Campbeltown.
For the newbies, take it from us and order an introductory flight. A member of the bar team will also walk (or drink?) you through the flight, explaining the subtle differences between whiskies from the Scottish regions.
You'll be spoilt for choice at The Single Cask, which houses 350 varieties of whisky and other spirits – most of which are small-batch, bespoke exports. Managed by Brendan Pillai and bartender Prathip Nambiar, the 400-square-foot bar promises a laid-back experience – the pair is more than happy to chat with novices and whisky enthusiasts alike – that comfortably sits around 25 people.
The stock is replenished every six weeks, and starts from $15 a glass for a Glenfarclas Heritage. If you’re unsure where to begin, leave it to Nambiar to pick you a poison based on whether you prefer sweet, spicy or smoky flavours, for example. Each 40-mililitre dram is paired with one of nine chocolates available depending on the flavours of your spirit. Better yet, embark on a whisky flight (from $45/four 25-mililitre shots), or join one of The Single Cask’s weekly dram classes. It also serves bespoke and classic cocktails ($22 each), including the Scotch Old Fashioned. Don't forget to peruse its retail area, which offers 350 expressions of whisky.
More a bottle shop than bar, La Maison du Whisky eschews the masculine, leather-clad digs you'd expect of a whisky joint for rather spartan and functional interiors. A U-shaped bar dominates the small space in Robertson Quay, around which novices and experts alike gather to sample whiskies and whiskeys from all over the world: the many regions of Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, the US, England… even the Czech Republic and Australia are among the hundreds of expressions stocked here. And prices are pretty affordable, too. They begin at $40 for a 20cl bottle of Kavalan single-malt, and rocket up to $20,800 for a Karuizawa 1969.
With some of the world’s rarest bottles of whisky lining its walls, The Wall isn't playing around. The whisky and sumiyaki bar welcomes connoisseurs and novices alike, offering whisky flights from $37 and 45ml pours from $14 per glass. Instead of relegating the whiskies to after-dinner enjoyment, the Wall serves a comprehensive sumiyaki menu meant to be paired with your dram. There are whisky and sumiyaki sets from $49, and a chef’s omakase menu served with whisky priced at $168.