Do you like your whiskies to taste like they've been filtered through a bushfire? Then the peaty drams from Islay are for you. Or maybe you like the cleaner, floral flavours of of highland Scotch, followed by something aged in sherry casks for that sweet, fruity flavour. American ryes are hard to resist; Japan makes a world class whisky and Ireland knows a thing or two about firewater. Whatever your poison, if you're drinking whisky, these are the Sydney bars in which to do it.
The whiskey room at the Clock Hotel is a warm, low-lit enclave shut off from the hubbub of the rest of the hotel by two swinging saloon doors. Once inside, the amber glow of a bar stocked with 100 bottles of the demon drink draws you in like a moth to a highly combustible flame.
HAVING A TASTE for fine Scotch, elegant Japanese whiskies and American drams doesn’t come cheap, unless you’re spending your Monday nights at Grain Bar below the Four Seasons Hotel down at Circular Quay. This elegant cocktail bar certainly knows their audience and the room is pumping with businesspeople finishing out their day with the whisky specials of the night – $30 whisky flights and 20 per cent off the whisky list. You can choose four 15ml pours (they only restrict a tiny portion of the list), or the barkeeps here will guide you through a flavour tour of Speyside, Campbelltown or Islay.
Too much fizz and not enough fire? Cast your eyes to the bourbon cabinet, where all your oaky, vanilla scented dreams come true. Order a nip of the Hochstadter's ‘Slow & Low’ Rock & Rye over ice. The bitter citrus peel and honey in the whiskey makes it taste like a Manhattan straight out of the bottle. They’ll also mix you up an Old Fashioned, a Gold Rush or a real Manhattan for $15.
There are few bars that match the old-fashioned glamour of the Hilton's Marble Bar. The lofty ceilings are best considered from a comfortable couch with a dram of something special in hand. In fact, a flight of three whiskies from the US, Scotland or Australia is only $34, but if money is no object you can blow a lot of it here on whiskies old enough to go to college.
They may be famous for cocktails and one helluva burger, but the whisky list here is a thing of beauty, covering off Scotch in great depth, plus Japanese, Australian, Canadian, Irish and French drams and a heavy contingent of American bourbons, ryes and Tennesee whiskies.
If you prefer American whiskies to the Scottish stuff this is an excellent place to treat yourself to a bourbon extravaganza (they have 153 in the collection), balanced by monkey nuts and fresh apple juice when you need a change of pace.