So, it was all planned; a trip involving a number of distilleries and whisky bars in Scotland. First stop on our whisky road trip was Raasay where we had planned to spend the weekend at the distillery. Next stop: Skye. After a brief visit to Talisker (I've never visited, to my shame), we had planned to spend time at the second, most recent of the island's distilleries, Torabhaig. And so today, I should have been making my way to Speyside for the tasting panel of the Spirit of Speyside whisky awards before spending a few days enjoying the festival itself.
Alas, Covid-19 has put paid to all that. However, all of the above can wait. There'll be future opportunities and, at the moment, the most important thing is to ensure that everyone remains safe and well whilst avoiding putting anyone at risk. It did make me reminisce about previous whisky trips, though, and to think about those places where, for one reason or another, I've enjoyed some great drams.When the pubs are able to reopen, I'm sure there'll be many worthy recipients of your cash. But, in no particular order, here are six of my favourite whisky bars in Scotland which I've visited - whether on road trips or days out - over the years.
Ardshiel Hotel - Campbeltown
My first visit to Campeltown was five years ago, in 2015. During this stay, I paid a visit to the Ardshiel Hotel as I'd heard that the bar had a pretty decent whisky selection. Well, that was an understatement! At the time of writing, there are over 700 malts to choose from - pace yourself! - and the bar has been the recipient of both the Wee Dram Whisky Bar of the Year and Scottish Field Whisky Bar of the Year awards. The staff here are super welcoming and friendly as well as hugely knowledgeable about all things whisky. Be sure to pay them a visit when you're in the Wee Toon: https://ardshiel.co.uk/
The Curly Coo - Stirling
A cracking wee pub just a short walk from Stirling station. Mandy Silver, the proprietor, has curated an excellent selection of whisky including some very difficult to find single malts. On a previous visit, in October 2019, I was delighted to try the Springbank 9 years which had been bottled for the Springbank Society just over two years earlier. And the prices are pretty good too! Well worth stopping off for a few refreshing drams after a visit to Stirling Castle: www.curlycoobar.com
The Bon Accord - Glasgow
One of my favourite haunts whilst enjoying a day oot in the Weeg is The Bon Accord. With at least 400 different whiskies - if you want to know what they are, download their app - this is a great place to enjoy some of the best drams around without any pretentiousness. Owned and run by the McDonagh family, Paul is well known in whisky circles as being one of the directors of Glasgow's Whisky Festival. Over the years, the pub has won numerous awards including UK Whisky Bar of the Year: https://www.bonaccordpub.com/
The Pot Still - Glasgow
My other favourite Glasgow whisky haunt is The Pot Still. Run by the Murphy family for nearly ten years, the bar has won several awards over the years under manager Frank. With over 700 whiskies on the bar, you'll be sure to find the perfect dram. In fact, the staff at The Pot Still will insist on helping you achieve just that! https://thepotstill.co.uk/
Helgi's - Kirkwall
First off, Helgi's doesn't have the biggest selection of whisky. They are mostly core range which you may or may not have tried before. Why this is a memorable haunt for me is down to the wonderful Orkney beer range. This lends itself to one of the best pubs I've come across to indulge in a hauf n a hauf. Oh, and you should absolutely indulge in any of the burgers on their menu. Warm welcoming staff, great beer and great food with some good value drams: http://www.helgis.co.uk/
The Illicit Still (Ardnahoe Distillery) - Islay
There are plenty of places to enjoy a wee dram on the island of Islay. However, just like the distillery it's located in, this bar has one of the best views ever. The bar has a glass front and an adjoining balcony which affords spectacular views over to the Paps of Jura. The bar itself is stocked with many bottlings from Hunter Laing, the independent bottler which owns Ardnahoe Distillery. Well worth staying for a bite to eat and a couple of drams after the tour of the distillery: https://ardnahoedistillery.com/
If there are other whisky bars in Scotland (but not in Edinburgh - I live there!) which you think I should make the trip to visit once we're able to, be sure to comment over on the Facebook post and I'll add it to my 'must visit' list!
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