Having started life as a whisky retailer selling exclusive labels from around the globe, La Maison is now a 15-seater bar. This cosy, unpretentious spot is best suited to those wanting to start learning, without being scolded for asking silly questions. Four hundred and fifty bottles keep your eyes busy as you swirl your 12-year-old Miyagikyo Nikka, detecting smoky highlights on the palate. With outside seating added, the regular whisky tastings won’t sell out so quickly. The $15 cover charge comes with a plate of cheese, cold meats and a free-flow of San Pellegrino. A nice range of rare vodka and gin offers alternative cocktail mixes too. #01-10 The Pier@ Robertson Quay, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd (6733 0059).
So you’ve developed a taste for single malt scotch, but your buddies aren’t willing to sit at a whisky bar all night. The Highlander should be able to fill that gap, stocking boutique beers and a plethora of cocktails in its bar with castle decor and in-house Top 40 band. You won’t be getting an in-depth lesson on whisky, but at least you’ll feel comfortable knowing your habit of ordering drinks at least 12 years old won’t get in the way of a good night. A monthly tasting for the connoisseurs will usually have an expert on board to divulge further about the distilled magic. #01-11 Clarke Quay, River Valley Rd (6235 9528, www. highlanderasia.com).
The Auld Alliance
Fear not, for the overwhelming wall of 1,000 whisky bottles is not there to intimidate newbies, though it will certainly impress anyone the first time round. Owner Emmanuel Dron has harnessed a vast list of contacts from the past 13 years to collect some very fine drops. If close to 600 single malt whiskies by the glass is not enough to entice you, the champagne and absinthe collection, complete with traditional brouilleur (glass dripper), should clinch it. And if you really want to feel like royalty, there’s no spot like the grandiose leather couches in the library room. Food from Chijmes’ restaurants can be ordered and delivered to the bar at no extra cost, meaning you have no excuse to leave early. #01-08 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St (8126 0520, www.facebook.com/TheAuldAlliance).
If you’re seeking a purist in the form of traditional Scottish whisky, Quaich Bar prides itself on its single-minded obsession with single malt. Sampling menus offer a tasting focusing on particular regions, islands and special sherry casks, along with a sheet explaining their notes and flavours. The renovated marble bar and television stand out among the dark wooden tables and high stools, while the smoking room allows you to fill that empty hand with a cigar to proudly complete the stereotype. Organise a small group for a tasting, and you’ll get a staff member to go in-depth with the night’s selection. #01-09/10 Waterfront Plaza, 390A Havelock Rd (6732 3452).
Sushi.OK Bar & Bistro
Its greatest disguise is its greatest perk: this red and black Japanese joint is essentially a cosy restaurant with your usual sashimi, sushi and noodle varieties, but it’s the whisky sampling collection that caught our eye. Following in the steps of Quaich, the bar offers trials of Japanese whisky of various ages. Everything can be ordered by the glass or bottle. While still young on the market, and therefore too young to challenge the Scots, bottles of Nikka and Yamazaki whisky are already proving a force to be reckoned with. 98 Tanjong Pagar Rd (6226 2725, www.sushi-ok.com.sg).
This first appeared as 'Malt teasers' (May 2011).
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