Whisky – it’s not all about peat bog drams from the Scottish isles. Melbourne has more American, Japanese and even locally made whiskies than ever before. Here’s where to find the best and how to drink them
They salute the USA with both fists, a boatload of bourbon and Buffalo hot wings at the Kodiak Club. This was one of Melbourne’s first odes to the great American dive bar, and it’s still one of the best. They take bourbon and rye whiskies pretty seriously here. Take it straight up with an American beer chaser like a proper honky, or get ‘em to mix you a cocktail – American whiskies were the first used for cocktails, and they often work the best.
Best for: North American whiskey drinkin’
The folks at this slip of a bar on Russell Street know whisky. They've got almost 500 bottles of the stuff glittering on the back bar, along with a miniature wooden cask which delivers extreme eye-watering flavours. Know nothing? They’ll teach you. Want to know what’s going on with locally made hooch? Chances are that the guys from Bakery Hill and Starward Whisky (a distillery in Essendon) are sitting at the bar right now. If you’re after an educated talkin’ to, all matched to smoky beers and snacks like pickled garlic, this is your bar.
Best for: Multicultural adventuring and getting learned.
Chances are you won’t know about this tiny terrace-turned-bar unless you live in Carlton, but you should. Leigh Oliver and Tom Daniels are two of the friendliest gents in the land, serving some of the best eats on Rathdowne Street all backed by a collection of bottles from distilleries long closed down.
Best for: Endangered Scottish whiskies
This elegant Japanese cocktail bar, where the hand towels are served steaming hot and the hand rolls are stuffed with lobster, also stocks some of the more interesting whiskies currently coming out of Japan. Like Australian whiskies these are the young guns in the game – both are often a little mellower, which makes them a really good place to start for non whisky buffs, but they’re also unbound by traditions, which means you can find some really weird and wild stuff. Come early to get one of the few seats at the thick wooden bar, or switch your kicks for slippers and climb on the platforms up back.
Best for: Turning Japanese
This jazzy back-alley speakeasy has a giant, twinkling whisky library out the back and right now, its own whisky. Like to do a little peacocking? Buy a bottle of something off the back bar and you can store it in your own hooch locker. They also do a whisky cocktail matched degustation if you want to go buck wild.
Best for: Cocktails