Chez Regine was always whisky-tastic. When owners Brooke Hayman and Julian White opened the Russell Street bar two years ago they had a 250-strong list and knowledge to back it up. But in those early days, they hadn’t quite figured out their mission statement, and in a city where you have to state your agenda right at the get-go, they missed their chance to establish themselves as a king of whisky bars.
So two months ago, they shut doors, stripped the paint, upped the count to 450 bottles, and in a baptism by firewater, rebirthed the bar in as unambiguous terms as possible as Whisky and Alement.
This is the only bar south of the equator serving the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s gear. They're single-cask releases you’d usually have to be a member to even get a sideways glance at.
The hundreds of glittering bottles still do the décor legwork, but there’s now a modern backdrop of polished concrete, woods and leather banquettes that reference whisky dens without the stuffiness and pomp. This is a bar for whisky fans, not just nerds and you’ll find as many drinkers taking their dram with a beer and a smoke in the courtyard as buffs talking shop at the bar.
But if you are interested in malt, that's where you should be. The crew’s knowledge is what earns this bar its stripes. They’re like whisky whisperers, and know exactly when to guide you into an easy-drinking Japanese single malt like the fruity White Oak Akashi or send you to end of the line with an eye-watering seven-year-old mystery Islay poured straight from a sherry cask. It needs at least 15-minutes and a slug of water to cool its jets and bring out the sweetness from behind the wall of smoke and fire. Pair it with Yeastie Boys’ Rex Attitude if you’re complete peat freak: it’s a beer so smoky it has its own Facebook page dedicated to first sip reactions.
In other things-that-taste-surprisingly-good news, you can a jar of whole pickled garlic cloves. They're still crunchy but completely tamed by the vinegar. Still the possibilities for staunch points are endless.
Whisky and Alement is a Chez Regine all grown up. They know where they're going, and we want to come.