Best Whisky Bars in Glasgow
So begins a new year! I’d like to wish everyone best wishes for 2017 and thank you for following along with my Scottish adventures so far. I’ve got all sorts planned over the next few months as I look to up my game come the spring – new regions, new technology and plenty of my old favourites are on the agenda. But to kick off the new year I’m sticking with a winter cure close to home – the search for the best whisky bars in Glasgow.
Whisky is much more than Scotland’s national drink. Travellers from all over the world want to explore the depths of the stuff, want to know how to drink it and will very likely have it included within their own travel plans in some capacity as a means of getting the genuine “Scottish experience”. Converted locals and travelling Scots around the world will turn to it as a comfortable reminder of familiarity and what we associate with home. Yip, this stuff really is Scotland’s gift to the world.
Glasgow has a fabulous relationship with whisky. Nearby distilleries include dependable Auchentoshan and beautiful Glengoyne. Islanders have been journeying to the city for centuries and bringing their island malts and addictions with them. And, of course, the famous Glasgow nightlife scene has become one of the best places in the world to find the perfect dram for you.
So here I go with my top picks for best whisky bars in Glasgow, my home city. My choices take into account several things including atmosphere, the range of whisky on offer and popularity with locals. Ultimately though I’ve gone with those places that I like and frequent the most as a Glaswegian. You can pick them out on the map at the bottom, with the majority to be found west of centre. In no particular order…..
Ask anyone in the know in Glasgow about best whisky bars and they’ll without doubt mention the Pot Still. Small, cosy and dynamically bursting with positive atmosphere it’s a great place to find yourself after work, ahead of a night out or as part of a whisky appreciation tour.
I remember my first visit as a novice whisky drinker some years ago:
“An Ardbeg, please” (and feeling quite chuffed with myself at coming up with a very selective order).
“Which?” was the amused reply. Several Ardbeg bottles suddenly glare back at me.
“Uhh…” Like that moment when you cobble together your best sentence of French and are promptly gazumped by the unexpectedly complex reply as you realise you’ve shot your bolt and now look like an idiot. “Just the 10…?”.
“Just?!? No, no. Never say ‘just’, mate. There’s nothing ‘just’ about it”. Cue nervous laughter of the drinker that’s been bested. But it was a valuable early lesson.
In the Pot Still, the choices are endless and it’s therefore a great place to experiment. Get to know whisky and the endless bottlings on offer. Try those you’ll not find elsewhere – there’s not many whisky drinkers that don’t still have much to learn. The staff will happily entertain you with their knowledge and your wallet will (and in all conscience should!) be considerably lighter on departure.
Moving out of the city centre, the hike west takes visitors to the best concentration of whisky-centered establishments in Glasgow. I wish the south side would come up with a great whisky bar to rival the west but I’ve yet to find one, alas. I apologise for the slight geographical bias. Before reaching the west end though, Charing Cross is worth a stop for another much loved local favourite.
A large space that offers food as well as over 400 whisky types, Bon Accord is a very easy place to while away a rainy Glasgow afternoon. We get them now and again, the rumours were true. Their range is such that they can’t find space for them all and there’s a queue of bottles waiting their turn to appear on the main stage. I’m quickly grabbed by their Macallan range from Speyside – my senses forget themselves at the prospect of a cask strength 10 year old. Or the 12 for that matter. I’ve also been reliably informed that the Glendronach is a malt on the rise. Speaking of which, here’s my review of the fantastic Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
A classic family pub, it’s collected many an accolade including UK Whisky Bar of the Year. They have some obscenely rare bottles and have even created their own whisky shop. Which delivers. Oh dear. Dangerous…..
The Ben Nevis
With such a name to live up to, you’d perhaps be fearful of this brilliant wee pub not matching up to its lofty expectations. Nah, it meets them and more. A small bar makes excellent use of the space and if your neck strained upwards any further while you choose your poison you’d do yourself an injury.
Ben Nevis has been another one of the contributors to the astonishing rise to prominence of the Finnieston area. Overflowing with top quality food and drink establishments, it’s become one of the trendiest places to be found in the city. Ben Nevis doesn’t set itself up as that though and there’s been many a drenched and dishevelled stumble in by me in the search for shelter and a glass of amber medicine. It offers a warm welcome to any comers.
This is the place where I started to appreciate some of the finer blended malts of the land. Connoisseurs would turn their noses up for sure but I’ve come to really appreciate the likes of Black Bottle – a peaty, smoky Islay-esque blend that provides a surprisingly good alternative for beginners. Islay malts can blow folk away – so if you’re experimenting in this area don’t be afraid to dabble with this guy. Black Bottle takes a little bit from 7 distilleries on Islay but is more delicate than some of the malts that may, sinfully, put some folk off for life.
While most on this list feel like Glasgow institutions that have been dishing out the good stuff since forever, there’s plenty of modern bars that have their own distinctive character. Dram! is one such place and is ever-bustling with a mixed clientele.
Like all good whisky bars, the bottles stretch up to the ceiling and you’ll have the staff scrambling up and down ladders as your decision making capacity is challenged to the full. Dram! is also excellently priced and you’ll be able to get a malt of the month for under £3 – a great option for complete newbies.
It’s not exclusively whisky in here by any means and I’ve often popped in for a pint and to watch the football. You’ll find it on Woodlands Road in the West End and there are numerous other bars and restaurants in the vicinity if you’re on a wider mission.
One of the best loved and most talked about bars in the city, Òran Mór lives in a refurbished parish church at the head of Byers Road in the West End. A stunning building, the bar offers one of the most electric atmospheres you’ll find. Opposite the fantastic Botanic Gardens, its location at the intersection of two of Glasgow’s most famous streets couldn’t be better.
Not a budget option, Òran Mór does though have a very obvious pull to it as you enter. A beautiful and atmospheric interior is like a step back in time and loads of the Glasogw characters are to be found here. A old-style inn for the 21st Century drinker. Wall portraits show some of its more famous visitors and you can expect to see some recognisable local faces on each visit.
Again, the choice of dram is extensive and expect a range of options for all of the usual brands. Malts of the month are again on offer if looking to keep costs down. The venue is also home to A Play, A Pie and a Pint – another favourite local pastime.
The Ubiquitous Chip
Talk Glasgow nightlife and Ashton Lane’s bound to come up. More restaurants and bars than you can shake a wobbly stick in a gale at, the Chip is the place to go if you’re after a dram in these parts. Also a top restaurant, the bar upstairs is always heaving with west-enders of all types in the evenings. Add an open fire and the waft of great food and you’ll likely find yourself returning for repeat visits. They also have the Wee Pub down on street level just off Ashton Lane as another cosy alternative for drinkers in search of some good chat.
The Chip also hosts its own Whisky Club on a regular basis. I’ve not been I must admit but I’ll be very tempted – sitting around and talking about whisky with like-minded Glaswegians…..that’ll be alright, eh?
Partick is a fabulous neighbourhood (it was my first home) and there are some incredible characters you’ll encounter over a drink of any kind in these parts. The Lismore is one of the best places to head if good company and a healthy drinks list is high on your agenda. Split into two sizable bars and ideally located within easy reach of Kelvingrove, Finnieston and Kelvinhall subway, it’s ideal for visitors travelling through. Equally, Partick is one of the most popular places for residents and if you’re based nearby you’ll be wanting to develop a relationship with this place. Expect students and veterans alike.
The Lismore was the first place I dabbled in Arran as a whisky. Not yet one of the big names from the island malts, the distillery on this ever-popular island is starting to gather a name for itself. One to watch.
This is certainly not a complete list of the best whisky bars in Glasgow and there are a few more under my consideration that will require me getting to know them better. Oh what a chore that’ll be. Do you have any favourites you’d like to see included?
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