Whisky's back: where to drink it in London

New developments in Scotch whisky alongside old favourites and classic venues have given whisky a surprise come-back

Grainaissance is the name of a fumoir bar at Claridges, and it is also a good description of what is happening in the spirits industry. Better, not more, is the way things are going, with an ever-wider selection of high-quality beverages providing a whole range of sensorial experiences, from the classic single malt whiskies to the latest smoother blends. Haig Club is the perfect example of a modern Scotch, a single grain whisky whose launch was ultra-high profile thanks to the involvement of business partners David Beckham and Simon Fuller.

David-Beckham-toasts-to-the-global-launch-of-HAIG-CLUB.-Welcome-to-HAIG-CLUB---Enjoy-responsiblyDavid Beckham toasts to the global launch of HAIG CLUB

“Haig Club is designed to be different,” said Kathy Parker, Senior Vice President for Haig Club at Diageo. It effectively opens up the whisky market by providing a whisky that will appeal to a whole new generation of consumers. If your preference is for single malts of character with loads of peat and smoke, you’ll find Haig Club something of a surprise, because it’s super-smooth, clean, fresh and very drinkable, with both nose and palate rife in sweeter notes such as tropical fruit, toffee, nougat and vanilla offset by a touch of oak and spice, developing to a finish of cinnamon, ginger and a touch of cardamom. These flavours are created by selecting mature whiskies from Refill, American Oak and Rejuvenated casks. It is made at Cameronbridge, Scotland’s oldest grain whisky distillery in Fife, and so it is built on the House of Haig’s heritage running back to the 17th century.

Upstairs at Milroy'sUpstairs at Milroy's

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Its presentation is also unusual, with a blue glass bottle. This is a reference to the tradition of whisky blenders who used blue tasting glasses so that they could be sure that their assessment of each whisky was based on aroma and taste alone. “I am incredibly proud to have been part of the creation of Haig Club,” said David Beckham. “I think we have made something really special.” He is committed to a policy of responsible drinking, supporting the brand’s approach of quality over quantity. “I appreciate a well-made drink and I like to take my time and enjoy it – I try to drink better, not more.”

David Beckham carrying a bottle of Haig Club in the HAIG CLUB Advert directed by Guy Ritchie1David Beckham carrying a bottle of Haig Club in the HAIG CLUB

The high-profile launch of Haig Club follows on from another whisky from the Diageo stable, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, promoted by a short featuring Jude Law and Giancarlo Giannini, directed by Jake Scott (Ridley’s son).  This whisky is the classic blended, the top of the Johnnie Walker range, made from some of the rarest casks, some of which are aged around 25 years, with a few possibly over 40 years old and from distilleries no longer in existence. Its nose of peat, smoke and fresh bread leads in to a palate of cigar smoke, loads of spice and a malty backdrop, with a finish that has a final pop of mint and pepper.

0 Welcome to HAIG CLUB - Enjoy responsiblyHaig Club

While in London, you can sample Haig Club at venues such as Aqua Shard (they are doing a Haig Club cocktail called the Clear Colada), the Punch Room at the London Edition, the Savoy Club American Bar, or Grainaissance Fumoir Bar at Claridges. If you would like to increase your whisky lore, take a look at the tastings programme at Milroy’s of Soho, the oldest specialist whisky shop in London founded in 1964, where the staff will guide you through the peat and smoke of each bottle, with tastings that cover everything from the basics up to molecular science. Apart from that, Milroy’s has a 12-seat whisky bar serving over 250 whiskies, poured at 35 ml instead of the usual 25 ml in order to savour the dram’s development to the full. Downstairs in the basement, The Vault offers more space, a hidden gem that includes the intriguing Barrel Room, shaped like its name, and a selection of cheese and meat boards to complement the whiskies.

1 The Fumoir bar at Claridges
2 Punch Room at the London Edition
3 Savoy Club American Bar
4 Milroy’s Of Soho
5 Aqua Shard