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As manager/owner of Soju Girl, Nick Clarke watches over a burgeoning stable of whiskies.
There's ryes from Candian Club and Rittenhouse, Irish style from Jameson and Bushmills,
along with Scotch standards like Chivas Regal and Johnny Walker Black. Appropriately
enough, though, the Asian fusion bar/restaurant's most popular whisky is Japanese.
"Yamazaki is probably the biggest one that we're selling, it goes well with the food," Clarke
says. "Generally people want it on the rocks or neat."
That said, Soju Girl will feature a healthy dose of whisky-based cocktails as part of its winter
list, Clarke says, including a Hot Toddy "made in a more Asian style" using ginger, spiced
honey and lemongrass.
The complexity of whisky is a large part of the drink's appeal, Clarke believes.
"I would say, as opposed to clear spirits, darker spirits are generally always aged," he says.
"Given the character and the quality of the product, and the love that has gone into it, there's
a lot more to appreciate."
A: 41/43-45 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra City
P: 6257 5328
At the Phoenix, the top shelf standard bearer is more than half a century old. The pub's bottle
of Macallan, distilled in 1951 and left to age for 50 years before bottling, sells for $1500 a nip.
Pub co-owner Keiran Clohessy says it does surprisingly well, despite the price tag -- though
the more affordable drams tend to sell better, of course.
"We've got seven different kinds of Laphroaig, a Bushmills that's 16 years old," he says.
"People really like the Scapa, though -- it's quite salty, we sell a bottle and a half a week."
Quality whisky is a staple at the Phoenix after all, and the 20-year-old pub will happily teach
patrons the proper way to prepare and drink the dark liquor.
"Whisky sales have gone up in the ACT over the past few years," Clohessy says. "We've
always sold whisky -- we've got about 40 different kinds -- and the popularity comes and goes,
but overall I believe that whisky is on the way up."
A: 23 East Row, Canberra City
P: 6162 1581
King O'Malley's is such a bastion for fine whisky that the government of Ireland entrusts the tavern with its
own private bottle, according to owner Peter Barclay.
"We have a whisky cabinet where a number of people have their own private bottle stored there, so they can
bring in their friends and family to enjoy a drop," Barclay says, noting Microsoft, Colliers International and
the Irish Embassy as some of the cabinet's clientele.
For those who don't store their prized bottle on-site, however, King O'Malley's offers a selection of top-quality
"We've got some special whiskies in our collection for the real connoisseur," Barclay says. "We've got a
Johnny Walker Blue Label King George V, which is pretty special, and a limited edition bottle that is a
recreation of the highland malt that Shackleton took with him on his Antarctica expedition."
The establishment will begin hosting weekly whisky dinners during winter, where people can -- for example
-- enjoy a good lamb roast with a nice smoky whisky on the side. The beauty of whisky, Barclay says, is the
drink's suitability for all occasions, from a quiet drink by the fireplace, to celebrating special moments in life.
"I prefer adding a little bit of water, that way you can smell the aroma -- depending on the bottle, you can get
the beautiful smell of the sea," he says.
A: 131 City Walk, Canberra City
P: 6257 0111
Whisky doesn't need a cellar, doesn't need to sit and breathe, doesn't suffer from
the whims of the soil and rainfall levels. All the same, the whisky experience is
far from simplistic, according to Muddle Bar owner Rob Ingram.
"To me, personally, it's very similar to wine -- there's lots of depth of flavour, and
it varies quite a lot with age and how you make it, how you blend it," he says.
"I think it's just a great drink to sit down and relax with."
Muddle Bar carries a vast selection of house bourbons and whiskies, but
Ingram's favourite is by far the top-shelf Yamazaki Whisky from Japan, best
enjoyed neat with a few drops of water.
"I love the flavour -- it's very smooth and easy to drink, a really nice, clean
whisky," he says. "It's also won quite a few awards, it was voted the best
single malt in the recent World Whiskies Awards."
A: 8 West Row, Canberra City
P: 6262 7898
old single malt whisky
is a medium-bodied
whisky made in
Japan's first whisky
One of Scotland's
oldest sources of
single malt whisky,
Oban's scotch has
hints of honey,
smoke, orange and
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