It’s nearly time for the announcement of all the finalists for the 17th Annual Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards. Ahead of the announcement in the July issue — which lands in bars later this week — we thought we’d reveal the finalists for a few awards this week: yesterday, we looked the best rum bars in Australia; today, it’s about the 10 best whisky bars in Australia — here’s the 10 finalists for 2017’s Whisky Bar of the Year.
The Bar Awards takes place on Tuesday the 19th of September this year, and is just one of the many great events in store for Sydney Bar Week this year, taking place from the 16th to the 20th of September — check back this week to catch the full timetable of 22 big events over five days and keep an eye on barweek.com.au.
If you’re keen to exhibit or to sponsor at one of the great Sydney Bar Week events we have lined up, get in touch with David Spanton on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a look at the 10 best whisky bars in Australia below.
WHISKY BAR OF THE YEAR
Proudly sponsored by The Exchange
To be eligible for this award, the bar must have a broad selection of whisk(e)y, highlight whisk(e)y cocktails where cocktails are listed, and employ staff who are knowledgeable on the category.
(Whether it is Scotch or American, Japanese or Australian, it doesn’t matter which style of whisky is the focus).
- Boilermaker House, Melbourne
- Cobbler, Brisbane
- Society Salamanca, Hobart
- The Baxter Inn, Sydney
- The Dominion League, Perth
- The Elysian Whisky Bar, Melbourne
- The Gresham, Brisbane
- Varnish on King, Perth
- Whisky & Alement, Melbourne
- Whisky Room at The Clock, Sydney
Find out more about each of these great bars below.
Boilermaker House, Melbourne
209/211 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Melbourne’s Boilermaker House is the reigning whisky bar of the year, taking out the title last year at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards, and for good reason, too.
The bar is one in a stable of top flight bars from the Speakeasy Group — you may know them from the Eau de Vie bars in both Melbourne and Sydney, and their latest, Mjolner — and here they focus on the Boilermaker. What’s a Boilermaker? It’s a whisky and a beer, but this simple pairing is taken to new heights at Boilermaker House. They’re taking their beer quite seriously, and the whisky, well — the last we heard the count was at 800 different bottling of whisky, and they’ve plans to add more. Throw in knowledgeable, attentive bartenders, and some pretty ace bar eats, and you can see why they’re the reigning champs.
7 Browning Street, West End. Brisbane
Cobbler has cemented itself as one of Brisbane’s must-do bars over recent years — they picked up the title of best small in the country last year, too — and a large part of that is to do with the knowledgeable, passionate service their bartenders provide when it comes to the bar’s big focus: whisky. Here, the emphasis is on Scotch whisky, but they offer an experience that is more than just whisky nirvana for geeks — it’s also one of the best party bars in the country.
Society Salamanca, Hobart
22 Montpelier Retreat, Battery Point
Society Salamanca in Hobart is making a bit of a name for itself, in no small part thanks to its exciting collection of whisky.
They’ve got a focus on both gin and whisky at the bar, and it’s for that whisky focus that they’ve cracked the top 10 for Whisky Bar of the Year this year. As befits a Tassie bar, you can sample a number of that state’s great, homegrown drams — they offer a Tasmanian whisky flight, in the event you can’t decide on just one — and the whisky list runs the gamut from Scotch to Australian to new world whiskies and more.
The Baxter Inn, Sydney
Basement 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney
The Baxter Inn hardly needs an introduction, as it has consistently been one of the great Australian bars over the last five years or so.
It’s a regular feature on international awards lists — it landed at number 12 in the world at the 2016 World’s 50 Best Bars, marking it the best bar in Australiasia — and they continue to add to their impressive range of whiskies from around the globe. And, for the true whisky aficionado, you’re going to want to step into their Whisky Room, where they keep a number of rare drams.
Add to the comprehensive selection of whisky the famous hospitality and dedication to bartending that has earned their bar team their own gongs over the years, and you can see why the place has won more than a fair share of awards.
The Dominion League, Perth
84 Beaufort Street, Perth
This Perth bar is plying a fine trade in whisky these days. The Dominion League is set over two levels — on the ground floor, you’ve got the style and service of a friendly local watering hole; descend the stairs to the cellar, however, and there you’ll find a killer cocktail list with top quality bartenders to pull it off, along with a great selection of whisky.
It’s a handy place to while away the hours, made all the more fun by the distinctly Perth, laid-back style of Aussie hospitality the team offers.
The Elysian Whisky Bar, Melbourne
113 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
There’s few bartenders out there who can keep pace with the whisky knowledge stored in the brains of the owners of The Elysian Whisky Bar, Yao Wong and Kelvin Low.
They’ve been whisky fiends for some time now, and with the opening of their own bar in Fitzroy they’ve dived even further into the depths of whisky geek heaven. Here, you’ll find a number of hard to find independent whisky bottlings, sourced with care and pride by the duo, and including their own custom whisky — read more about it here.
The Gresham, Brisbane
308 Queen Street, Brisbane
Where Cobbler in Brisbane focuses on whisky from old Scotland, The Gresham has placed all their bets on American whiskeys. Their passion for whiskey is only equalled by the passion they’ve got for delivering laid-back, comfortable service — bar manager Ryan Lane describes the place as a local pub that happens to have a killer whiskey selection.
They’ve been named Bar of the Year at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in both 2015 and 2016, and it’s their second appearance on this Whisky Bar of the Year list.
Varnish on King, Perth
Basement, 75 King Street, Perth
Down one of Perth’s burgeoning laneways, you enter a door and descend the staircase to reach this basement haven of American whiskey. Owner Andy Freeman has been a staple of the Perth bar industry for years, and Varnish on King was the first bar he got to build from the ground up. It’s a beautiful little bar, where attention to detail and Freeman’s penchant for doing things a little quirkier has paid off.
Here, the dedicated staff offer you bourbon and bacon flights, they’ve got an extensive collection of bourbons and ryes from the USA, and the playlist is all 80’s tines and good times. The food is also another reason to visit this great bar, which was named small bar of the year in 2014.
Whisky & Alement, Melbourne
270 Russell Street, Melbourne
If you get the chance to talk whisky with Whisky & Alement co-owner Julian White, we suggest you grab a dram and ask him all the questions you’ve got. The guy’s a walking whisky encyclopaedia and Whisky & Alement reflects that, with a serious whisky collection you could only dream of building for yourself.
The team love their whisky, and some of the most knowledgeable whisky-loving bartenders have plied their trade behind the stick here. Do yourself a favour and go get your whisky education at Whisky & Alement.
Whisky Room at The Clock, Sydney
470 Crown Street, Surry Hills
The Clock Hotel on Crown Street in Surry Hills is something of an institution; there’s nothing that quite beats a drink on the upstairs verandah as the sun sets over the city.
And thanks to the opening of The Whisky Room at the clock, you can perch their with a dram of top quality liquid from the Scottish isles, or something punchier from the USA.
The Whisky Room has made great strides in bringing whisky out of the world of the geeks and the mavens and popularising it with the wider public, an effort they’re to be commended for.