Bars are dime a dozen in Asia, and while you’ll easily find one that’ll indulge you with a daiquiri or martini, you’ll find that it’s far more challenging to seek out a haven that truly knows a thing or two about fine whisky.
Though once the pastime of noble gentleman, whisky appreciation has made its way around the world at astonishing speeds. This has triggered not only the rapid opening and expansion of distilleries and the launch of special editions globally, but also a profusion of establishments that aim to satisfy even the most discerning of aficionados. As one of the leading regions in global whisky sales, it comes as no surprise then that Asia has seen a remarkable increase in the quality and quantity of whisky bars.
Armed with a trove of knowledge and an enthusiasm that’ll undoubtedly convince you of one tasting dram too many, these bartenders in Asia celebrate the malt liquor on another level. Whether you like your whisky neat, on the rocks or stirred into a Manhattan, here are the best whisky bars in Asia to mark on your itinerary.
Check out our complete guide on whiskies in India.
These 10 best whisky bars in Asia are bucket-list worthy
Jump To / Table of Contents
A 35-seater establishment ensconced in the heart of Singapore’s bustling Orchard Road, The Writing Club offers over 700 carefully curated labels of rare and collectible whiskies and spirits from around the world. The warm surroundings, with its plush Chesterfield sofas, and a gold-stitched red velvet crest on the wall bring to mind the decadence of a gentleman’s club, and is the perfect spot to kick back at after a long day. Inside, the bartender is well-versed with the intricacies of every spirit available, and will make customised recommendations based on your preferences. Besides, we can’t think of a better place to kick back with a good ol’ dram of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Beyond the Don Draper-approved interiors that look straight out of New York in the Roaring ‘20s, Tiffany’s New York bar is home to more than 300 labels of whiskies — one of the largest selection in Hong Kong. The cozy space, defined by its sleek leather booths, vintage paintings, dim lighting and intimate live band performances, is located just off the lobby of the prestigious Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, is a well-known spot amongst knowing locals and expats, and offers a welcomed respite from the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui that it’s located on.
A Scotch boudoir in the heart of Seoul, Le Chamber is the brainchild of two of South Korea’s finest bartenders — Lim Jae-jin and Eon Do-hwan. Though freshly opened in 2014, the Cheongdam award-winning hotspot has all the workings of a classic speakeasy, with exposed brickwork, chandeliers, and a secret room accessed via a retro Victorian-esque library. The whisky list boasts over 200 labels of rare and exclusive options (think along the lines of the Johnnie Walker 150th Anniversary), and Johnnie Walker-based cocktails such as Walking in Space. Expect a cool crowd every night — it is, after all, located in Seoul’s snazziest district.
Like its name proudly suggests, Whisgars is the spot you have to be for quality whisky and cigars, especially you’re craving an experience even Ernest Hemingway would approve. Though steeped in austerity, the space is a modern interpretation of a gentleman’s club, with tufted leather furnishings, bare bricks, and stone finishings. The mood is often kept light with performances by jazz and blue bands, and you’ll find a list of highly respectable whiskies such as the John Walker King George V and Blue Label that pairs beautifully with its expansive selection of some of the finest hand-rolled cigars available.
An intimate yet quirky den off Shinjuku’s neon light-drenched beaten tracks, Zoetrope is a passionate marriage of two of its owner Atsushi Horigami’s greatest loves: American movies and whisky. While not as expansive as the rest on the list, the inviting and homely space successfully breaks down the intimidation that comes with specialty whisky bars. Amidst a constant stream of silent black and white movies, you’ll get to choose between some of the rarest and sought-after whiskies, some of which are only exclusive to the cozy establishment.
Located on the mezzanine floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Guangzhou China, The Loft is a chic whiskey and cigar bar. Underlined by dark wood, cosy leather seats, and six discrete nooks, the space is one of the most exclusive in the country. On the menu are premium whiskeys, with reports attributing over 90 bottles from across the globe, including a few rare finds to its bar repertoire. Pair your amber with small bites like Wagyu beef tataki and prawn satay. The service here is personalised with drinks presented in cut crystal glassware. Head here for post-work drinks or after a long day of sightseeing.
Once crowned India’s Best Whisky Bar by Icons of Whisky, India, The Library Bar at The Leela Palace promises a relaxed evening of sipping single malts. Dark-wood interiors are complemented by plush sofas and dim lighting in this exclusive space. On the menu are classic, first-edition reads as well as an extensive pick of cigars and single-malt whiskies. In fact, a quick glance will present over 100 brands of premium malts, with several rare finds. Pair this with quick bites like poh pia thod and coconut prawns. Reportedly, rare whiskeys are set up on a tray with diamax glasses, often served this way to diplomats and corporates.
Located on the second floor of the Discovery Primea Hotel, this elegant whiskey bar is named after the year in which the first licence for single malt distilleries was granted, paving the way for the classic scotch and cigar pairing. On the menu here is a range of choice, premium whiskeys. This includes vintage finds like Glenthroes 3 Decades and Macallan 1989 The Whisky Trail. Pair these with a cigar or ask the bar to recommend a few small bites that would compliment your amber.
Although relatively new to the world of whisky bars, Firkin Bar in Saigon has built a reputation for being one of the most elegant spaces in Vietnam. It’s named after a popular term in Scotch whisky circles, which refers to the smallest volume of the ageing oak barrels/casks. That’s about quarter the size of a British Brewery Barrel. The spot is dimly lit, with dark timber interiors and luxurious leather seating. The whiskey collection here is impressive – extending from aged and rare Scottish and single malts to American bourbons and malts from little-known distilleries from around the world. A menu with premium cigars complements the experience of sipping on whiskey here.
Established in 2010, The Whisky Bar is malt aficionado Werner Kuhn’s passion project. About 800 whisky labels from around the old – rare and vintage – call this watering hole their home. Choose from Scotch, Irish, Japanese, and American ambers that are sourced from distilleries where they will never be made again or are in a limited set of bottles.
You also get to sip some of the world’s most expensive malts. These are served with a long-lasting whisky ice ball, moulded by The Macallan copper ice ball maker. The interiors complement the whiskey experience, with luxurious leather armchairs and wooden furnishings. The space offers Whisky Flights which come in a set of up to 8 single malts or blended whiskies and allow you to taste different flavours based on the distillation methods and ingredients used. Small bites like Angus steaks and seafood hors d’oeuvres add to the experience.
All images: Courtesy brands