Sunday 14 July 2013

Bar review #7: The Whisky Bar, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Our 7th bar review saw me in Malaysia, at the appropriately named "The Whisky Bar, KL". As much as I'd love to say I was in Malaysia to taste whisky...I was there on business (which is completely unrelated to whisky), and only managed to get out and visit one night by cramming about 15 hours of work into the previous night...oh well, the sacrifices we make!

I first stumbled across the bar a few years ago (it's bang in the middle of one of the liveliest parts of the city - Changkat Bukit Bintang) and remembered them having a great list, impressive display (of unopened bottles) and decent prices.

My visit this time coincided with an Auchentoshan tasting (which I'll write up in a separate post), but this post is mostly about the bar itself.

The bar feels similar to the Highlander chain of Whisky bars in Asia (especially the logo), but is apparently unrelated. It's a largeish bar, with seating broken up into a few areas (some large booths and some cosy nooks for couples), along with an adjoining restaurant with an impressive wine cellar. The decor is comfortable and classy, with appropriate lighting and noise levels to suit. The bar also has an impressive collection of whisky/whiskey posters dotted around the room, including some which would have to be a few decades old.

There's no region or whisky style that the bar specialises in, with an impressive range of Japanese, Scotch, Irish and other world whiskies. What I find particularly impressive is the number of unopened bottles around the place (presumably just for show) - including some very rare vintage Glenfiddichs, Balvenies (see right) and Nikkas.

Staff were all welcoming and more than happy to talk about whisky, and the way whisky is enjoyed in Malaysia (in a nutshell, typically with less focus on tasting and more focus on drinking!) As is common in Asia, bottle sales (for consumption on-premise) are available, with monthly specials coinciding with monthly tastings (typically for a particular distillery).

Prices aren't too bad for KL, with a Caol Ila 12yo going for around $11-12AUD/nip, and a Laphroaig 18yo around $23AUD. Or you could just go all out with a Bowmore White 1964 for a cool RM24,300 (around $8,500AUD)!

Of the three times I've visited now, I've enjoyed every visit, and (on a previous trip) Steph found the tasting flights especially handy for someone who (at the time) was just getting into whisky. There was also another work trip where a bunch of us got into a bottle of Hibiki 17yo on a Friday night...a few hours later I found myself scoffing down a few pieces of Durian, which I've sworn to never do again...

If you're ever in KL and looking for a dram or two, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better place than here. Just keep your wits about you when you walk outside - Changkat Bukit Bintang is a lot of fun, but is also one of the most busy/crazy streets in KL.

 - Martin.

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