London falling for whisky: Bartenders and distillers on full swing | The Economic Times

By February 11, 2019Beverage trends
Old Fashioned comes with a twist.
The Yard in Shoreditch was once an industrial warehouse. Now, it is a chic venue, neighbouring east London’s trendiest bars, which can be transformed into anything you like. Today, ears of barley hang from the ceiling, imitating a giant chandelier, giving the room the feel of an experimental art gallery, while glasses and pipettes on long tables make it seem like a chemistry lab set for experiments of another kind. It is only fitting that this is the venue for a private tasting of whiskies led by celebrity Scotch-maker Bill Lumsden, often dubbed the “mad scientist” of the dark drink.

Lumsden is making us taste his latest creation, the Glenmorangie Allta (Gaelic for “wild”), a limited edition whisky he has created from yeast growing wild on barley, putting the focus on a hitherto neglected ingredient in single malts — yeast. When you think of beer, you think of yeast; but when you think of whisky, you usually think about the wood in which the whisky is aged.

Irish Coffee at Brigadiers, which has a whisky-dispensing machine.

As we taste the Allta, the flavours are interesting: buttery, of cake or biscuits, fruity. These are quite different from Scotch’s serious and masculine “wood and leather” image. It is proof that whisky is lightening up, trying to be more inclusive, appealing to younger, gender-neutral consumers with innovations in taste. “Innovation is important, there are new flavours being discovered globally and new consumers,” says Lumsden, who says bluntly that only single malt aged between eight and 18 years is at its best; “beyond that the wood takes over, it is usually a disappointment”.

In London, Lumsden is not the only one trying to make whisky less intimidating and less masculine. In the city, hitherto the epicentre of the artisanal gin, whisky is back in fashion. Bartenders, experts and event makers are all making the dark spirit less stiff. Private tastings, pop-ups and curated Burns dinners (after Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns) are all making whisky the new cool.

For the first time in 100 years, perhaps, London is distilling its own whiskies as small-batch gin makers turn their attention to whiskies. The London Distillery Company, established in 2011 and known for its gin, has been quietly working on its rye whisky that released this January. Another artisanal gin producer, East London Liquor Company, is making an ambitious whisky in a car park, set for an autumn release.

These micro distilleries signal a revival of interest in whisky in a gin-obsessed world; a trend that could spread to the rest of the world. Bars are making Old Fashioned in newer, more delicious ways. The uber-chic The Vault has a cardamom Old Fashioned.