It’s an easy assumption to make that Edinburgh is overrun with whisky bars, but this isn’t strictly the case. Yes, there are plenty of bars which sell whisky, but ‘proper’ whiskies bars are few and far between. By this, I mean bars which are almost exclusively dedicated to Scotland’s national drink, with well trained bar staff who have a passion and knowledge for the liquid. Off the top of my head, places which fulfill this description include The Whiski Rooms, The Scotch Whisky Experience, Teuchter’s Landing, Bow Bar and Bennets Bar. However, it looks like new bar Usquabae is about to join these illustrious ranks.
Located in the basement of Ryan’s Bar, right in the centre of town, Usquabae is the brainchild of Edinburgh Whisky Blog-ger, Chris White. After his dipping his toe in the world of medicine, the draw of whisky proved too much.
He’s done a sterling job revitalising what used to be – by all accounts – a dark and dingy events space. The walls have been stripped back to their original stone work, with accompany dark wood furniture and modern tweed upholstery. There are also a number of cosy snugs dotted around the room, which are perfect for small groups of friends to gather in. These can also be partitioned off, to give a bit more privacy if desired.
Thankfully, the carefully chosen interiors are matched with an impressive drinks list, which features over 400 different whiskies. This ranges from classic staples and special releases, to independent bottlings and the odd rare treat. The Usquabae team also understands that those crossing its threshold will either be whisky fans or will hope to learn more from the knowledgeable bar staff, so there are no endless descriptions on the whisky menu – just the name of the whisky and its price. As would be expected, this selection is augmented with a decent range of whisky cocktails, craft beers and other spirits, with food also available.
On the launch night, we were welcomed with a delicious whisky cocktail, made with two shots of Girvan No. 4 Apps (I said it would make a great long summer cocktail!), elder flower cordial and ginger ale. A pint of Joker IPA then followed, before my partner and I decided to tackle the whisky bar. I opted for an underrated and rarely seen whisky, Blair Athol’s Flora Fauna bottling, whilst my partner – who was clearly feeling flush – went for a Port Ellen. Our choices are, in themselves, a reflection of Usquabae’s appeal – no matter what your tastes or budget, Edinburgh’s newest whisky bar has something to appeal to everyone. And because of that, I’ll definitely be back!