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Tamdhu, Coopering, Toronto
What makes a great bar? There are only a few questions in life that prompt so much debate and frankly this is one of them. Whether it is in a hotel, restaurant or a traditional bar, what gives it that buzz, ambience and pulling power? Four years ago Whisky Magazine launched its quest to honour the greatest bars in the world. The original scheme evolved into our awards programme for bars, hotels and restaurants.
These awards honour the very best venues in the world, and developed out of the Great Whisky Bars of the World series. This comprises an accreditation system to recognise excellence in whisky. With three levels, Gold, Silver and Bronze, we recognise any establishment, no matter how big or small, that celebrates whisky. Any premises that applied were accredited under the programme and received their certificate dependent on their range and quality of whisky.
There are really four tangible areas that make a great whisky bar: glassware; range of whiskies; the venue and the staff. Outside of these areas we get into the subjective realms of feel and ambience. You may feel comfortable in a traditional whisky bar, in say a rural setting, but the next drinker may feel at home in the slick low-lit hotel bars of the big cities. So while these are clearly important factors for the purposes of the accreditation programme we had to stick with less subjective matters.
With glassware we sought venues that offered their whiskies in more than just a tumbler. It was up to the venue what glassware they used but it had to reflect the premium nature of the liquid. To be considered in the accreditation scheme the venue had to carry a range of whiskies; including at least 10 malt whiskies, three blended Scotch whiskies, one bourbon and one Irish whiskey or be an unusual selection overall the selection had to be well balanced.
The venue must also be proactive in the promotion of whisky. It is no use keeping the spirit light under a bushel, the venue has to shout about whisky and encourage new drinkers.
One of the most important considerations is the barman. This is the frontline, the first contact with you, whether a beginner or aficionado. The staff must respond with knowledge to the question which whisky would you recommend; they must display evidence of having been trained in the knowledge of whisky.
So this guide is a listing of all the bars in the world we have found so far, and we have flagged up the ones that have been included in our accreditation scheme. The Gold and Silver winners are listed separately at the front, then included, and highlighted in the main listings, ordered alphabetically by country and then by city. There has never been a better time to get out there and explore some amazing places to drink.
So if we have missed out your favourite bar, or you run a bar that is not included, please let us know and we'll make sure to include you.
These bars have been awarded the highly acclaimed Whisky Bars of the World Gold award.
These bars have been awarded the Whisky Bars of the World Silver award.
These bars have been awarded the Whisky Bars of the World Bronze award.