It seems to me – and to many others I speak with – that the popularity of whisky is definitely in the ascendent. More and more, I find people are talking about it, bars are making exciting cocktails with it and restaurants are pairing foods with it – and this is not just since I started writing about whisky on an increasingly frequent basis either. Exports were up more than 20% over the first half of 2011 while final year totals put sales (just of Scotch) somewhere around the £3 billion mark.
So, with all this interest in whisky – and hopefully a continuing trend in the number of people drinking it – I was glad to see the opening of a new private member’s club in Soho, located above the Vintage House on Old Compton Street.
According to owner Malcolm Mullin (who has run the downstairs Vintage House for decades) the Club has been in the works for five years, so it is with much excitement that the launch has finally come. He told me the Club will be doing regular tastings and offer a choice of 350 whiskies – at least. These will also rotate so members will have a varying choice from time to time.
“It would be boring to keep the same stock,” said Mullin.
The drams range from those directly behind the bar (priced from £3.95 to £5.95) all the way to extremely rare finds such as the 70-year 1940 Glenlivet, which will set you back an eye-watering £999.95 per shot. I have a feeling that one won’t be going anywhere too quickly.
Mullin told me he also hopes to have the opportunity to offer part shots – whereby members will be able to try a few ounces of a range of different whiskies for the price of one (instead of one 40ml shot at a time). This will provide the opportunity for someone to taste a variety of expressions without breaking the bank or his head (with a hangover).
Added to this, the Club will sell cigars which can be enjoyed on the splendid outdoor terrace – certainly a highlight of the setup. The terrace is fully enclosed by the surrounding taller buildings meaning it is not only a private location but also a quiet one, insulated from the noise of busy and brash Soho.
He said he hopes to get a mixed crowd – in the daytime, people who work in the nearby area or business people visiting from overseas; by night, whisky lovers from London and their friends. Each member will be able to bring up to three guests if they pre-book, as the space is a bit small – the only thing I would say might cause some issues in future if it becomes overly popular.
Membership costs £200 a year, which gets you access to the range of whiskies at a reduced price compared to what you’d pay in any of London’s whisky bars, along with tastings and the private space to relax in, hidden away in Soho.
It is a cozy, welcome addition to the growing number of outlets offering the whisky connoisseur a great place to try some drams that might not normally be available and a space where us whisky geeks can wax lyrical about our love for the drink.
The Soho Whisky Club – located at 42 Old Compton Street – will be holding its first members’ event on the 25th January in honour of dear Robbie Burns. Members can get 20% off drinks and canapes that evening in a first-off meet and greet. The Club’s new website will be going live soon and can be found here: www.sohowhiskyclub.com but anyone interested in membership can call the Vintage House on: 02074372592