Classy whisky bar not for the label conscious
Don’t be perturbed by the name; the only taxing that’ll happen in this quaint whisky bar on the second floor of the Esplanade is the toll your liver might take – which just might happen given how good of a selection this bar has.
Located near where Labyrinth and Old School Delights is, the facade of The ExciseMan is at first look, uninviting. It’s completely walled up by black aluminum frames and glass, and the only entryway is a single door usually left closed. But take a gander and step inside, and be transported to the pubs of old. It’s charming with dark woods, leather sofas, a fireplace and even a grand piano setting the right mood in this warm, spacious cavern.
Once settled in, order up a glass (they don’t use nosing glasses here, but stemmed wine glasses) of independent bottler Douglas Laing’s region-themed Scotch. The full range of their award-winning Remarkable Regional Malts – five blended malts, from the deliciously sweet Scallywag ($14 single; $21 double) to the smoky Big Peat ($16 single; $24 double), that each represent the defining characteristics of Scotland’s five malt whisky regions – is available here. Sit by the bar and watch as the barman pours from the massive 4.5 litre bottles, before prodding him for tasting notes to look out for.
But the real charm of The ExciseMan lies in the many rare finds owners Lewis Mitchell and Patricia Britton have gathered throughout their years running distribution business Le Vigne Wines & Spirits. The bar is really their way to share with everyone quality spirits that don’t necessarily carry a well-known brand name, awards or even an age statement. You’ll find few Japanese whiskies on the menu for instance, as despite their quality, they’ve been priced above what is considered equitable in the market.
Convince yourself that labels are arbitrary by getting a glass of Douglas Laing’s Old Particular Speyside Single Cask Single Malt 21 Years Old ($48 single; $72 double). The heavily sherried bottle is not only a rare find, but a complex expression of sherry whisky that balances the inherently sweet palate well with a roasty, caramel finish. Get the 60ml double; you won’t regret it.
Other than whisky, gin and grappa connoisseurs (there’s also a small selection of wines, beers and other spirits on the menu) will find something to love here as well. Artisanal Italian distillery Poli, best known for their grappas, stocks their perfumed, silky smooth Marconi 46 gin ($18 for 45ml) here. Have it straight to enjoy the spirit for what it is.
If you’re peckish, a proper kitchen is still in the works. For now, fine cheeses, snacks and condiments will keep your hunger pangs at bay.