Three-pronged approach brings awards success for capital bar
THERE is no tartan trim in Edinburgh venue Whiski Rooms.
The Walter Scott monument may be visible in the distance, but the kilt and shortbread style that prevails on the nearby Royal Mile has been kept at bay in a venue that’s been built to sell Scotch in the 21st century.
Gary Still and wife Anne opened Whiski Rooms, which was last month named SLTN Whisky Bar of the Year, in association with Glenfiddich, on Edinburgh’s North Bank Street in July 2011. Located in a space previously occupied by a retail unit and a bank, it was a follow-up to the couple’s Whiski Bar on the Royal Mile.
But while its nearby sister venue has a distinctly traditional look, Gary and Anne set out to make Whiski Rooms much more contemporary.
The inspiration for the business stemmed from a customer in Whiski Bar asking where they could buy a bottle of a particular whisky.
It prompted the Stills to create a venue which essentially brings three businesses – a whisky bar, bistro and shop – under one roof, with the three rooms designed to complement each other.
The whisky theme runs throughout the venue’s interior decor.
A collection of sketches, photographs and advertisements from Scotland’s distilleries line the walls of the bar, as well as a pair of stag heads, which have become something of a symbol for the Whiski brand logo.
“The thing was to create something that’s a modern whisky bar, but still keeping certain characteristics,” said Gary, who, with Anne, worked in finance in the City of London before making the move to the on-trade.
“It took about a year for planning to go through and we travelled a lot to get ideas, places like New York and London, to see what inspired us.
“Before we got this we always wanted to get away from a desk.
“I enjoy people and I enjoy making sure we offer the customer a product I would enjoy myself.”
When it came to sourcing the 300 whiskies for Whiski Rooms’ gantry, all of which are available to buy in the adjoining shop, Gary and Anne worked with a number of distilleries to bring ‘something a little different’ to the bar.
As a result, Islay distillery Ardbeg joined forces with the venue to set up the UK’s first on-trade ‘Ardbeg Embassy’ in a small room at the back of the bar area.
Whiski Rooms also offers a range of whisky flights and whisky and food pairing events, as well as offering bespoke tastings on request.
These tastings are delivered by Whiski Rooms’ staff, who Gary said have “an interest and passion” for Scotch whisky.
With the two Edinburgh venues now well established, Gary and Anne plan to continue expanding their business – and it might not all be about whisky going forward.
“We’d love to make beer on site,” said Gary.
“Growing your own product, working with the consumer, knowing what they want.”
Further locations could also be on the cards, with the couple having already set their sights on London.
“The focus now is creating an environment that is relaxed, has good ambience, good service and provides a good product from drink to food,” added Gary.
Jamie Milne, brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, which sponsored the SLTN Whisky Bar of the Year Award for 2013, said he was impressed by Whiski Rooms’ “overall offer”.
“They’re breaking new ground for a whisky bar that’s not just a bar but has three parts to it that feed on each other to build a business focused on whisky,” he said.