OnlyDrams – One drink to rule them all, one drink to bind them…

By Andrew Dowson /@whisky__daddy

In a bar in the town, there lived a bartender. Not a cocktail bar filled with shakers, neon signs and a potpourri smell, nor yet a craft beer bar with triple-hopped IPAs and Imperial stouts: this was a whisky bar, and that means drams.

Much like Bag End, you enter the whisky bar I ply my trade at through a green door, although rectangular in shape rather than round (despite my attempts to remedy this) and find yourself confronted to your left by one of the most impressive and comprehensive collections of whisky from Milngavie to Miyagikyo that Glasgow has to offer.

Yes, it is none other than the Pot Still on Hope Street, an icon of Glasgow’s pub scene and winner of SLTN’s Whisky Bar of the Year 2023.

How The Pot Still would look, in an ideal world

When, about two and a half years ago, I entered the Pot Still as a staff member for the first time, I stepped over the threshold with a confidence and surety that I was ‘a bit of an expert’ on whisky, having worked in numerous bars around Glasgow for the best part of a decade; from hotels to fine dining, cocktails, coffees and beers…you name it, I’d done it. So how difficult could whisky really be, I pondered? Well, it’s certainly not easy, especially if you want to go so deep into the background of it, you pass Gandalf fighting a Balrog.

For me, though, this was exactly what ignited my passion for whisky; knowing that no matter how much I know, there’s someone else who knows more, that there’s always something new to learn and that, most of all, it never, ever gets boring. Becoming a novice again in the face of this behemoth of an industry, that from three simple ingredients produces over 400 million litres from around 150 different distilleries, was a refreshing experience. And that’s just Scotland. Let’s not forget Ireland, Japan, America, Canada and all the other whisky producing countries.

‘I Love Whisky.’ As the Pot Still t-shirts say, the same can be said for me too. Whisky, for me, is the type of drink that represents everyone. The almost endless kaleidoscope of flavours, smells, styles and its subjectivity and almost intimate, individual experience with each dram is as interesting to me as the rich history of the spirit itself, which is in both senses, the Spirit of Scotland.

In this ‘OnlyDrams’ column, I’ll be hoping to give everyone an insight into the wonderful and often weird world of whisky and the people behind it. From being mistaken as the inimitable Frank Murphy to being the focus of some very sexually aggressive American cougars, we’ll look through the laughs and the ‘wtf’ moments in a bar where it almost feels like a Twilight Zone episode on some nights.

Through all of this though, I would absolutely not change it as the beauty of bartending, especially in such an eclectic bar as the Pot Still, is the meeting and interacting with some of the most intelligent, interesting and straight-up odd people to grace the streets of Glasgow.

You never know who will walk through that green door at the start of a shift – maybe Mark Thomson, Billy Walker, Brian Kinsman, luminaries of the whisky world. Perhaps it’ll be Viggo Mortensen, Ed Sheeran or Brendon Urie. And maybe it’ll be someone who just wants some rest and repast from the inclemency of Glasgow’s weather.

Maybe it’ll be you, dear reader, walking through those doors next time and I look forward to seeing you.