There’s a Whisky House That’s Open for a Limited Time in Poblacion
“Whisky should be for whoever wants to have whisky,” says Andrea Raralio, senior brand manager for Johnnie Walker Philippines. TV shows like Mad Men may have framed the proper consumption of whisky as something done at work, served neat, and with a cigar hanging out the corner of your mouth, but we do live in an age that questions supposed conventions.
With Lester Ligon, winner of the Diageo Reserve World Class Philippine Bartender of the Year 2019, behind the bar dancing between cocktails with aplomb, Nico Bolzico, the Johnnie Walker Brand Ambassador, runs through a brief list of tenets for safe drinking.
We’re in a dark, single-floor room with a bar right in the middle. The Johnnie Walker House is in a building clearly lit with a bright neon sign that reads, “This is the Sign You’ve Been Looking For.” Walking into the room it appears to be built like two concentric squares: the outer housing the whisky drinkers, and the inner housing the bartenders. Neon lights bounce off the walls—almost the only reminder that you’re in Poblacion and along Kalayaan Avenue.
Much like many of the bars spread through this cultural hotspot, the walls here are adorned with murals. Works by Jappy Agoncillo, Lee Caces, Kookoo Ramos, Kate Quebrar, and Kara Pangilinan add some color to the venue.
A happy accident
With all this work done to the place, it's a shame it won’t be around for very long. “This is just a happy accident that we stumbled upon this place," Raralio says. “It’s not ours. It’s not a permanent space that we have. It’s really a pop-up. Within a month we made a bar from the ground up. We will have it until May 10, and then we will let it go.”
This is the third pop-up Johnnie Walker opened in Manila. The first was in BGC’s Burgos Circle in October last year while the second opened in Makati’s Greenbelt for the whole of December.
“As you can see, the only thing pop-up about it is that it will go away,” says Raralio. After May 10, the brand hopes to open pop-ups every month or two in different locations to connect with new customers again and again.
To aid the team in interacting with new people, the brand stages events at the bar for them to enjoy. “Sometimes we have music,” she says. “Sometimes we have game nights. Every Friday we will have parties that feature one color at a time.”
Johnnie Walker colors
The colors she is referring to are the labels on the world-famous Scotch. Of course, the Johnnie Walker House in Poblacion carries all the available hues, plus a few more that you don't regularly see at most other watering holes. It is the “biggest scotch bar in the Philippines,” after all, according to its reps.
Whisky drinkers—from complete newbies to refined connoisseurs—will find something to appreciate at the House, which offers a spread that ranges from highballs and whiskies with mixers to cocktails, and the Mad Men-esque on the rocks selections. Notable is the bar’s “Rare Drams” set—a whisky flight with Johnnie Walker Blue Label, XR 21, and King George IV. They happen to to be some of the “rarest and most expensive liquids in the brand’s portfolio."
To the benefit of the event’s attendees, Bolzico cracked open a bottle of King George IV—Johnnie Walker’s most prized offering, a uniquely complex whisky that goes off like a firecracker in your mouth.
The Johnnie Walker House aims to offer that sort of unique experience for the rest of its stay in Poblacion.