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8 Essential Whisky Places in Metro Manila

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IMAGE Artu Nepomuceno
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Whisky has come a long way, from its secretive beginnings in the 15th century, to the widespread popularity it enjoys today. In the Philippines, this distilled liquor has built a reputation for itself as the drink of choice of the social, political, and financial elite (Who could forget the rumors of a certain president’s “midnight cabinet” where its members would imbibe on bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label?) and its consumption became a status symbol of sorts.

However, a growing moneyed and well-travelled middle class has allowed whisky to become more accepted in the mainstream. Today, Metro Manila is home to numerous bars offering a wide selection of excellent whiskies from all over the world to be enjoyed in different settings. Whether it’s enjoying a well-made whisky-based cocktail at one of the several speakeasies scattered over the Metro, or mulling on life over a generous dram in a quiet corner of a whisky bar, whisky consumption has boomed in the Philippines. 

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Mandalay Whiskeys and Cigars

Hidden somewhere in the grounds of the pub and restaurant Belle and Dragon is Mandalay Whiskeys and Cigars. This speakeasy broke into the scene in 2015 and has become one of the best-kept secrets in the metro. Named after Rudyard Kipling’s poem, this speakeasy combines the opulence of the East and the West, a style that is also echoed in its whisky selection. Here, high-end single-malt scotches, bourbons, and rye whiskies stand shoulder to shoulder with well-respected whiskies from Taiwan, India, and Japan. One can go for the peat monsters of Islay such as the venerable Lagavulin, or the sweeter finish of Kavalan Concertmaster.

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Mandalay is at 100 Don Carlos Palanca, Legazpi Village, Makati City.


1824

The year 1824 is special for Scotch whisky as this marked the start of legal operations of the first distilleries in Scotland, the home of whisky legends such as the Macallan and Glenlivet. 1824 exudes a distinct Old-World vibe thanks to the muted gray tones and heavy use of wood in the interiors. The place lends itself well to the quiet enjoyment of whiskies, whether by one’s self or with a few friends. Newcomers to the world of whiskies can try whisky flights from different distilleries of Scotland to find their preferred scotch. Whiskies and cigars are a classic pairing, and 1824 leaves guests spoiled for choice with their selection of cigars to go with the whiskies. Whether it is the local Tabacalera or Don Juan Urquijo, to imported Cuban cigars such as Cohiba or Montecristo, a good cigar and whisky pairing complements each other and lends to an evening of contemplative enjoyment. Who says drinking alone is a bad thing?

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1824 is at 2/F Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Avenue, Urdaneta, Makati City.


LIT

In recent years, Japanese whisky has enjoyed a massive boom around the globe. This spike in interest prompted Francis Hasegawa and his partners to open LIT Japanese Whisky Bar in 2015 and the establishment has become the go-to place for Filipinos looking for their Japanese whisky fix. From Suntorys to Nikkas; Hibikis to Yoichis, LIT features a dizzying selection of Japanese whiskies. The Japanese are known for their meticulousness and this attention to detail is highlighted in LIT with its bartenders hand-carving balls of ice that nestle into each of their respective glasses. More than a bar, LIT has become a temple of sorts to Japanese whisky and Japanese bartending philosophy.

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Lit is at G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.


The Curator

Whisky cocktails might be seen as an affront to high-end whiskies by some purists, but those who have tried The Curator’s cocktails could argue that a good whisky-based cocktail is a treat in itself. This coffee shop tucked in the back of a wine store in Palanca Street turns into a bar when the sun sets. A small menu outlining some of their cocktails helps newcomers out. However, the true magic happens when you leave the choice of drink up to the whims of the talented bartenders behind the counters. A variation of a whisky sour with a layer of iodine-rich Laphroig floating on top? Done. How about a twist on the classic Boulevardier? No problem. Rest assured that each drink is treated with respect. The Curator placed 16th best bar in Asia for a reason.

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The Curator is at 134 Legaspi Corner Don Carlos Palanca Street, Inside Cyrano Wine Bar, Legazpi Village, Makati City.


OTO

This newly opened music-themed bar is still finding their footing in Poblacion, and while their menu is far from finished, you can't go wrong with a bar list curated by The Curator's David Ong. They have an extensive range of Japanese single malts, as well, as small-batch bourbons.

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OTO is at G/F 5880 Enriquez Street, Poblacion, Makati City.


Long Bar

Raffles' is owning gin with their bespoke gin designed with London-based Sipsmith, but they haven't turned their backs on whisky. Behind the bar is a tantalizing array of everything from Canadian (Canadian Club, Crown Royal), bourbon (Wild Turkey 8 Years, Maker's Mark, Knob Creek 9 Years), single malt (Glenlivet, Macallan 12 Years, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Oban 14), scotch, Tennessee (Jack Daniel's, Gentleman Jack), Irish (Jameson, Bushmill), Japanese (Suntory), and more. You can ask their bartender, Orman Bag-ao, to surprise you.

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Long Bar is at Raffles Hotel, 1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue, San Lorenzo, Makati City.


Chotto Matte

This Japanese den specializes in highballs, made using with kakubin and soju. While you can enjoy their liquor nice and neat, those who have been acquainted with The Raintree Group knows that their cocktails are always worth a glass or five. The library of Suntory and Nikka bottles promises a diverse drinking experience. Make sure to leave room for the whisky sodas, too.

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Chotto Matte is at G/F Net Park Building, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.


78-53-86

Number combinations are harder to memorize that names. However, 78-53-86 is starting to be ingrained in the minds of Q.C. residents as one of the hidden gems for lovers of music and whisky. Located along White Plains Ave., 78-53-86 is a haven for vinyl lovers, with a staggering collection of recordings serving as a backdrop to the bar. Smokehead, Aberlour, Craigelachie, Hakushu, Hibiki, Maker’s Mark, the selection of whiskies is as eclectic as the vinyls on display. After all, there is nothing more relaxing than ending the day by enjoying a double of your favorite whisky while listening to some tunes. Pat Metheny Group and Yamazaki anyone?

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78-53-86 is at White Plains West, 42 Katipunan Avenue, White Plains, Quezon City.

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Anton Delos Reyes
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