- 20 Oct 2017 6:51 AM
Just before jumping into this top five list, a few more words about the amazing local Whisky & Fine Spirits Show, which was such a great occasion to taste and enjoy rare and unique drinks which many consumers have never heard of before.
Beyond the whiskies from all around the world, and so not just Scotland, there were French, English and Spanish rum varieties, hand-crafted gin specialties, plus Armagnac, calvados and special cognac brands were also presented.
In total this year there were 49 spirit stands showcasing more than 100 premium spirit brands. There were 25 foreign Brand Ambassadors from Scotland, Ireland, France, Japan and even from Taiwan and Venezuela, altogether holding 32 Master class seminars which revealed the secrets of various spirits specialties, heritages and traditions.
A special treat this year was Mr. Iain Lindsay OBE, the British Ambassador to Hungary, hosting a fantastic pre-Whisky Show reception in his private residence for exhibitors of the event and VIP guests
- click here to read all about it.
Ok now sit back and strap in as we take a tour of the best whisky watering holes in this wonderful city.
Every single expat in the city who likes a single malt knows The Caley. In previous articles I’ve tended to stay away from the obvious establishments, but talking here about whisky in Budapest and not mentioning The Caledonia would be like speaking about The Titanic and not mentioning that giant iceberg.
This is an authentic Scottish bar, that not only serves up a fine selection of whisky by the glass, they have their own whisky shop too, where they have just about every single or blended malt imaginable, from Scottish to Irish to Japanese.
Go for: Jura Superstition (Single malt, Scotland)
Go to: Mozsár u. 9, 1066 Budapest
This stylish restaurant and bar may not seem like an ideal spot for us whisky drinkers but you’d be surprised. I was. Amongst the exposed brick, delicate overhead lighting and the spacious courtyard, I found myself looking up and being overwhelmed by an incredible top shelf selection of whiskey’s.
You’ll find Laphroaig, Glenfiddich, Talisker and Macallan all just an order away. I’d recommend pairing your whisky with a water as their cheapest beer comes in at HUF 850, and that’s for a Borsodi, however the food is superb here and it’s a great little spot to visit all year round.
Go for: Nikka All Malt (Blended malt, Japan)
Go to: Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Budapest
Situated on a side street just off Nagymező u, Wunder is a cracking wee gem of a bar that is a perfect hiding place for Budapest’s harsh winter months. Descend a steep set of stairs into the basement pub and you will be blown away by their beer and whisky selection. In fact when it comes to whisky, few bars can rival Wunder’s incredible drinks list. Their main focus is on Scotch. Everything from Highland Park to Bruichladdich the classic laddie in it’s distinctive blue and white bottle is available.
The pub is decorated with hundreds of whisky boxes and designer hop lampshades. The low lighting and darkened corners, are ideal for a quiet conversation with close friends. A recent discovery of mine and I know I will spend an inordinate amount of time here in the next few years.
Go for: Oban 14 years (Single Malt, Scotland)
Go to: Zichy Jenő u. 41, 1066 Budapest
A relative new comer to the Budapest drinking scene, Black Swan opened their doors to the public in June of this year. Located in the city’s party zone, Black Swan’s primary focus is on cocktails and gastronomy, however where you find these two things, you will also find whisky. The staff are fashionably presented in black leather aprons that reminded me somewhat (in a good way) of the post-apocalyptic world of 12 Monkeys.
Black Swan is a gorgeous looking bar and exactly the type of place the city needs. As for the whisky, where do I start? There is so much of the stuff that I could barely decide what to take. If you’re feeling adventurous also try a plate of prawn popcorn with your wee dram.
Go for: White oak Akashi (Blended, Japan)
Go to: Klauzál u. 32, 1072 Budapest
The first thing you will notice about Pharma is how small the place is. At a push you could fit about 20 people around the bar and you’d still barely have room to move your arms. However, this intimacy is what makes Pharma so special. Enjoy it while you can because as this joint’s popularity grows, it’s surely only a matter of time before a move to bigger premises is on the cards.
Like Black Swan, Pharma is all about cocktails. Good ones. That doesn’t mean they won’t take mercy on a whisky drinker like myself if I ask nicely. Order a glass of the copper coloured malt and after that you are away and ready for an exhilarating night to take hold.
Go for: The Arran Malt (Single Malt, Scotland)
Go to: Kazinczy u. 35, 1075 Budapest
+1 for the road, as they say:
Good Spirits Bar
At this mega location for whisky lovers they offer around 300 different types to choose from, including Indian & Hungarian whisky’s that are always worth a taste. If you can’t brave a blended malt straight or on the rocks, then choose one of their legendary whisky cocktails.
It's an intimate joint that will have you rubbing shoulders and chin-wagging with some of the city’s most interesting characters. The Good Spirit staff sure know their stuff - they're the ones behind the Whisky Show - and they'll gladly offer advice if you don’t already know your Arran from your Jura.
Go for: Kilchoman Sanaig (Single malt, Scotland)
Go to: Veres Pálné street 7. (Nyári Pálné street corner), 1053 Budapest
Finally, I have a confession to make, I may be from Scotland but I rarely drink whisky. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the brown stuff. I always keep a semi expensive bottle at home but it will last me a good few years. The thing is I have two rules when it comes to enjoying a tipple.
One, it must be a special occasion. That could be a birthday, a wedding or a glorious night out. My second rule is this, I tend to stay away from bottom shelf whisky’s.
This is not to say I am a snob when it comes to Scotland’s national drink, it’s just the likes of Famous Grouse and Johnnie Walker Red just don’t exactly do it for me. That doesn’t mean every time I have a whisky I am ordering 50-year-old Dalmore (in fact I’ve never tried it) but I’d rather spend 2-3k on a very good glass of decent stuff, than fight my way through something just for the sake of having a whisky.
Words by Joe McCann for XpatLoop.com