If you’re an avowed scotch and coke drinker or think whisky is best served on the rocks then its probably safe for you to skip this article. But for those of us who like a wee dram of something more interesting than Johnny Walker, I want to turn you on to the best places in Brisbane to stock your drinks cabinet with Scotland’s Finest. And if you’re really adventurous, there are local retailers who can also provide you with International whiskies. Here’s a few of my favourites:
Grand Central Cellars - Brisbane CBD
Grand Central Cellars at Grand Central Hotel is my local, and their selection of whiskies would keep the most dedicated scotch drinker going for a very long time with their wide range of interesting bottles. Not only will you find a really great selection of scotch whisky including single malts, blended malts and rarities, but if you crane your neck up to the very top of the whisky shelves you’ll see some of the most interesting very old whiskies available locally. They also have a great selection from smaller producers, including Australian whisky makers like Lark and Compass Box. Recently they added a selection of Japanese whiskies, including Nikka to their range.
The staff are more than happy to let you have a leisurely browse through the selection, despite the lack of room to manoeuvre around the tiny store. They are also very accommodating about sourcing your favourite dram from their network of suppliers.
Stewarts Wine Co - Ascot, The Barracks Paddington & Portside Wharf Hamilton
With whisky savant Lance Currey on staff, Stewarts have put together a massive range of scotch whisky, with the best range of offer at the newly opened store at The Barracks, Paddington. Hell, this store has a great range of pretty much everything! Great prices on champagne, awesome specials on wine and spirits and cover all the bases of big name whiskies right through to some more unusual bottles. You’ll find Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Bowmore as well as a nice range of rarities from Macallan and much, much more. A challenger for the title of Best Whisky Range in Brisbane.
Stewarts Wine Co. website
Spiro’s - Toowong
Spirits importer Neil Dixon is responsible for the excellent selection of hard to find whiskies on offer at Spiro’s Toowong. Looking much like any other suburban bottleshop, a closer look behind the counter reveals the most impressive range of Japanese whiskies in Brisbane. Not only that, Neil can source other rare and exotic spirits including fine gins, a very international range of vodkas and many other unusual liqueurs and spirits. Best time to visit is on Saturday mornings, when Neil will take the time to guide you through whats on offer. Cloudland, The Bowery and The Lark all call on Neil for exotic bottles.
Spiro’s bottleshops Neil’s website
Other notable mentions:
Cru Cellar – James Street Market, New Farm
This is a great place for browsing for more unusual wines and spirits with extremely knowledgable and passionate staff. If they don’t have the whisky you’re after, they will probably be able to tell you who does.
Wine @ Era – Cnr Melbourne & Merivale Streets, South Brisbane
Before you even step inside you know this place is going to wreak havoc with your credit card! Whilst there is a strong emphasis on wine and beer, there is an enormous range of pretty much everything alcoholic. Their range of whiskies covers all the important bases.
Purple Palate – Queens Street, Brisbane CBD
A recent entrant with a mere 3 – 4 months of trading under its belt, the buyers at Purple Palate here really know their stuff. Its handy being able to pop next door to Bar Barossa and taste some of the fine whiskies offered for retail prices in the bottleshop, although you might find it hard to leave. As the name suggests, they are also the best place in Brisbane for sourcing Barossa gems.
Vintage Cellars – various locations
While there are some signficant gaps in the range they have available, Vintage Cellars deserve an honorable mention here simply as they are the main stockists of the fabulous Bruichaddich range in Australia. Add yourself to their mailing list to keep updated on the great whisky education events they run throughout the year. They’ll spam you a little, but it’ll be worth it.
Where to Avoid
Big box liquor retailers Dan Murphys and First Choice Liquor Superstores (brought to you by Woolies & Coles respectively) both claim to have the widest range of whisky outside Scotland when in reality you’ll only find an at best average range of garden variety whiskies distributed by giants like Diageo and Suntory. Whilst they claim to have cheaper prices, often you’ll find the same or better prices elsewhere, and a better buying experience too. Only recommended for conservative whisky drinkers and coupon shoppers.
Not Sure About Whisky?
If you’re keen to learn more about whisky, or you don’t know where to start, the Queensland Malt Whisky Society is a great way to explore all types of whisky in a relaxed, informal setting without doing your dosh on a bottle you may not like. Monthly meetings are held at various locations around Brisbane. Leave a note in the comments if you’d like more information.