Craigellachie. The heart of Speyside. This tiny town straddles the River Spey in the center of the whisky Bermuda triangle. Macallan and Dewar’s are a stones-throw away. Aberlour is a short jaunt to the west. Go north and you’ll find Glen Grant and Glenrothes. Choose the southern path and there, in Dufftown, stand Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Mortlach. I could go on.
It makes sense, then, that one of the best whisky selections in the world hides here in the center, in Craigellachie (pron. creg-EL-ah-key): The Quaich Bar. It’s the kind of place that inspires one to create a series of blog posts dedicated to Scotland’s greatest whisky bars. Thus is born Malt Mansions. I’m excited to share these places with you not only because of their inspirational dedication to Scotland’s national drink, but because this kind of bar is the perfect place to develop an appreciation for single malts. It certainly doesn’t hurt that in such places you’re also surrounded by extremely happy and helpful people. The camaraderie overflows.
The Quaich Bar is a stunner. Housed in the practical Craigellachie Hotel with the River Spey just below its grounds, the Quaich Bar is a cross between Thurston Howell’s study and Robert Burns’s vision of heaven. Bottles line shelves along the upper half of the room while rich, shining woodwork and leather furniture grace the bottom half. Forest green walls add a brooding, cozy feel that I imagine must be perfect for sipping whisky on those cold rainy days.
There’s little typical about the Quaich Bar. In fact, it’s more like your legendarily rich uncle’s sitting room than a bar. There’s no music, no leisure games, nobody sane drinking anything but fine single malt, and no room! The Quaich Bar can probably hold 20 people comfortably, but anymore than that and you’ll be taking your dram somewhere else in the hotel. I expect this to be a problem when I return to Speyside in a few weeks during the Spirit of Speyside festival.
Let’s get down to the goods, shall we? The Quaich bar offers more than 700 different single malt Scotch whiskies. Hmm, I’ve tried maybe 100 in my lifetime. Obviously I’ve got work to do. You can browse the bottles on the wall or look at a whisky menu which could be used as a booster seat in a time of need. Prices are a bit higher than usual, but then you’re paying for the ambience and selection. A dram of Black Bowmore goes for a cool £275 – let me know how it is! Regulars can leave their bottles at the bar where they are kept behind lock and key for when they return. That’s just insanely awesome.
The Quaich Bar is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon or night trying those whiskies you’ve always wanted to but didn’t want to shell out the cash for a bottle. It’s a comfortable, cozy, and very Scottish place. On my last visit here I tasted a selection of the Flora & Fauna bottles because I knew I would buy a couple later in the trip. The F&F series contains single malts from distilleries that generally use all of their spirit in blends. We can’t buy these bottles in the States and they’re fairly rare in the UK. I wound up taking home bottles of Mortlach and Dailuaine, but the Linkwood was also quite good.
If a stop in Speyside is part of your itinerary (and it should be), make sure you stop at the Quaich Bar in the Craigellachie Hotel. Say hello to Lucas for me if you see him behind the bar. Sláinte!