Chinaski’s. By Euan.

So if you have ever spent some time in Glasgow and ventured out on the town on a number of occasions then the chances are (depending on your age, taste in music and level of drunkenness) you will have come across The Garage. A multi-storied den of white spirits and dodgy dancing, it is probably the last place a discerning reader of Edinburgh Whisky Blog to be enjoying their evening. However, just two minutes away there is a hidden Glaswegian gem. Found at 239 North Street, Chinaski’s is a whisky bar with a difference.

The bar takes its unusual name of the protagonist from the Charles Bukowski novel ‘Barfly’, and it certainly has enough to keep a whisky minded barfly occupied. The focus here is not on a vast array of single malts, rather an excellent selection of American whiskeys – around 80 are listed on the menu with rarely seen brands such as Bernheim Wheat, Hancock’s Reserve, Henry McKenna, Kentucky Vintage, Noah’s Mill, Old Bardstown and William Walker (to name but a few). Obviously the majority are bourbons, although both Tennessee and rye whiskeys get a nod as well.

Disappointingly, not all of the bourbons listed were actually in stock although as we all know, that’s not an uncommon problem in whisky bars. Prices start at £2.50 for a Jack or Jim, although at this price you could also try rarities like Ancient Age, Cabin Still or Echo Spring. At the other end of the scale a 23 year old Evan Williams weighs in at £11. Whisky comes served in a square, heavy bottomed glass tumbler which I guess reflects the tendency of the clientele to take some ice in their whiskey.

During the course of the evening (between the three of us present I might add!) twelve different bourbons were sampled, and I’ve included very quick tasting notes of the two considered to be best and the worst of the selection below. Chinaski’s has more going for it than just bourbon though – the food is excellent and it also boasts a smoking garden, giving the potential for a classic cigar-bourbon combination. So if you should find yourself on Sauchiehall Street and looking for an escape from (depending on time of day) frantic shoppers and drunken clubbers, or if you simply want to sample a great range of hard-to-find whiskeys then get down to Chinaski’s. You won’t be disappointed.

Tasting time, and seeing as I’m furnishing you with ridiculously brief tasting notes of what I thought were the best and worst whiskies of the night then I should probably reel off the contenders – Virginia Gentleman, Blantons Gold Edition, Cabin Still, Makers Mark Gold Label, David Nicholson 1873 7yo, Eagle Rare Single Barrel, Kentucky Vintage, Heaven Hill 10yo, Old Grandad, Old Charter 10yo, Wild Turkey Rare Breed and Old Esra 7yo.

The stand out from this bunch for me was the Makers Mark Gold Label. Exceptionally mellow, it had a little citrus hint which seems quite unusual for bourbon and went along with the vanilla very nicely. More robust than most of the other whiskies tasted, it lacked the delicate floral note of some but nonetheless was dangerously easy drinking! It was going for £5 a shot so not astronomical in price – especially seeing as it was apparently only exported to Japan, and never properly made it to Western markets (or that’s what my half-arsed online research seemed to suggest).

Now as we all know, there is no such thing as a bad whisky but the one that I would be least happy to find a bottle of under my pillow was the Old Grandad. Bourbon is a sweet drink, but this was taken to extremes – massive maple syrup and treacle on the nose, and outrageous sweetness on the palate. Vanilla gets buried under toffee, and there was almost a whiff of Southern Comfort* in there. But of course that’s just my two cents – hopefully sometime in the future a few more writers from EWB will get across and properly put the products on offer to the test!

Euan

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*Almost everyone has a drink that after an ‘incident’ they simply cannot face again. Now I like to think of myself as a man who gets back on the horse, but if you were to merely waft a Southern Comfort under my nose I would turn a nasty shade of green. The ‘incident’ involved Hogmanay 2005, but due to EWB’s responsible drinking policy should probably not be recounted here. But perhaps that’s why I winced away from Old Grandad…

Chinaski’s

239 North St, Glasgow, Glasgow City G3 7DL, UK

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