The absence of a dress code at Whisgars (Silom) emphasizes the easy-going philosophy of a clever combination of bar, pub, and gentleman’s clubby Christopher Scott Dixon
The upscale corner of Silom and Surasak in Bangkok has become even more interesting with the appearance of a new Whisgars (Whisky and Cigars) venue on the site of the old Jameson’s pub. It is the fourth in a chain in the city launched by American born Eddy Guerra, a founder of the brand.
From the moment you step through the portico of Whisgars Silom (981 Silom, Bangkok; Tel: 02-661-3220; BTS Surasak), you are transported back to the ‘Roaring 20s’ as you set eyes on a speakeasy themed bar with fractured real brick walls, subdued lighting and attentive, but never obtrusive, smart, waist coated staff. Soothing jazz music purrs as you settle into large leather sofas, which hug low coffee tables — a mode of furniture that encourages conversation. A red felt pool table nestles in one corner just to the rear of the bar serving area.
Although the main focus is premium whisky and cigars, a secret door in one of the walls leads through a curtained corridor to a seductively dark and plush cocktail lounge called Belle’s. You almost expect to knock three times, or have to give a password for entry as you take note of more comfortable seating and walls adorned with framed black and white photographs including some kings of cool-Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Opulent chandeliers dangle from above. There is an impressive list of 20 classic and 20 signature cocktails with evocative prohibition type names such as Spifflicated and Rum Runner.
My other half and I started with a refreshingly sweet signature-Goldigger-gin, calvados, orange cardamom, syrup and a hint of lime. Personal and quality service is integral to Whisgars and we then enjoyed bespoke cocktails prepared by an expert mixer. Mine was Monkey Shoulder (3 malt blended whisky), passion fruit vanilla, and honey. My wife enjoyed her own special-Sailor Jerry spiced rum, raspberry, hazelnut, and aloe vera.
A neat walk-in closet-like humidor is lined with boxes of hand rolled cigars mainly from Honduras, The Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. Prices range from THB 300 to THB 1,800 with the cigars positioned according to flavor levels. There are also 48 individual lockers of which half are already bought up for customers to purchase in-house stock and benefit from discounts and future promotions.
Visitors are encouraged to discuss their smoking habits and what they have eaten, or will eat, as this can affect the flavor experience of the cigars.
As whisky novices we were given a lesson in gentle persuasion something every customer receives when deciding which whiskeys to try. Without exception the passion of the staff for the drink is evident, eyes glow, and their words become poetic, as they talk of the different flavors, ingredients, and origins. Slowly and lovingly, the mysteries and enduring appeal of this spirit were revealed to us.
American writer Raymond Chandler once said, “There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.” To test his theory, well that was my excuse, we embarked on a liquid ‘Island Tour’ flight-five single malts from the major Scottish whiskey making regions made by the Macleods distillery: Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Island, and Islay.
Speyside had a delightful fruity aroma, Highland was gentle to the palate, you could almost smell the sea and hear the crashing of the waves in the Island sample and Islay packed a punch, but my personal favourite was the smooth Lowland which travelled well from lips to throat.
Under absolutely no duress and smiling happily by this time, we accepted the invitation to try four more — a fragrant 12-year-old Japanese Nikka Taketsuru, a most pleasing Scottish Smokehead, and intriguingly medicinal Lagavulin, both from Islay. To finish, we indulged with a sweet and sleek 287 from New York. Much as I admire Mr. Chandler–one of my favorite writers–I have to say all were good, no matter how you spell whiskey or whisky.
The diversity of clientele is as eclectic as the mix of drinks, comprising Thais, ex-pats, business people, tourists, and those who live or work in the local area. The absence of a dress code emphasizes the easy-going philosophy of a clever combination of bar, pub, and gentleman’s club. Shorts or suits, shoes or sneakers, men and women, young and old, all are welcome.
To round off a splendid evening, we ate a selection of food from a menu especially prepared by the neighboring Holiday Inn: delicious chicken and cheese quesadilla, followed by spicy Thai pork balls and a generously sized Quattro Formaggi pizza.
Whisgars Silom makes whiskey and cigars trendy again!