In a country known for its wine, Bascule Bar in Cape Town’s historic Cape Grace Hotel is certainly making the case for whisky. And scotch. And bourbon.
Whisky was a passion of the hotel’s previous owner, Charles
Brand. But there were few spots in the city where one could find a range of quality
single malts. “Charles’s dream was to fix this, and so the Bascule Bar
was born,” said Michael Liffmann, Cape Grace’s food and beverage manager. “And some of the world’s more rare, well-loved
whiskies were brought to South Africa for everyone to enjoy.”
space looks out on a private marina on the city’s Victoria
and Alfred Waterfront, full
of gleaming yachts from all over the world. Inside, the cosy, couch-filled bar
and lounge houses more than 400 different blends and malts from South Africa,
Ireland, Scotland, United States, Wales, Australia and Japan, making Bascule
Bar home to the most whisky in one spot in all of South Africa, a country that is the fifth largest consumer of whisky in the world.
The menu is
divided into several categories, including rare and single malt, Lowlands, Highlands,
Speyside, Isle of Islay, Cambelton, Island, Irish, American and Canadian. For
the repeat visitor, Bascule also has a whisky club (annual fee 3,500 rand)
where members receive an engraved crystal glass and their own whisky locker,
plus invites to exclusive events and lectures. Members are the only customers
allowed to take their bottle to the table and pour their own drinks.
the “water of life” (whisky’s literal Gaelic translation) can develop their
palates and learn about the history and tradition behind the process of
distilling, maturing and blending with a tasting flight. Even folks who have
done whisky tastings in the past can learn a thing or two. When I told Bradley
Jacobs, Bascule’s senior floor manager, that I generally drink whisky or scotch
on the rocks, he had me sample the entire flight three ways: neat, with a few
drops of water and on ice. As he promised, adding a touch of water allowed the
flavours to develop — I noticed a lot more secondary notes — and softened the
burn of the alcohol. Since then I’ve ordered my scotch or whisky neat, and
added water to my liking.
offers whisky tastings, starting at 175 rand and priced according to the age of
the whisky. You’ll get a selection of six, including single malts, blended varieties
and bourbons from around the world, plus a light food pairing that goes beyond
the usual mixed nuts and crackers. I was surprised at how one whisky’s briny
undertones came out when paired with smoked salmon; a heavily smoked, peaty
whisky was matched with pungent blue cheese. Others at
the tasting I attended claimed not to like brown liquor at the outset, but left
with a newfound appreciation for it — and we all left with a list of unusual whiskies to buy
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the size of Bascule
Bar's collection and the price of the tasting. This has been corrected.