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Sunday, 18 May 2014

Whisky bar review! - Cobbler, West End, Brisbane

There are plenty of bar reviews on the web (yelp etc.) , but I thought I would add my two cents anyway, from a whisky enthusiasts perspective. When I come across a new (to me) whisky bar, I'll post a review of the venue, the staff and the whisky!

Cobbler, 7 Browning St, West End, Brisbane

Let me start off by saying, I love this place, and while I might be seeing it through rose-tinted glasses, If you are in Brisbane and haven't been here, you're definitely missing out.

Cobbler itself could be easily missed, especially at night with the curtains drawn, there is no neon sign or gigantic murals on the outside, they keep it simple and understated. But for those in the know, it almost has it's own magnetic field! Directly opposite the Melbourne hotel, on Browning street, you can pick it by the music, the laughter and the inviting atmosphere permeating through the front door. 

Nicely styled, in a sort of 'steampunk' meets traditional bar way (have a look at the light bulbs!), there's plenty of whisky and cocktail paraphernalia and funky artwork on the walls, with a gorgeous wooden bar and tables, plus some 'chesterfield' (that's for you Hamish) furniture, and a relaxed lounge area upstairs. There is always some funky & retro music pumping as well, whether it's the live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights, or just the standard background music. It can get very busy and a bit cramped in here, but for good reason. 

Martin (owner) and the staff are all very knowledgeable, both on whisky and cocktails, and drinks in general. They know their customers, and have no trouble getting to everyone quickly, through a sea of outstretched arms and legs and heads, while still striving for the utmost quality and handing out sound advice. This is where you can tell the difference between a proper whisky bar, and your standard watering hole which may have found a bottle of Talisker once. Cobbler is also fast gaining a reputation for being one of the best cocktail bars in Brisbane, and while they are fantastic (with some very cool names), for whisky enthusiasts like you & I, we're really just here for the whisky! 

Cobbler has an incredible range, with a 5-6 page list of whiskies on their menu, sorted by region, and with tasting notes for reference, plus a sort of 'difficulty guide' for beginners/advanced etc. which is handy for the novice. Many of these whiskies are hard to find, and many I can honestly say I have never seen in a bar before. While some may be expensive, where else can you try a dram without needing to buy a bottle? And that's assuming you can even find a bottle to buy. I view this place as a tasting opportunity, like a permanent whisky festival. If something blows me away, I will begin search for my own bottle, or keep it on my highlight reel for next time. 

Ranging from Glenfiddich 40yo (check out the price on that one! and other old & rare whiskies, to Bruichladdich Octomore 10yo and Talisker 25yo, and gems like Laphroaig 10yo cask strength, Caol Ila cask strength, Lagavulin 12yo, all the Diageo distiller's editions, plus some unusal offerings like Bunnahabhain Toiteach (my inspiration for buying a bottle), Kilchoman Machir bay & Loch Gorm, and a great range of Japanese (Hakushu peated is next on my list), Australian and American whiskies. There really are too many to mention, and they'll have you going back on the next weekend for more. 

Cobbler does not sit on it's laurels either, they are constantly updating their offerings (follow them on twitter) and refining their menus. They are also one of the only bars in Australia to have a range of the SMWS (Single Malt Whisky Society) bottlings available by the dram, which is fantastic (try the 'flip flops up a chimney' Ardbeg if you're a peat-head).

There truly is more than enough here to please the die-hard enthusiast, and to keep his or her company happy, even those who are not into their whiskies (boo!). They'll even put up with your mates who are a bit simple, and like to play with the candles (that's also for you Hamish)!

Cobbler will also let you BYO food, and a couple of local eateries will deliver food to you, such as Little Greek Taverna, and Bird's Nest Yakitori, both nearby, and both offer fantastic food at a reasonable price. No excuses for not spending the entire evening (or the entire day) in the one place, then.  Plus they have weekly trivia on Mondays, and free cheese for groups of ladies on Saturdays (yes, I kid you not!) until 7pm, and the above-mentioned live jazz on Fridays and most Saturdays really adds to the vibe. 

So, if you're a local or are in Brisbane for more than a few hours, you definitely should head in to Cobbler, try something different, ask the staff for their advice or finally try that hard-to-find dram you've been coveting since you discovered the internet. See you there!

-thanks to google & various for the images-