Mark Ludmon drops in on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar in Edinburgh
For the past 12 years, the Georgian townhouse at 28 Queen Street in Edinburgh’s New Town has been an exclusive bolthole for members of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. After a £300,000 revamp of the building, one part of it is now open to the public – the new Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar on the ground floor. Created in a space that was formerly the members’ restaurant, it is home to a collection of more than 200 rare single malt whiskies and other spirits.
The selection changes regularly, drawing on the new proprietary bottlings released each month by the Society, including some chosen by whisky writer Charles MacLean. Guests can also enjoy whisky cocktails as well as beers from the city’s brewers Alechemy and Edinburgh Beer Factory. Bar food is made up of sharing platters and grills, including pairings with whisky.
Along with the rest of 28 Queen Street, the interior design is by hospitality specialist Surface-id. While retaining the elegant original interiors of the Georgian building, the designers have taken inspiration from the Society’s system of using 12 flavour categories for whiskies, each represented by a different colour coding.
This kaleidoscope can be seen subtly in the differently coloured buttons in the leather of the fixed seating and in the blue of the high stools. On top of the newly installed bar counter, the thin layer of golden-brown marble is based on the hue of whisky. As a backdrop to this classic-style décor is the impressive back bar, with shelves filled with bottles. “As well as being appropriate to the original features, the vision was for the bar to show off the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s whiskies,” adds Surface-id director Iain McArthur.
Along with new-look members’ rooms on the second floor, the transformation has also created a members’ restaurant on the first floor. Providing more space than when it was downstairs, The Dining Room features a bespoke Charles Heidsieck champagne table where people can enjoy a five-course meal matched with different champagnes. On the wall, a 1.5-metre artwork designed by Scott Associates represents the Society’s single cask ethos, made of whisky barrels and holding around 200 of its bottlings.
The revamp of 28 Queen Street is “a hugely exciting step in the history of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society”, says its operations director Jan Damen. “Kaleidoscope is open to all types of visitors, from local whisky fans to international visitors who are just starting out on their whisky journey. The Society is all about exploring the spectrum of flavours within the whisky category and we have one of the biggest selections of rare single malt whisky in the country. More importantly, our selection will change constantly as we release new whiskies each month, providing guests with new flavours of whisky to discover each time they visit.”
Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX
Tel: 0131 220 2044
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Surface-id
Main contractor: Turret Developments
Loose furniture: Source Furniture
Upholstery: BEP (Glasgow)
Bar systems: Bidvest Catering Equipment
Lighting: Blackmoon Lighting
Originally published in the October 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.