National Bourbon Day is celebrated annually on 14 June. For fans of America’s world-renowned take on whiskey, this is the day to seek out your favourite tipple.
Unfortunately, National Bourbon Day hasn’t taken off in quite the same way as World Gin Day so finding places to celebrate is a little trickier for this particular celebration.
That isn’t so much of an issue for those living in whiskey’s home country, the US. Officially dubbed “America’s native spirit”, bourbon is quite easy to find in the US. For those living across the Atlantic, it’s not so simple.
In the UK, Irish and Scottish whiskies are similarly easy to track down, but bourbon can be more of a challenge. To help, we’ve put together a guide to where to find some of the best bourbons in London and beyond.
What is bourbon?
Bourbon is a type of American whiskey. Unlike Scottish or Irish whiskies, it is made from fermented corn rather than barley.
There are some very specific requirements for a whiskey to call itself bourbon. These vary from country to country, however most trade bodies agree that a whiskey must be made in the US in order to call itself bourbon. In fact, 95% of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. The drink must also always be from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
The distilling method is also a little different for bourbon. The drink must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and it must be bottled at 40% ABV or more.
Unlike other whiskies, there is no minimum requirement for ageing bourbon. However, in the EU a drink cannot be called a whisky unless it has been distilled for a minimum of three years. Therefore, most bourbons found in Europe are aged.
23 of the best whisky bars in the UK to celebrate National Bourbon Day in:
If you’re looking for a unique National Bourbon Day experience then it’s absolutely worth getting down to Oslo Hackney. The popular bar is playing host to a month-long takeover by Frontier Whiskey Bulleit, one of America’s best-known bourbon brands. They’re launching a month-long limited edition cocktail menu and a week-long burger and bourbon food menu.
Still, even though there’s a bit of time to catch the cocktails and the burgers, the 14th itself will be the day to visit the venue. Local artist Antonella Raimondo from renowned tattoo parlour InkFact will be creating a live mural at the on the day. In addition, there’ll be an educational element as Bulleit brand ambassador Jenna Ba will share her knowledge of the history of bourbon and how to make the best cocktails with it all night.
Now this one is a must-visit. A tiny little whisky bar underneath the famous Milroy’s of Greek Street. The shop above is one of the finest places to buy whiskies from the experts and The Vault is the premier place to enjoy them. It’s a speakeasy of the highest order in the sense that it’s hidden behind a bookcase and is accessible by booking only. For those who enjoy whisky cocktails hand-crafted by the experts, this is a must-visit.
Admittedly this isn’t a whisky-only bar, but it does stock some of the world’s finest whiskies so you shouldn’t fail to find some tasty bourbon here. The Coq d’Argent is right in the middle of the City of London and has a large, bright rooftop bar where you can enjoy sipping one of their fine selection of whiskies. Unfortunately, it’s also a favourite of city bankers and their clients so it’s best to visit either midday or on weekends when it’s less busy.
A really luxury spot to celebrate National Bourbon Day. The De Vere Wokefield Estate is an upmarket hotel and golf club. It has just installed a brand new lounge area dedicated to whisky. The Whiskey Lounge is decked out like an old-fashioned hunting lodge with comfy armchairs and original wood paneling. You’ll be able to find a wide range of top-quality bourbons amongst the huge stocks of premium whiskies available in the lounge. There’s also a food component as the Wokefield Estate is home to a gourmet restaurant where all the dishes are made with top-quality local ingredients.
For those with a taste for bourbon, rye and malt, Great Eastern is a Brighton pub which is worth visiting. With over 100 American whiskies behind the bar, there should be something for everyone. While other entries on this list are fancy, upmarket bars, Great Eastern is a traditional British pub with a real no-frills vibe.
An American-style bar with a huge selection of whiskies on offer. This modern, yet unsophisticated bar is really all about the entertainment, with frequent DJ sets keeping things fresh. Guests can also book cocktail masterclasses to get up close and personal with some of the best cocktails in the house.
Another pub, but this one is a bit different. As well as being a standard pub serving delicious food made from local produce, The Fat Pig is also home to a distillery where staff make their own craft beers. We say that because it shows how much interest and passion for alcohols the folks here have. Whisky drinkers will be pleased to know that the pub also serves a vast selection of whiskies, which include an average of 100 different varieties at any one time. This includes both Scottish and Irish whiskies and bourbons, ryes and malts from America.
An up-to-the-moment independent bar serving all the latest on-trend cocktails and spirits. Located under Plymouth’s iconic Duke Of Cornwall hotel, Tigermilk is a 1920s-themed speakeasy. The ambiance and decor will make visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time to the American Old West and there are plenty of whiskies on offer to help complete the illusion.
Known around Bristol as the go-to whisky spot, The Woods has more than earned its place on this list. There are 400 different whisky bottles in the backroom, filled with everything from bourbon to Scotch, Japanese whisky to rye. There are also occasional whisky masterclasses, which are advertised in advance on social media.
There’s nothing like a 21st Century dive bar. Sure, the Bogiez Bar might look dark and dingy but you won’t find a better selection of bourbons and whiskies in all of Cardiff. If you can get past the heinous Comic Sans font they use on their website, it’s worth checking out Bogiez. They’re also incredibly reasonably priced, so you won’t be paying a fortune like you would at some of the fancy cocktail bars in the city.
Don’t let the name put you off, the No Sign Wine Bar in Swansea also has an enviable selection of whiskies on offer from right around the globe. There are plenty of different bars contained within this location, from the outdoor Terrace to the glorious darkened Vaults. In addition, there’s the Whisky Monday offer. Every Monday, No Sign Wine Bar offers a discount of 10% on all whiskies.
Another classy bar laid out like an old-school drinking lounge, where leather furniture and polished wood abound. This is a side-bar in the same venue as acclaimed cocktail bar Bond No. 28 Tombland. The range of whiskies is second to none and the warm, golden glow of the bar definitely looks like one of the more inviting venues on this list.
With a real focus on American whiskies, this place in Nottingham is the ideal venue to try a few bourbon or rye whiskies. The bar is laid out like an old-fashioned saloon (complete with the saloon doors seen in every Western movie ever made). There are whiskies galore and even a few bar snacks for those with a craving for something edible.
Unfortunately, this upmarket speakeasy is only available to those with a reservation, so it’s quite difficult to get into. Still, the other side of that is that Haycock and Tailbar is uber exclusive and you won’t be hassled by the loathesome characters who frequent other bars in city centres around the UK. Calling this a whisky bar is, admittedly a stretch, as it’s very clearly a cocktail bar. However, there’s an enviable selection of whisky-based cocktails and a special design-your-own old- fashioned menu.
One of Birmingham’s top restaurants takes diners all the way across the pond to enjoy classic food from the American South, like burgers, chicken wings and ribs. However, alongside the restaurant there’s also a huge selection of drinks available. As it stands there are 46 different American whiskies on offer and the menu is constantly being updated to include new ones.
This brand new bar is a real treat for those venturing to Liverpool. It’s an incredible new jazz bar, elegantly furnished with a traditional yet distinctive look. Those who visit can expect live jazz every night of the week (except Sunday when the live music is blues). There’s also an array of over 200 whiskies available to try so no doubt there’ll be something to everyone’s taste. If you’ve ever had a fantasy of feeling like Al Capone when you step into a bar, this is the place to live it out.
Another whisky bar which will have something for everyone. This bright airy venue has a huge range of spirits including gins, vodkas, and, of course, whiskies. The whisky menu is as extensive as you might expect, focusing mostly on Scottish whiskies, but also including plenty of stuff from other cultures. If you’re looking for a bourbon or rye, you’ll find it here. The bar itself is a bright, airy space which makes a refreshing change from the dark, underground places we’ve covered so far.
Located inside one of the finest hotels in York, The Grand’s Whisky Lounge is as opulent and luxurious as you might expect. The menu is pages and pages long, filled with almost every whiskey you could begin to imagine. The whiskey cabinet is filled with over 100 unique bottlings, ranging from common Scotches that every bar worth its salt stocks to pricier, luxury offerings.
Another day, another dive bar. This one is located in Manchester’s thriving Northern Quarter and offers live music and free hot dogs to help you get into the swing of things. There are over 100 American whiskies on offer and you can get an old-fashioned for just £5 between 4pm and 7pm on a Friday. The colourful, quirky decor is sure to lift your spirits and make for a fun evening.
So many whisky lounges on this list, but the Glasshouse’s offering is one of the most unique. It’s got to be one of the few (perhaps the one and only) places in the world where you can order a whisky and a cigar from the same waiter. The stylings of the lounge are very opulent, with tall imposing bookshelves and tough-looking leather chairs. With nearly 70 whiskies collected from only the most premium distillers, this one is a real treat.
This one probably takes the prize for most whiskies on offer with a grand total of around 700 stacked on the shelves behind the bar. You can get expert advice on finding your perfect whisky from the trained bar staff who specialise in finding the right dram for every customer. Obviously, being in Scotland, most of the whiskies on offer are Scotches, but there are a few more global whiskies knocking about too.
Again, you’ll probably struggle to find global whiskies here, but if you’re content with the Scottish variety you won’t find anywhere better. The Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh holds daily whisky tastings and offer traditional Scottish food alongside its whiskies.
A traditional Irish pub that was radically reinvented after an IRA bomb destroyed it. These days, it’s a whole string of exciting venues. The Duke Of York itself is a pub, then there’s the Harp Bar which is a warm, inviting lounge-like pub with a live band venue upstairs, next up is the Dark Horse, a glamorous coffee house which looks almost like a bar itself. Finally, there’s The Friend At Hand, a distillery which doubles as a museum of the history of Irish whiskey. They also make their own whiskey, which is a real treat.