The water of life
at whisky rooms

by grace watson

"If I can teach you one thing, don't wash your whisky glass after a night of drinking." He paused. We sat, brows cocked askance. After more than one college-era evening spent abusing spirits (admittedly low-quality ones), I couldn't quite imagine why someone would want to awake to unkempt glasses, reeking reminders of hazy, possibly embarrassing moments. So why was an expert on the stuff entreating us to let our cups rest untouched? "Come morning, a whole new sensory layer awaits," the whisky residue having breathed and blossomed and developed. It isn't so different, I guess, from the old "hair of the dog," is it?

This type of whisky indulgence differs from some of my experiences. It's less about chugging and cheering, and more about patience, learning, absorbing. Whisky Rooms, down a side street just off Tverskaya, is here to reacquaint us with the ancient beverage in a carefully cultivated, speakeasy-style atmosphere.
The space doesn't exactly resemble a normal bar. It is more of a labyrinthine recreation center, its corridor snaking past museum-like wall displays, a pool hall, and private group rooms. It is a playhouse for grown ups. With little outdoor signage and an uncertain search once inside (the drink counter requires hunting down), you may initially question whether you're in the right place. But friendly employees are there to help, happy to show you around the hidden gem.

A barman escorted us past old and even older bottles, offering background on the precious items and the place itself, formerly members-only, now open to the general public. Membership does include certain benefits, but anyone can come for pool, chess, and plenty to drink. WR's devotion branches out from mere whisky to include excellent cocktail and wine menus, plenty of dining options, and expert-assisted tastings. TMT Clubs was lucky enough to try three off-menu scotches, though it's hard to believe the encyclopedic menu could lack anything.
We started with sipping — well, sniffing (a crucial first step) — Glengarry 12 Year Old, a typically Highland mix of fruity and spicy-sweet notes. From there, it was all about Glen Scotia, one of Campbeltown's three remaining distilleries. Their Double Cask is aged in American oak and finished in European sherry barrels, a combination that alchemizes into a complex balance of amber-colored vanilla, caramel, and fruity sea salt. It was the group's favorite. The tasting finished strong (in flavor and ABV), with Glen Scotia 15 Year Old. Emblematic of the region, the deep and lightly peaty single malt has a thick and oily feeling in the mouth.

Alongside our glasses sat trios of buterbrod and platters topped with spoonfuls of dried fruit and nuts. The scanty display was a testament to the heavy focus on the expert instruction and scotch itself, but, at 7:30 p.m., guests come hungry. The WR kitchen is highly spoken of, though the food doesn't come cheap.

Whether you're a whisky aficionado or a timid newcomer, the relaxed and friendly Whisky Rooms will likely give you something to learn — and will surely give you something good to taste.
Whisky Rooms
Address: Leontievski pereulok, 8