Friday, 22 January 2010

Rejected writing.

Here's some writing I was commissioned to do by the magazine. They ejected it because I've written it in the first person. Well that and the fact that I don't actually know anything about what I'm talking about and sometimes I don't use real sentences.

I was told I had to go to 7 different places in Phnom Penh and write about what whiskies they had for sale.

They're not gunna run with this piece so I figured you might enjoy reading it.


Aristocrat Bar in Naga World.

The first stop on my quest to find the best place to drink whisky in Phnom Penh was in fact the biggest building in Cambodia; Naga World. Situated on the first floor is Aristocrat, the lavishly upholstered Air-conditioned home of high end drinking. I positioned myself along side the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the gaming floors.

Not only is there a large selection of rare and imported whisky on offer but cigar enthusiasts might also be interested to know that Aristocrat also houses Phnom Penh’s only walk in humidor.

As far as whisky goes you could go for the reasonably priced 18-year-old Glenfiddich for US$6 a glass. Or alternatively if you’re a real high-roller or maybe if you’ve managed to walk away from the tables smiling following a big win then you could treat yourself to a bottle of 38 year old Chivas Regal Royal Salute for US$1515. The price is reflective of the quality and I’m assured that the sweet buttery flavour and long satisfying finish of this alcoholic masterpiece could only be matched by a couple of other blends worldwide. This may very well be the finest whisky in Cambodia.

Rory’s Pub.

33 Preah Ang Makhak Vann

After one look inside the door of Rory’s pub you can tell exactly what the theme is. To be honest the shamrocks and lepricons give it away. As you might expect from an Irish themed pub the range of whisky on sale is fairly extensive.

I settled on a Bushmills US$3.50 distilled and bottled in Northern Ireland.

A dark and murky looking liquid. The aroma reminded me of being a teenager sneaking shots from a bottle in my dad’s sock draw. I imagine that this drink is usually reserved for Irishmen and sailors or for those made from slightly stronger stuff. The perfect drink for anyone who wants to end his or her night by arm wrestling the barman.

La Residence

22-24 Street 214

Set back from the main road La Residence offers a sublime break from the bustle of the city. The comfortable bar offers beautiful garden views through any of the many French windows. The drinks list is fairly extensive but there was definitely more focus on cocktails than whisky.

However the whisky on offer definitely hit the mark.

Johnny Walker Blue Label US$12. This blend has a slightly lighter colour with a mild welcoming aroma. Soft on the pallet with a kick that leaves you in no doubt as to the quality.

Van’s Restaurant

5 Street 102

The open roof terrace or first floor balcony feels like an upmarket oasis as the darkness of early evening begins to creep along the horizon. A secluded private hideaway located right in the middle of town. The staff here are particularly helpful and attentive and even the menu had a particular touch of class to it.

In terms of alcoholic drinks I think Van’s is also more cocktail orientated than whisky but the classics are all there. Jim Beam or Wild Turkey for US$6.50 or like me you could try the Gold Label for US$16. A smooth refined drinking experience that warms the chest and brings a smile to the lips with an aftertaste that oozes class.

Elephant Bar at Raffles.

92, Daun Penh

Luxurious Elephant bar plays host to many a drinking westerner. Predominantly hotel guests mixed into a few of Phnom Penh’s expat business elite. Offering a very respectable range of premium scotch and a wide variety of single malts.

I went for the 10-year-old Aberlour US$16. The barman explained that ice was available as some people find this particular whisky to have quite a kick. However I’m no barbarian so I took mine straight up. A beautifully rich golden coloured spirit with the kick of something that’s worth the money. The soft fruity aroma gives way to the smooth and creamy taste with a soft finish that warms the insides long after the drink is finished.

Green Vespa.

95 Sisowath Quay

If you don’t think that whisky and motorbikes are natural bedfellows then you’ve obviously never tried to visit over half a dozen restaurants and bars across Phnom Penh on a one-day quest to find the best place to drink whisky in the city.

Which leads me to the Green Vespa. Where both whisky and motorbikes (or more specifically scooters) are both well represented.

An expertly crafted list of Scottish, Irish and American whiskies are available all specifically chosen for their quality. Something else guaranteed to bring a smile to your face is the price. Most blends are only US$2.25 per glass and Johnnie Walker Gold is only US$4.

If you ask the barman for his informed opinion then he’ll tell you what he told me. The Scottish ones are the best. Under his suggestion I went for a 10 year old Laphroaig. The delicate aroma of Scottish heather is soon accompanied by the earthy, nutty taste of 200 years of distilling brilliance.

Back of a Tuk-tuk

Now no Cambodian whisky drinking experience would be complete without a sampling of the domestic product. Mekong Whisky around US$1.75 a bottle. Although offering a lower alcoholic volume than many of the other blends mentioned, Mekong still definitely packs a punch.

Mekong is available in most bars and restaurants across the city but I chose to drink mine in the back of a tuk-tuk going up and down the side of the Mekong River. Occasional stops were made so as my driver could momentarily join me in the back for a quick sniffle.

The first taste felt more like rum than whisky but after 2 or 3 the drink was sliding down my throat like a greased Khmer moto-driver through hot rush hour traffic. My drinking buddy also helped add to what felt like an extremely Cambodian experience.