Black Rock whisky bar - not your average bar. For starters it doesn't even have a bar!
Black Rock whisky bar is located in Shoreditch in London. When you arrive there is nothing but an unassuming sign hanging above a staircase. You'd be forgiven for not even knowing it's there and instead focusing on "Sack, The Devils Darling" one of Black Rock's sister bars located directly above it. Upon descending the stairs and entering Black Rock you find yourself in a brand new style of whisky bar...
Opened in 2016 Black Rock is part of the Fluid Movement "a collective of bartenders and bar operators who specialise in creating concepts and experiences that leave our guests in awe". I had the chance to talk with the bar Manager, Thomas Solberg and according to him the idea behind the bar was to fill a gap in the market. At other whisky bars your given a sometimes extensive menu of whiskies with little to no information and expected to know enough already to be able to find what you want. The menu is essentially a tool used by staff so that they don't have to sell to you; instead you pick what you want and if you get it wrong the onus is on you.
At Black Rock they made a strategic decision to:
A.) Not have an actual bar - once again a bar acts as a barrier between the staff and the customer.
B.) Not have a menu - OK that ones not strictly true as there is a menu of cocktails, but there is not a whisky menu.
With no bar the staff mingle with the customers, talking, advising and selling them whisky. This is further enhanced by the lack of a menu; instead whisky is kept in 3 cabinets. Each cabinet is broken down by flavour profiles such as fruity or smoky and also from light to heavy. This means you can easily look for a whisky you'd like to try based on your palate rather than just reading from a list. With staff interacting with customers there's always someone to help you with this as well.
Another quirk of the bar is the pricing structure. Instead of having the embarrassment of having to constantly ask staff how much a whisky is before you buy it they have a simply for system. One dot = £7, two dots = £9 and three dots = £11 (all 35ml measures). There are some whiskies with a gold dot on them that are more expensive but staff are quick to let you know their cost.
Lastly I couldn't talk about Black Rock without mentioning their 185 year old oak tree table. Along the length of this monumental centre piece are two channels covered in glass. One contains a whisky cocktail, the other contains the house blend which is managed like a solera or infinity bottle. Not only is this a great centre piece but it also acts as a demonstration of how interaction with oak affects whisky as it ages as well as talking about evaporation and the angels share as you see the condensation building on the glass covers. Both of the cocktail and house blend are available for just £6 a measure.
I could go on and on about this place and I think Thomas would have happily chatted away for hours if he'd had the time. I will round this off though by saying Black Rock is definitely somewhere to visit when you're in London. It's unique and it's trying to break down barriers and make whisky both affordable and accessible. Please follow the links below to see their website and to follow them on social media.