The Baxter Inn Review; A Whisky Lover's Perspective
If you’re looking for a whisky bar with a relaxed, unpretentious approach to whisky, and chock full of some of the best malts in the world, look no further than The Baxter Inn. First impressions? Before we get there, we must first find it. In other words, some may find the location out of the way, [an unmarked alley off Clarence Street, a few more twists and turns, sans signage to mark the basement entrance, which can be found at the back of a building].
Find the entrance and walk through to the end of the laneway
Turn right, and enter down the stairs
Incognito…and whisky focused!
But with nearly 1,000 whiskies to choose from, I don’t mind the search! Once inside, you will appreciate the whole ‘cloak & dagger’ feel, which adds to the theme of the place…or if you built up a sweat searching for it, at least you’ll be in the right place to quench your thirst! This is no ordinary whisky den. The Baxter reputation is owing to their focus on and love of single malt. The extensive list and knowledgeable bar staff are there to support the love of whisky, and the rest follows.
The American Speakeasy…
More on the theme… The Baxter Inn décor references 1920s America during the prohibition era when a ban was placed on the production, sale and importation of alcohol. If you were one of the poor souls looking for a wee nip or dram of whisky, you were forced to buy it illegally from a bootlegger, or a secret location that served and sold alcohol called a “speakeasy”. In fact, speakeasies were so incognito, that a special password was required for entry.
On A Side Note:
After the ban was lifted, the term speakeasy was replaced with ‘gin joint’ which was a common phrase during WWII. You may have heard of Bogie’s famous line from the 1942 film classic, Casablanca:
“Of all the gin-joints in all the towns, in all the world,
she walks into mine” - Humphrey Bogart, 1942
Think Bonnie & Clyde… without the ‘mob’
Atmosphere says a lot about a place, which is why so many whisky lovers are attracted to The Baxter Inn. The prohibition theme is akin to a living history museum, a place where you can imagine yourself there during the ‘dry’ years. If one considers how far society has come to accept the availability of alcohol, it won’t be long before you establish an appreciation for whisky, and for all the long past devotees who felt it was worth keeping…even if you ended up behind bars!
So, what whiskies does The Baxter Inn carry? Before I answer that, how long have you got to read this?! Seriously, this little bar has a lot of people talking about it…and for good reason. Reaching # 6 of the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2015, the Baxter’s is well stocked with hundreds of malts to choose from…hence the floor to ceiling whisky wall and ladder! Part of the experience is watching the bar staff climb the mountain for your malt. However, just a tip…when things get busy behind there, you may not want to be the one to ask for the bottle at the highest peak!
Create your own ‘malt-tail’
For those who have yet to sample the nectar of the gods, do not fret. Baxter’s has you covered. Non-whisky beverages include other spirits, wine and cocktails and ‘malt-tails’, which might be a fun way to introduce friends to whisky. In fact, the knowledgeable bar staff are trained to help you concoct a cocktail or ‘malt-tail’ of your own creation. Another brilliant feature of Baxter’s is the separate whisky room. It offers a more intimate setting for the sampling of exceptionally rare and aged malts [e.g. Macallan’s 40 year in Sherry].
Brilliant bar staff!
Busy, busy, busy are the Baxter staff, who are world-class mixologists. They run the gauntlet of that 10-metre-long bar and have earned the badge of honour for whisky and ‘malt-tail’ knowledge, as well as being efficient and attentive to their patrons. Having a drink list for hundreds of whiskies is one of the reasons patrons prefer to ask the bar staff for suggestions. It saves time spent flipping through pages of whiskies, giving you more time to enjoy your malt.
Let bygone eras be bygone eras…
Following in the footsteps of GenX, the Millennials are continuing to lead the way to change, and drinking whisky is just one of those major changes in our society. Long past are the days when slowly savouring a fine malt, tended to be reserved for the privileged, served neat or on the rocks. The fundamental truth behind whisky’s popularity is that there is something for everyone. The challenge is tasting them all to find the one for you.
…malts that would make any aficionado drool…
But with the rise of whisky-centric bars popping up all over the globe, you don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy a wee dram. This establishment has a fine collection of malts that would make any aficionado’s mouth drool. The Baxter Inn stocks whisky from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, America, etc.
Skip the Queues
Based on the information above, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Baxter’s is a busy bar…all week. The past five o’clock patrons are coming in after work, while the semi-formal types heading down for a dram or ‘mock-tail’ before an evening out. Late night crowd attract students etc. but mostly on weekends. It is therefore noteworthy to suggest you arrive early in the evening or you may be faced with a bit of a queue outside and inside at the bar.
A Minimal Website Means Baxter’s has More Time for You!
Now, to those internet savvy whisky lovers, should you feel the need to go online to check out Baxter’s website, you may want to give it a pass and just head over instead. If you’re used to big, beautiful websites, chock-full of glossy photos, drinks list, menu and other details, you may be disappointed. In my opinion, the minimalist site befits the prohibition – clandestine ‘feel’ to the place. The Baxter Inn website may look bare bones but, in all fairness, it’s not their website that you’ll be drooling over! And here’s the best part… Unlike those patrons of the 1920s speakeasies, you don’t need a password to enter!