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A bar in a league of its own – the timeless elegance of Grain Bar.

Updated: May 17, 2023

When it comes to cocktail bars in Australia, specifically within the confines of New South Wales, there are few that play in the same league as Grain Bar.

Pearl in the crown of the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, ever since its conception the attention to detail, veritable passion for craft spirits, curation of rare bottlings and unwavering devotion to hospitality has not only established the venue as a veritable heavyweight on the firmament of cocktail bars, but has created a culture that seems to organically attract like-minded, intrinsically motivated staff.

The large, atmospheric airy space with its rustic décor oozes indulgence with an ample serving of je-ne-sais-quoi as lights twinkle with a flattering softness reflecting from every designed surface, seating arrangements being disarmingly comfy, resulting in an experience that feels refreshingly and distinctly intimate, given its size.

Not to go too Shakespeare-an as to what is in a name but in “Grain” Bar’s case, it is a telling one as subtly, grains in all shapes and variations find themselves omnipresent on both the drinks and food menus.

As if the aforementioned was not enough, a visit to Grain Bar is bound to leave you with a conversation piece – be it based around the boundary pushing innovative concoctions conjured by its team of dedicated mixologists, time-honoured classics or Grain Bar’s pendant to London Connaught Bar’s Martini Trolley, i.e. what constitutes to be one of the most luxurious, customised whisky-tasting trolleys on terra australis, dedicated to the best and rarest The Macallan has to offer alongside a matched offering of artisanal chocolates.

Given the aforementioned and Grain Bar’s inherent energy that invites you to connect with yourself and the people around you, what better place could have been chosen as a backdrop to frame what was going to be the incarnation of the delicious and wonderful world of Glenmorangie as part of Sydney’s Whisky Week with a one night only dessert and whisky pairing.

After easing into the proceedings with an expertly calibrated, light Glenmorangie based cocktail, we were off to the races to sample an array of Grain Bar’s curated savoury bites, including but not limited to Sydney Rock Oysters with Rice Wine Mignonette, Premium Charcuterie, Polenta Chips with Chilli Mayo and Spiced Fried Chicken with Pepitas, the Pavlovian response evoking deliciousness of which adding yet another facet to what Grain Bar has to offer in the realm of culinary offerings.

There is something to be said for the emissions of Scotland’s tallest stills, i.e. the “giraffes” of Glenmorangie, to be running danger of being eclipsed by food offerings, which was certainly the case tonight.

The common denominator of Glenmorangie can be simmered down to all of their variants first undergoing maturation in white oak casks that are specifically sourced and manufactured in the Ozarks.

After letting them air for two years and leasing them out to local distilleries to mature their Bourbon in them, Glenmorangie then uses them to finetune the tail end of the maturation process, with the core expression (yup, the one that Conner MacLeod ordered a double of in the movie Highlander) maturing entirely in ex-bourbon casks, while the Extra Matured Range being finished in a range of sherry, wine and port casks.

Glenmorangie’s 10 Year Old flagship single malt proved to be an exercise par excellence when it comes to easily accessible aperitifs: On approach the nostrils are tickled by a luxurious avalanche of lemony, fruity and slightly floral notes, vetiver and a bramble of berries, rounded out with spicy highlights.

On the palate, the creamy texture unveils honeyed vanilla, butterscotch and strong black coffee nuances, culminating in a mid-length fruity and malty finish.

A definite highlight that bookended the quintet of samples, was one of Glenmorangie’s premium expressions, i.e. Signet, which in terms of the malted barley used is a hybrid between the single estate Cad boll variety and malted chocolate barley, the latter of which is better known as a basis for craft beers.

Distilled twice through Glenmorangie's tall copper-pot stills, it is fabled to be comprised of rare stocks. The nose tantalizes with chocolate raisins and sugared mixed peels.

Toasted spices, bread and butter pudding and golden syrup complement the aforementioned aromas, while a note of Angostura bitters lingers hidden underneath.

On the top of the mouth, cinnamon and chocolatey orange notes dance against a backdrop of honeyed peanuts, delicate smoke and freshly roasted espresso beans.

The seductive, elongated finish leaves one lusting for another dram and makes one relate to whisky luminary Dr. Bill Lumsden’s claim that the Signet is the accomplishment of a "lifetime of experimentation and innovation".

However, what made the tasting experience extra special was that each dram was perfectly paired with a naughtily divine dessert bite specifically created by Grain Bar Four Season's Head Chef to match tasting notes of the respective whiskies, ranging from a Mango Passion Fruit Coconut Profiterole, an exquisite Coffee Éclair, an eye-catching Raspberry Cremeux, a Salted Caramel Friand and the piece de resistance, i.e. a Chocolate & Praline Tart with Yuzu Gel.

An expertly choreographed evening that further substantiated the fact that if you need a jolt of glamour, you could not do yourself a bigger favour than heading to the Four Season’s Grain Bar for the evening as the engaging and knowledgeable staff, the scenic surroundings of Circular Quay, the fellow drinkers it attracts, along with the libations and cocktail list are all equally glossy without lacking substance.


Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of Grain Bar and @kavv.


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