Many of us associate The Lanesborough hotel with the luxurious world of cognac. Its dark, sultry wood-panelled Library Bar is home to a collection of cognacs dating back to the French Revolution.
That could all be about to change as the historic hotel turns its attention away from cognac (if just for a second), to declare 2018 The Year of the Single Malt in partnership with The Balvenie.
Single malts are so 2018, according to William Grant & Sons' annual report which shows the market is now worth a rather impressive £175m.
Library bar manager Mickael Perron is all in, telling Imbibe that whisky, in many ways, is a more inclusive spirit than others.
'I've always been about being inclusive rather than exclusive, and whisky has a broader spectrum of price and appeal,' says Perron. 'Someone with less cash in their pocket can come and try a more entry-level whisky, and then develop a love and relationship with the category. They can then come back when they have more to spend, and will remember that relationship. The Lanesborough has always been about cognac, and now it's about whisky. Whisky is cool!'
Possibly not so inclusive are the two finest and rare expressions of The Balvenie range that the hotel has just acquired, making it the only hotel in Europe to serve these expressions.
First up, there's a bottle of The Balvenie 50yo - only 131 are available across the globe. The Library Bar will also have the oldest expression of The Balvenie ever released in its cabinet, a 55yo whisky distilled in 1961 and chosen by malt master David Stewart MBE to be bottled as part of the DCS Compendium Chapter 3.
If you're not willing to delve quite as deep into your pocket, The Lanesborough's collection includes classic Speysides and whiskys in cocktail form. In fact, The Library bar's signature cocktail has become the Gaspari Manhattan, made with The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14yo – a whisky matured for 14 years in American oak, before being finished for six months in ex-Caribbean rum casks.
But why the sudden shift in focus? ‘We are spoiled with cognacs,’ explains Perron, ‘but that doesn’t mean that we are not looking for something very special to add to our collection for our guests to enjoy.
'Connecting with our guests is a joy at The Lanesborough, and we are able to do this with whiskies, especially, because the growing interest and excitement for the single malt category is incredible,' he concludes.
The Year of the Single Malt was launched at the hotel in front of the brand, media and key drinks industry players, including long-time malt master David Stewart MBE.
'I’m so pleased to see The Balvenie 50yo and the 1961 single cask whisky from our DCS Collection launch in the hotel and sit alongside our classic whiskies such as the 12yo Double Wood and 21yo Port Wood,' says Stewart.
'The care with which the collection of whiskies has been curated for the Lanesborough’s Year of the Single Malt mirrors the same ethos that I bring to crafting our whiskies at The Balvenie, and to have so many of The Balvenie whiskies here for guests to enjoy is a real honour.'