The team behind White Lyan in Shoreditch have never been ones to stand still, but perhaps their next trick is the most surprising of all, as they revealed to Imbibe that the bar as we know it will close next year.
Speaking at a preview of their new menu concept, called 'Heaps Primal Bro', which will be in place for the next 10 weeks, Mr Lyan's Iain Griffiths said: 'For the last three years we've operated under the ethos of nothing we use being perishable, of everything being pre-batched, but we were getting bored, and we were no longer challenged with that.
'So we floated the notion in one of our meetings that if White Lyan was a normal bar, how would we then create cocktails? Because of who we are and what we do and the success of Dandelyan, we thought "create a concept", so we brainstormed ideas and concepts, and came up with five, so it's a new menu every 10 weeks for the next year, and this time next year we’ll start again.
'There's only 12 months left of White Lyan. After that we'll change it all completely. New name, new concept, new direction, everything.
'This is our chance to go out with a bang and show everything that we've developed, and I think to a degree the influence that we've had over the industry as a whole, put everything at the forefront for a year, and create a reason to come back more frequently.'
The new menu is inspired by animals' primal senses, and how they relate to the world.
The 5pm Lullaby is designed as a drink to help de-stress the drinker after a long day at work, with Mr Lyan Bourbon, candelilla wax, rye vermouth and bedtime bitters, the latter of which contains ingredients with a calming effect, such as liquorice root and holy basil. It's a rather bitter, earthy take on a Boulevardier, with a hint of the bar's old drink the Beeswax Old Fashioned in there.
Evil Twins, meanwhile, is a nod to our ability through evolution and memory to know what's poisonous to us, but that a lot of those poisonous things are closely related to ingredients that are safe to ingest. Containing Mr Lyan Elderberry Rum, triple fig, peach and fennel tea and kernel bitters, you can certainly taste the rich fig and peach characters, as well as a strong almond note – a tip of the hat to the fact that bitter almonds contain cyanide.
There are 12 drinks in total on the new menu, which will be available until the start of December, when the next concept, 'Waste Not, Want Not, Live Lots' will come in.
'Too many people decided that [White Lyan] was a box-ticking exercise and didn’t really see it for its worth, so we're going to treat it as a normal bar and create concepts, I think we can show a greater worth for everything that we're doing with it,' explained Griffiths.
'It's still our same ethos, but I guess previously when we created it it was like "right, we don't use ice and citrus, how can we create tiki drinks without using ice or citrus?" and then it was "we don't use ice and citrus, how can we do our heaps mad shit?" whereas a lot of people know that we don't use ice and citrus, and it was never done to be shocking, but at the same time it's lost its shock value, so it was like, cool, everyone's used to this now. Now let's treat it as a normal bar. If White Lyan was practised all around the world, how would we make this bar unique? We'd create concepts and do fun stuff.
'This one is Heaps Primal Bro, and the next one will be completely sustainable with zero waste, and each of the menus builds in a new element, and in all honesty the final 10 weeks of next year is going out with a bang. It’s going to be a lot of fun.'
Following the final menu concept next year, the bar will open on a limited bookings basis and 'become a creative development space and will house groundbreaking collaborations for the Mr Lyan team with some of the world's leading chefs, pioneers, experimental centres and food labs'.
'White Lyan is three years old on Monday,' muses Griffiths. 'It's been a good three years, but we want to make sure that this last year is going to be the most important and impactful year that we’ve ever done.'