Nothing at The Fife Arms, the Highland hotel in the village of Braemar, Scotland, is to be expected – and this is true of its latest reveal: Bertie’s Whisky Bar. The sumptuously elegant and glamourous whisky bar is named in honor of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII, also known as ‘Bertie’. Inspired by the famous Royal bon viveur, known for his notoriously spirited behavior, the new whisky bar at the Fife Arms embraces all of this much-loved monarch’s extravagance, appetite for life and excessive spirit in every sense. Bertie’s is a celebration of whisky and this hedonistic heir, a gregarious and larger than life character who played fast and loose with the rules, had a love of opulence and all the wonders of the world.
A whisky for each day of the year
Bertie’s is like no other whisky bar, in fact, there is no ‘bar’ at Bertie’s. Instead, guests will lose themselves in a labyrinth of whisky bottles, arranged like books on shelves, backlit in a lustrous amber casting a seductive glow across the room. Bertie’s can be said to be a ‘whisky library’ where guests are actively encouraged to discover, wander and browse with bartenders as ‘librarians’ to answer questions and make suggestions.
There are 365 whiskies, one for each day of the year, unusually arranged by flavor profile: Fragrant, Fruity, Rich and Smoky – rather than by name, age, reputation or region. Eighty five percent of the menu will be Scotch whiskies, with the rest coming from around the world. The experience has been designed for the novice as much as for the expert – and to be generous, comfortable and opulent. Bertie’s guests discover the finest and rarest drams of the world, complete with librarian ladders and trolleys for an engaging and personalized style of service. The collection of whiskies at Bertie’s are constantly be refreshed. This sense of discovery is at the heart of Bertie’s. Guests will learn about a whole host of whiskies, different grains, distillation, techniques, species of oak and other woods.
Curating the whiskies by flavor, especially for those less familiar with whisky, makes a large collection less intimidating, especially when enhanced by conversations with Bertie’s knowledgeable ‘whisky sommeliers’. They guide guests through this jewel box of all the best whiskies in the world, undiscovered regions, whether it is a find from Finland, a gem from Israel, Canada or New Zealand, or a ‘secret’ rare remaining bottle of a limited collection not available on the open market. Bertie’s will offer the rarest single cask whiskies. Each single cask whisky is unique and once it is gone, it is gone. There are however some whiskies which are doubly rare, as the distilleries they come from have now closed, making supplies finite. Ultra-rare drams that can be experienced at Bertie’s include the likes of Caperdonich, Imperial and Pittyvaich.
A choice of four-dram whisky flights is also available. The extravagant ‘Edwardian Delights’ selection appropriately mirrors Bertie’s love of the fine things in life and the richer styles of the time – including Craigellachie 17 year old, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Redbreast 15 year old and, of course, Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve.
Bertie’s offers a complementing tasting menu – filled with delicacies, along with a small whisky cocktail menu. An immersive whisky tasting program is also be available, for the adventurous at heart.
The interiors - “A supremely comfortable and exquisitely glamorous bar…”
Bertie’s has been designed by Russell Sage Studio, the team responsible for the much talked about interiors of the rest of the hotel. Russell explains that coming into Bertie’s is “like entering an alchemist’s shop, shelves burgeoning with tinctures – with a library of beautifully illuminated whisky bottles which in turn cast an amber glow around the room and its guests.”
Open from 3pm to 3am, one of the most striking features of Bertie’s interior design is the incredible lighting, conceived so the room is always welcoming, creating an intimate atmosphere. Later in the evening the lights turn to a smoldering red, as the ambiance becomes ever more relaxed. There are even uplighters in the cocktail tables, so the whisky glimmers as it is poured into the glasses.
King Edward VII was famous for his love of opulence; he would certainly have approved of the bespoke and antique oak furniture, noting the specially designed Whisky Keep and original coins embedded decoratively in the furniture, featuring his own noble profile. The textures exude his extravagance with furniture lushly upholstered in soft velvet, mohair and leather, plenty of rich tassels and trims and plump cushions. Sparkling antique glassware, original wall lights and table lamps and twinkling brass and crystal all add to the ‘glow effect’ in the room. The walls and ceiling are embellished by scenic painter Mark Sands, whose work is featured elsewhere in the hotel, to look like antique leather, with a rich deep paint finish through the rest of the room.
The Fife Arms Braemar Whisky
To celebrate the opening of Bertie’s Whisky Bar, The Fife Arms has commissioned its own whisky. Working with Adelphi Distillery to create a blended whisky, The Fife Arms Braemar Whisky launched at the opening of Bertie’s - reflecting the style and flavor of whiskies which would have existed when The Fife Arms was built in the late Victoria and Edwardian era. These flavors were slightly fuller in style, with a little smoke coming through. The Fife Arms Braemar Whisky retails at just under £100 a bottle and is available for purchase in the U.S.
It is hoped that Prince Bertie would have felt very at home in this most individual of whisky bars in this most extraordinary of Highland hotels – sitting back by the roaring fire and embracing the glamorous surroundings, enjoying a cigar with a dram or two. A fitting homage to a fun-loving monarch, a true diplomat known as ‘The Uncle of Europe’ – and an occasional drinker.