My first pilgrimage to Wild About Whisky, located in the quaint little town of Dullstroom a mere 2 hours from Johannesburg, took place about 4 years ago and I am only now putting pen to paper to write about it. Why so long? Well, initially I was just so overawed with my experience that I felt that I couldn’t do it justice. And then life took over and this article has been a constant thorn in my side, until now.
I’ve realized that instead of possibly not doing Steve, Eve and Dave (owners and partners of Wild About Whisky) justice by not fully conveying the incredible time I had there, I was in fact doing them a disservice by not writing about my experience at all. I’m really sorry it took so long guys! Please excuse the gratuitous gushing that is about to follow. Yes, I like the place that much. Here goes…
A friend’s 40th brought us to Dullstroom for his birthday celebrations, and WAW was the star attraction of the weekend. Of course, I planned ahead and secured accommodation at Auldstone House, literally right above the whisky bar. Great accommodation and a few steps away from whisky nirvana! I would have camped out in the bar for the entire stay had my wife (and Steve, Eve and Dave) let me! I did mention grabbing a sleeping bag to them and kipping on the floor, but I got some strange looks so I changed the topic quickly. 🙂
Blink whilst you’re driving past and you’ll miss the place, but once you enter inside this small bar you will be blown away. With over 1200 bottles lining the walls it is nothing short of being a whisky lover’s (wet?) dream.
Wherever you look, the walls are covered with whisky, whisky and more whisky! Order yourself a dram – even better, ask Steve, Eve or Dave to recommend something – and then sit at the bar, sip away quietly and let your eyes run rampant over the bottles.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and more different expressions of Ardbeg! A vast range of Benriach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain for your perusal. Bowmore bottlings coming out your ears! Look at the range of Japanese whiskies to offer! And the Irish, oh the Irish! (I could carry on and list the names of all the whiskies on the walls, but I’ll rather let you discover them yourself when you visit.)
And then you start to spot the independent bottlings… Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) distinctive green bottles with delightfully descriptive monikers for their whiskies, the Old Malt Cask range from Douglas Laing, the Connoisseur’s Choice bottlings. It just goes on and on. Your mind struggles to take it all in, your heart is torn in a hundred different directions…
Now is a good time to strike up a conversation with your hosts…
Steve, Eve and Dave are amongst the most passionate whisky lovers you’re ever likely to meet. And knowledgeable too… They live and breathe whisky, heading over to Scotland – Islay in particular – regularly to tour the distilleries, find new suppliers and simply immerse themselves in the whisky experience.
And then they come back to SA and share their adventures, experiences and whiskies with those that flock to Wild About Whisky. I’ve sat and watched as total newbies to whisky have walked in, sat down and completed a tasting with Steve, Eve and Dave and left converted, with a bottle or two purchased from their retail shop next door, ready to spread the wonder and joy of whisky to others.
Wild About Whisky Retail Shop
A visit to Wild About Whisky isn’t complete until you’ve nipped into the retail shop right next door to the bar to pick up a bottle of the great whisky you’ve just tasted.
The range of whiskies on offer is brilliant and they also stock other merchandise like clothing, whisky books, tasting glasses and more. Just make sure you don’t drink up all your budget at the bar and you’re bound to leave the shop with something interesting to enjoy at home.
Some of the finest Whiskies you’ll ever try
I had some tasting notes from that first visit, but I’ve lost them since. I do however, remember how I *felt* as I drank these drams…
My Holy Grail back in the day… Port Ellen and Brora. I whispered the names in awe and it was at Wild About Whisky that I got to taste them for the very first time. You always remember your first don’t you? Sublime, iconic, worthy of the hype. I’ve been fortunate enough to have tried several other expressions of Port Ellen and Brora over the years, but these two will remain etched in my memory for as long as I walk this earth.
The Bruichladdic X4 + 3 gets its name from a quadruple distilled experiment of whisky that was aged for 3 years. If you’re looking for a mellow dram, this one isn’t for you! But damn, I loved it!
The Octomore and PC7 were enjoyed in the evening with the birthday boy and served to further cement my love of peated whisky. So powerful and yet so subtle at the same time, if you haven’t tried any of the Octomore range do yourself a favour and get down to Wild About Whisky – they have a few for you to try. 😉
And before I knew it, the weekend was over. I don’t think I’m alone when I say you leave Dullstroom and life seems to become more washed out, more mundane and emptier with every mile further you get from Wild About Whisky. And then you start planning your next trip and you get that spring back in your step.
Now it’s up to you… Book accommodation in Dullstroom for at least 1 night, hop into your car and head east from Joburg and keep your eyes open for this sign. When you see it, pull in, walk up the steps to the bar, step over the threshold and tell whoever is behind the bar that I sent you.
Most of all, enjoy a fine dram or two for me.