If you find yourself wandering the streets of Shoreditch, London, we highly recommend you put Black Rock on your agenda.
Tucked away in a basement, this unassuming spot has become somewhat of a den for whisky and cocktail fiends like us.
What makes Black Rock special? Apart from being famous for “that wicked Shoreditch vibe”, the good people here pay unrelenting attention to the art of blending, taking things up a whole few notches by focusing on “table whiskies”. Black Rock’s Table Whisky is an ever evolving and changing blend of whiskies. According to Bar Manager Thom Solberg, “The more we tap out at one end, we top up with more at the other end. So a guest has the blend one day and when he/she comes back in a week or two later, it will have changed character and flavour”. In March this year, Black Rock changed the menu and swapped the content of the barrels over. The table whisky moved from the French Limousin Oak barrel into the cherry liqueur seasoned American Oak Barrel, and into the French Oak went a Barrel Aged Mint Julep Cocktail (bourbon, mint, sugar and aromatic bitters). “The interesting thing for us is to see how the cocktail or homemade liqueur seasons the barrel and see how and to what extent it transfers to our blend of whiskies”, said Thom.
At the centre of it all, lies the heart of Black Rock – a half trunk of a beautiful 185-year-old oak tree, which serves as the table, with two flowing arteries of whisky running along the middle, one of which is filled with the Table Whisky. The whisky flows through these streams as smoothly as the conversation around the table, keeping the heart of the bar beating steadily at all times. There is no doubt that this is one of the most beautifully clever installations you’ll ever see.
Black Rock’s constant innovation and experimentation with whiskies, barrels, cocktails, and how each one interacts with the other, is what really sets them apart. Completely focussed on the process and quality, the team puts in tremendous creative efforts in creating special experiences for whisky lovers that go beyond picking a fine bottle of whisky off a shelf.
Black Rock’s cocktails are also focussed largely on whisky. According to Thom, rather than name the cocktails on their menu clever names using puns, they now focus on naming them based on the flavour profile of the whisky in the drink. This is a smart move as it allows guests the opportunity to make a quick decision based on whether the notes appeal to their taste buds and sensibilities.
A recent favourite cocktail at Black Rock has been the Sweet Highball which is based on a Horse’s Neck Cocktail. “To produce it, we ferment a homemade ginger beer over 3-4 days, clarify it with Agar Agar and then carbonate it after adding a little simple syrup and citric acid. We pour this in a long glass with Bulleit Rye whisky, spritz it with aromatic lime oil and garnish with a candied lemon peel”, Thom tells us.
He believes the reason this cocktail has been popular is because it allows a new Whisky drinker the chance to explore the spirit in a mild dose, without an assault on the taste buds. Many guests who walk in are also likely to be in the process of discovering their whiskies and whisky journey and a drink like this allows them an unobtrusive introduction.
While most popular bars boast of an impressive whisky selection, few have come close to achieving what Black Rock has by means of innovation. Constantly experimenting and pushing those boundaries, making every sip count – this is what it takes to craft an unforgettable guest experience. We’ll be visiting them often. We hope you will too.
Black Rock is at 9 Christopher Street, EC2A 2BS
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