Island life: Ryan Chetiyawardana

Island life: Ryan Chetiyawardana

We send some of the whisky world’s great and good to a desert island. What will they decide to take with them?

People | 26 Apr 2019 | Issue 159 | By Rob Allanson

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Ryan Chetiyawardana (A.K.A Mr Lyan) was named ‘UK bartender of the Year’ twice, and in 2015 was recognised as ‘International Bartender of the Year’. He went on to create not one but two of the World’s Best cocktail bars (White Lyan and Dandelyan) – then shut them at the peak of their prime, pressing the reset button to launch new concepts across London, and more recently the world, with Super Lyan in Amsterdam and more to come.   

Not content with just award-winning bars Ryan also designs cocktail programs for the likes of Death by Burrito, Virgin Airways, The Whisky Show, Cinnamon Club, Rick Stein, Selfridges and Brewdog.

At the heart of his practice is innovation and sustainability. His bar, White Lyan, was the first cocktail bar in the world to feature no perishables, and he went on to continue this focus into his other bars, and two books. Ryan was awarded one of the inaugural ‘Sustainable Spirit Awards’ at Tales of the Cocktail in 2016 for his work on environmentally conscientious practice.  

With all this focus on cocktails you might think Ryan only sees whisky as an ingredient, but those who know him well know they’ll find him happiest with a fine dram in his hand. With all this achievement at such a young age he’s clearly not a man who rests on his laurels, nor it seems settles for the average whisky even when castaway on a desert island.

Whisky #1

Compass Box

The General

John is the best blender in the business (as well as a dear friend), and we’ve had many a discussion about the joys of whisky for bringing people together. I remember Chris (Maybin) coming up to me when we were making cocktails at The Whisky Show and handing me a sample simply saying “you’ll love this”. It was an advance sample of The General, and I still to this day regret not buying cases of it. Harking back to other ‘antique’ blends including the wondrous Lochside Single Blend TWE bottled, as well as my love of old White Horse, Teachers and Walker, The General had a fleeting depth to it that’s rare to find in modern whiskies.

Whisky #2

Bowmore 1964

OB fino cask for Oddbins

Without doubt the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Concentrated, ethereal, endlessly complex – plus more tropical than tropical fruit; ideal for a desert island. I would bathe in this.

Whisky #3


16 Years Old (with some Guinness)

Pound for pound, probably the best bottle (of anything) you can consistently buy around the world. Although not my worry on my very boozy desert island, it’s still a slice of nostalgic comfort for those more troublesome days. Some Guinness, a few drams of Laga 16 and things ease: the adult version of cup of tea and a bacon sarnie.

Whisky #4


12 Years Old

I love Springbank, but I’m so blown away by the whiskies coming out of the Glengyle distillery. Fruity, waxy and complex, but with a gentleness that allows it to sit as a wonderful everyday nip. Also as a bonus, with a lighter blend lost to my selection, it will go ace in a highball alongside the fresh seafood I’m catching and grilling.

Whisky #5



Stranded on a desert island, the notion of time will become very apparent to me (although with the whiskies, the company, fruit and seafood I seem to be setting up for myself, it might be more of a paradise than a crash landing). Having something from my birth year will be excellent for giving some context. I’ve been very close to the Suntory crew since working with them in my early bartending days and this edition was a real standout – delicate and bold in the same breath: it’s a dram you can contemplate over.

A brief luxury

Sparkling water, fire, good company, tea, art, music and something to write/draw with. He’s not asking for much, eh? It does sound rather idyllic though … can we come too Ryan?
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