Bars

A slice of paradise

We recently asked for nominations for our ‘great whisky bars of the world' award. On the opposite page is the list of the first recipients. Here Damian Riley Smith reports on one of the best
By Damian Riley-Smith
Cape Town lives up to every visitor’s preconception; it is magnificent, stunning, exciting. And while you can experience all these sensual experiences at different points and times throughout the city, they are perhaps all best brought together at Bascule, the whisky bar in the Cape Grace hotel.It is the jewel in the Cape Grace (www.capegrace.com) crown, lurkiing beneath the hotel like the captain’s quarters in the heart of some mighty ship. Opened in 2000, the Bascule set out to be the best whisky bar in Africa, and quite clearly meets this objective with flying colours.The bar stocks more than 400 different whiskies at any one time (442 at the current count) with whiskies from every producing country, including South Africa’s very own Three Ships.Seating arcs round like a horseshoe under the hotel providing nooks and crannies filled with local business people and international holidaymakers. Cape Town is a truly cosmopolitan city, and the Bascule attracts more than its fair share of whisky enthusiasts, celebrities and business folk.The large range of whisky is not the only reason the Bascule lures so many whisky lovers – there’s also its permanent dedication to the enjoyment of whisky which makes it stand out.For starters there is the whisky club, started in 2001, with a loyal following mainly of Capetonians who meet regularly to enjoy their favourite drink. On joining each member receives a bottle bin carved in to the bar wall in which to store his or her own whisky, the right to an annual private evening in the lounge, and the opportunity to meet like-minded friends throughout the year.Then there is the bar team, led by Soma Dennis (with more than 20 years’ bar experience), who regularly indulge customers in one of three different hour long whisky tastings.Beginners can enjoy four scotches, an Irish and a bourbon introduction for 140 Rand (£12/$20); intermediates sample the same whiskies with some stunning food; and finally there is the sommelier’s choice where you select your own perfect tasting.The kitchens bring some great matches – Glen Garioch 21 years old, delicious with lightly smoked salmon, and Benrinnes 15 years old, perfectly complemented with a Cape Grace chocolate truffle.And when the taste buds are truly fired up the Bascule can round off those sensory pleasures with its range of cigars. Whether Cuban or Dominican, new or aged, the Bascule offers it all. You can enjoy your cigar both inside the bar or on the terrace, the latter offering one of the best views of Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain.Time your terrace visit right and you can relax overlooking the marina as the gin palaces lollop in the water, Cape Town life bustles by and the sound of clinking glasses herald another round of one of Bascule’s 442 whiskies.Truly a slice of perfection.