Undoubtedly one of Scotland’s finest creations, adored and loved not only by its own people and master blenders, but also by a ever growing international audience.
I’ve always been proud of all things Scottish, and take great pleasure in seeing Scottish products throughout the world on my travels. Living and working in Switzerland has afforded me the opportunity to get a bit more under the skin of what it really is that draw people to the Scottish Whiskey Industry.
Wither it’s the romantic picture so many people across the world have of the traditional Scotsman, be that tucked up by his wood fire with his trusty dog curled by his side after a hard days work on his boat at sea, or just the simple reality of the normal working man dropping in on his local after a long day for a quick chinwag with the other men before heading back to the wife, the appeal and attraction has always been apparent across all age and social ranges.
This week I took the time to explore a bit further the relationship between the Swiss and Whiskey, and spoke to the people working here in the industry. From my experiences in Bern over the past year I’ve drawn up a conclusive list of the three best places to enjoy a nice dram in Bern.
Coming in at third place on my list, Kreissaal Whisky Bar.
This wonderful cosy bar is open exclusively in the evening’s, Tuesday – Saturday and offers a setting with a difference. A beautiful old sandstone building with the appeal of a quirky new york ‘happening’ joint, this two-floor bar was a former Maternity Unit before being converted to its present use. Bar Manager Michael Hugi took the time out to speak to me about the bar.
“We cater to a very diverse audience, from students, artists to businessmen, we are here to provide excellence in our service. We only want to be a bar, nothing more”
That philosophy reflects well upon the running of the building, and with 50 different Whiskey’s from around the world to choose from, Kreissaal is a place you don’t have to ‘fit into’ to be there, what they provide is a quality service that makes you want to come back time and time again. If you want a good bar to enjoy a fine whiskey, this is one of the places in Bern you definitely want to add to your itinerary. Here’s Michael’s pick of three Whiskey’s he would recommend:
Coming in at Second place on my list, The Bellevue Palace.
Originally built-in 1865 by Friedrich Oswald, almost twenty years after Bern was designated the nation’s capital, the current building visitors today see was rebuilt into a larger hotel by Friedrich’s son Phillip Osswald in 1911, taking 21 months to build.
Executive Assistant Manager Roman Codina sat down with me at the summer terrace, to discuss the history and philosophy of the bar and hotel as it now stands.
“From the building’s beginnings back in 1911, the hotel has survived two world wars and seen both side’s hold secretive talks here throughout both periods.”
“The Bellevue Palace is a 5 star hotel, it is ingrained within our philosophy that the service we provide is of an apparelled 5 star experience, but where we differ from other hotels in our category, we aim not to have a snobbish picture of the service we run. The building is in the care of the Swiss Government, which was gifted to the Government in 1988 upon the 75th anniversary of the hotel, and the management of the Hotel is run by The Victoria-Jungfrau Collection.”
“The kind of clientele you will find here ranges from politicians on official state visits, writers and rock stars, as well as family groups enjoying the wonderful sights of Europe.Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Johnny Cash are amongst the long list of international guests and dignitaries to of stayed here”.
The setting and incredible levels of sophistication evident throughout the hotel is what makes it truly special, situated right in the heart of Bern, it offers a unique position for visitors to enjoy views across the city and further surrounding areas from the famous Summer Terrace. As well as an outside bar for guests to enjoy breathtaking views over to The Alps (Jungfrau and The Eiger are in clear view on a good day), there is an inside bar & fumoir for guests to enjoy a good dram and a fine cigar during the cold winter months.
Chef de Bar Franco Federico gave me a private tour and explained “the wide variety of visitors we have to the bar always return time and time again”, and with the incredible attention to detail and knowledge this man has it is little wonder this is the case, I was extremely impressed by the professionalism and passion Franco oozes for his line of work. The Summer terrace is open daily from 9am through until 1.30am (10am opening Sundays) in the spring/summer seasons, and throughout the autumn/winter season guests can enjoy the wonderful services of Franco and his team in the Bellevue Bar daily from 9am through to midnight.
He gave me his own personal recommendation of three popular whiskey’s visitors would want to try on a visit to the Bellevue:
And finally, coming in at the number one spot, The Kornhaus Keller.
Built between 1711 and 1718, this ornate sandstone building from the Baroque period is a true architectural wonder full of charm and the wow factor.
If there’s one place you want to guarantee a visit to whilst in Bern, not just for a sampling of their 170 plus whiskeys, but to fully appreciate the splendour and magnificence of this building and enjoy the friendly and professional service on offer, this is the number one place to go.
Manager Sandro Riva sat down with me to discuss what makes the Kornhaus Keller so special over a glass of GlenDronach Whiskey.
“One of the factors that makes the Kornhaus Keller so special, is we have such a diverse range of costumers coming here, wither it’s tourists here to soak up the atmosphere, students and passers-by enjoying the sun-rays on the terrace, or our regulars – we have lots of politicians, embassy staff and local Bernese people who frequent the bar and restaurant. Each and every one of them is treated with the same high quality of service and made to feel comfortable and welcome.”
Throughout the year there are several high-profile event’s that take place, including the New Years Eve Dinner, live DJ and saxophone players throughout the winter season, twice a year during easter time the entire downstairs restaurant is cleared to host Club nights, and throughout Spring/Summer the Arkaden Bar (meaning arches bar) opens up for guests to sit outside and enjoy the fine weather over a meal or drink. There is also the added bonus of an inside fumoir for guests to enjoy a fine cigar, with the convenience of not having to brave the elements during the cold and blustery months.
Chef de Bar Christian Stoop joined Sandro and I to explain more about the incredible whiskey collection available here.
“As Sandro mentioned earlier we have over 170 whiskeys available for guests, around 70 of them are Scottish and whiskey from Islay accounts for roughly 30% of the whiskey on our ever-changing and diverse menu.”
“Our knowledgable staff provide a service that is both unparalleled in quality and delivery, and allows for guests to have a memorable experience of their time here – which is what brings back our guests time and time again”
Christian would recommend the following Whiskey’s as his personal selection for visitors to the Kornhaus:
The Balvenie is a truly special Whiskey, maturing for 17 years in a rum cask, this whisky has subtle tones of Caribbean fruit with a touch of honey to the palette and there is no mistaking the scent of the rum cask it has grown up in. A mild whiskey to start the night off, it certainly packs a punch and makes for a great after dinner or evening drink. Whiskey tasting sessions are available to book for groups, follow the link to Kornhaus in the title or phone (0041) 031 372 72 72 for bookings in advance of your visit.
Until the next time, my thank’s to all at The Kornhaus Keller, Kreissaal Bar & The Bellevue Palace for their assistance in the making of this article, thank you for reading and a very happy whiskey tasting to all of you who will hopefully be booking your trip to Bern in the not so distant future – with a clear picture of where to visit for a good dram.