NEW PARTNER BAR
A love for liquid sunshine in South Africa
This month, we’re headed to Johannesburg, South Africa where you’ll find WhiskyBrother Bar, the most recent addition to our global network of partner bars. We caught up with bar manager, Valentine Maseko, to learn more about Johannesburg’s first and only dedicated whisky bar and his own passion for ‘liquid sunshine’
WORDS: MADELEINE SCHMOLL
By his own admission, Valentine Maseko wasn’t always a big fan of whisky. So how did he end up running a bar packed to the rooftops with the amber nectar?
Valentine’s background in retail initially brought him to the WhiskyBrother retail store in Johannesburg, which he managed. That’s when he had his whisky epiphany.
“I used to be a beer drinker, but it never really sat well with me,” says Valentine. “When I tasted my first whisky I found it very strong, because my palate was still fairly new to the taste.
ABOVE: WhiskyBrother’s gantry houses around 1,350 bottlings
Then when I joined WhiskyBrother it was as if the curtain had been pulled back. I got to taste some very interesting stuff, a lot of it with names I couldn’t even pronounce back then, and my love for the liquid sunshine grew.
“At the time there was no dedicated whisky bar in Johannesburg, which seemed crazy since there is a wonderful whisky community both here and in South Africa at large.
“So the idea of the bar was to offer a world-class whisky experience to Johannesburg whisky lovers, without them having to travel.”
Valentine Maseko describes his love for whisky as ‘liquid sunshine’
Step into WhiskyBrother today and you’ll be greeted by floor-to-ceiling shelving that houses an impressive 1,350 whiskies from over 20 countries, and with new whisky added on a weekly basis. Members have their own lockers, while the seats at the bar offer an eagle-eyed view of the whisky selection that goes all the way to top of the vaulted ceiling. There’s additional table seating behind the bar and an impressive 26-page whisky menu that lists each whisky by country, category, and alphabetically – in addition to every detail available about each bottling.
“The bulk is obviously Scotch whisky, followed by American, Irish and Japanese,” says Valentine. “The selection is roughly equally split between OBs and IBs, as well as covering ‘old and rare’, grain whisky and exclusive WhiskyBrother releases for something you won’t find anywhere else in the world.”
And of course, there’s Society whisky. Before becoming a partner bar, WhiskyBrother Bar already had a selection of SMWS bottlings available which piqued the interest of Society members and non-members alike. “These are generally greeted with curiosity from drinkers who don’t know the SMWS, who then ask about the bottles and numbers. For those that know SMWS, and there are surprisingly many, they immediately get to investigating each bottle and reading the tasting notes in order to make a choice for a dram!
“At the moment we have around 35 SMWS bottlings available, spanning both new and older releases,” he says. “We do not really have a target number in mind, although 100 seems like a good goal! But now that SMWS is in South Africa we will be adding new releases from every Outturn.”
“At the moment we have around 35 SMWS bottlings available. We do not really have a target number in mind, although 100 seems like a good goal”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
To Valentine, WhiskyBrother Bar offers something special for whisky drinkers, no matter where they are in their whisky journey. “The bar for me is a sanctuary for the whisky lover, there is a bit of everything for everyone,” he says.
“You also get a chance to try harder-to-find whiskies that are no longer available at retail, or are just not accessible to most drinkers due to pricing. We love to see new and familiar faces and talk whisky with our patrons.
“We are honoured to join the SMWS family and proud to expand our selection to bring these wonderful whiskies to South Africans.”
“Also, since South Africa – under normal, non-COVID circumstances – is a major tourist destination, we hope that in time we will have lots of visits from international SMWS members.”