Five of the world's best whisky experiences

Sydney's subterannean Baxter Inn is a whisky lover's paradise.
Sydney's subterannean Baxter Inn is a whisky lover's paradise. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

The Baxter Inn, Sydney

Hidden in an unmarked alleyway off Clarence Street, down a dubious flight of stairs and behind a nondescript fire door, is Sydney's whisky oasis. This not-so-well-kept secret came to international acclaim when it was named sixth best bar in the World's 50 Best Bars 2015 Awards, and rightly so.

The space is warm and lively with exposed wooden beams and raw brick foundations setting the stage for a charismatic drinking den. A glistening Everest of more than 300 whisky bottles, looming like a beacon behind the bar, affirms The Baxter Inn's reputation as a world class purveyor of the golden nectar.

Alas, you may not spot Bill Murray sipping at the bar, staring down the barrel of a tumbler, but it won't stop you from hoping.

Knowledgeable bar staff assist with the daunting task of navigating this monumental assemblage, tailoring suggestions to suit personal preference, while confidently traversing myriad regional characteristics and styles. Try the Caol Ila 18 Year Old from Islay; rounder and more mature than its 12-year-old brother, but with the distinct smoke and sea spray associated with the region.

The Baxter Inn has a mind-boggling choice of whiskies to mull over.
The Baxter Inn has a mind-boggling choice of whiskies to mull over. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

New York Bar, Tokyo

Made famous by deadpan comedy king Bill Murray and the beautiful Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation, this bar is a must-visit destination for film enthusiasts and whisky aficionados alike. Alas, you may not spot Mr Murray sipping at the bar, staring down the barrel of a tumbler, but it won't stop you from hoping.

Perched on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt, this lounge offers breathtaking views of the city. Try to secure a seat before sunset on a clear day to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji; then order another whisky, sit back, and watch Tokyo transform into a pulsating nocturnal metropolis.

Highlights include nightly jazz, a commendable whisky list and an eclectically adventurous bar menu. The cover charge, dress code and high prices might deter some punters (a burger will set you back about $50), but hey … Bill Murray drinks here.

Head to Tokyo's New York Bar and pretend you're Bill Murray or Scarlett Johansson.
Head to Tokyo's New York Bar and pretend you're Bill Murray or Scarlett Johansson. 

Stitzel-Weller Distillery; and Downtown Louisville, Kentucky

In the heartland of the American whiskey industry, the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery represents pride and pedigree. Now home to the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, bourbon buffs are given a chance to tour the historic premises. The distillery doors first opened on Derby Day in 1935 under the eye of the great Julian 'Pappy' Van Winkle and the site has been home to some of the industry's most iconic brands and characters throughout its time.

Downtown Louisville is conveniently located just five miles away, where one will stumble across a drove of specialty bars celebrating the local tipple. The folks at Haymarket Whiskey Bar have you covered for a good time, with a stronghold of more than 100 bourbons and almost 200 whiskeys. Combined with live music, pinball and a vintage jukebox, these relative newcomers are treading new ground in a bar scene that heralds tradition.

Order a "bourbon and branch" - bourbon mixed with a splash of water sourced from limestone aquifers high up in the branch of the local river. This may sound like a tall order, but branch water is experiencing a resurgence as a bar cart staple, with small entrepreneurial companies bottling limestone-filtered water for this exact purpose.

The Cardhu Distillery in Scotland is every bit as idyllic as you would imagine.
The Cardhu Distillery in Scotland is every bit as idyllic as you would imagine. 

Cardhu Distillery, Scotland

If you're in Scotland and your travel itinerary only grants you the privilege to visit one distillery, Cardhu should be it. Nestled in the heart of Speyside, Cardhu is the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker and the only distillery run by a woman in its early days (this was back in 1824 – which goes to show that women drinking whisky is nothing new!).

Cardhu bottles single malt under its own label but is much better known for supplying whisky to many of Johnnie Walker's top-shelf blends. You'll begin a tour by learning about the history of one John Walker through old memorabilia and photographs before seeing (and smelling) how whisky is malted, mashed, fermented, distilled and matured. The best part for many visitors is at the tour's conclusion when you can taste across the range of award-winning Johnnie Walker blends in a very comfortable lounge (bonus points: see if you can find which former Australian prime minister has autographed the visitors' book).

"What's Your Johnnie Walker" Qantas Pop-up Bar, Sydney

There's no need to trek halfway across the world to taste the range of Johnnie Walker, though. If you're travelling anywhere in Australia via the Qantas Domestic Terminal at Sydney you can find your perfect Scotch whisky blend at the "What's Your Johnnie Walker" pop-up experience, that runs until February 7.

Any chance to taste Johnnie Walker Blue Label is reason enough to get excited, but all Johnnie Walker blends have their own distinct character and the bartenders will help you find the perfect Scotch whisky blend to suit your own palate and preferences by asking you to choose from three flavour profiles and drinking occasions.

Partial to a whisky-based spritz in summer? Perhaps Johnnie Walker Red Label is your drink. Keen for something on the rocks at the end of a long day? Johnnie Walker Black Label might be your go-to. (Interesting fact: a few years ago, Whisky Magazine asked 10 master blenders to name their favourite blend. Nine out of 10 said Johnnie Walker Black Label and the only bloke who didn't, couldn't - because he was the one who made it.)

The "What's Your Johnnie Walker" experience is also happening at Hoyts LUX cinemas in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia until the end of February 2016

Like the airport experience, cinema goers will be surveyed on their favourite combination of food and aromas. Then the Hoyts LUX bartender will conjure a concoction for you to enjoy whilst you watch the latest blockbuster.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.