Food & Drink

The Not-So-Secret Bar for Learning How to Drink Whisky

A year after it opened, Mandalay continues to lure patrons who want to explore whiskies from around the globe.
IMAGE Medal Elepano
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Mandalay, a whisky and cigar bar concealed along C. Palanca Street, is at once the continuation and a tribute to Kipling’s Whisky and Cigar Bar of the Mandarin Oriental Manila, which closed its doors in 2014.

Friends and partners Indy Villalon (whose father, Pete, was behind Kipling’s) and Luigi Tabuena say that the concept for Mandalay started brewing in their minds when they found out that their favorite bar was bidding farewell. “We wanted to open something that came out of the culture of Kipling’s,” Tabuena says, “but not Kipling’s, per se,” Villalon adds. The two learned how to drink whisky and smoke cigars in the now-defunct watering hole, and they wanted to extend their personal experiences and share it with friends and Manila’s increasingly curious drinking public. “Our market is diametrically split between two different people,” Villalon shares. “There are the [former] partners of Kipling’s who come here, they know what they want. And then there are a lot of young people also who just want to experience whisky for the first time, so we make a big deal out of education. We want people to keep exploring; if they find something that they extremely like and they stick to it, we’re not doing our jobs.”

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Mandalay features East-meets-West interiors

Whereas Kipling’s only had Scotch whiskies on its menu, Mandalay offers whiskies from all over the globe. The meticulously edited list, largely curated by partner and beverage consultant Lee Watson, widely represents single-malt Scotch and also features distillations from other parts of the world, from Japan’s award-winning single malts to Taiwan’s Kavalan and India’s Amrut. The eclectic whisky and cigar selection indeed encourages patrons to tryst with the new, with other spirits such as top-shelf vodka, gin, and rum making an appearance, and a cocktail program for those who like their libations shaken or stirred.

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“Mandalay is a poem by Rudyard Kipling about a guy who wants to be back in Asia because he just misses it,” says Tabuena, and in it, they had found a perfect name that evokes both nostalgia and exploration of what’s hauntingly beautiful. The Mandalay staff are trained to guide you in your evening journey, and the luxe and darkly exotic pan-Asian interiors, with its seductive nooks and recesses, serve as the covert backdrop to your nightfall narrative, whichever summon—romance, a celebration, curiosity, or your thirst—you’re there to heed.

OPL Building Annex, 100 C. Palanca St., Makati; 834.5292.

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