Go slightly off the usual bar path of Dongguan to discover a whisky bar.
Ai Lei (艾雷, Islay) Cocktail & Whisky is a recently opened bar in a non-descript part of Dongcheng. To get there, go down a back ally and take the elevator to the fourth floor of an industrial building.
When the elevator doors opened, the soft sounds of house music and the faint smell of whisky and cigars welcomed me.
“I wanted to have a platform for friends and business partners to gather and talk while enjoying whisky,” Alex Zhong, owner of Ai Lei Cocktail & Whisky, said.
Head bartender Ming So is skilled at the art of recommending and creating cocktails.
Jerez was the first drink of the night. A combination of Oloroso sherry, DOM, Pedro Ximenez, orange extract and Talisker Single Malt Scotch is designed for those who want to ease into the world of whisky drinking.
The cocktail was served in a glass smoke-filled container, with a cigar and lemon leaf. The lemon leaf added to the citrus and prolonged the smoked taste. Waves of flavor follow the initial sip but constantly hold faint whisky notes.
The second drink, Eden, is for those who prefer sweet, slightly sour, drinks. It does not use whisky but instead uses sherry. The mixture of apple juice, jasmine tea, orange extract and sherry come in a metal teapot and are poured in matching metal teacups over a sprig of thyme.
The flavor is reminiscent of sweet and sour candy. Eden is an ice-cold refreshing drink, which is recommended before dinner.
It was time for a glass of whisky to top off the night. Zhong recommended a limited release eight-year Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch, which stems from the bar’s namesake region, Islay Island. Lagavulin is a personal favorite of mine, with its strong and distinct smoky-peat taste original to the distillery. I found the eight-year Lagavulin tamer compared to the flagship 16-year one spotted on the shelf.
Ai Lei Cocktail & Whisky is perfect for anyone looking for a relaxed and comfortable new whisky spot.
Address: Shijing Yumizhixiang Hotel (Near Yinquan Hotel) , Dongcheng