Sunday, 26 January 2014

Belfast Whisky Retailers

Since starting this blog I've had a few different people ask me to recommend where is good to buy decent whisky in Belfast.  It may, or may not, come as a shock to hear that Belfast is still very much behind the times when it comes to buying good single malts, grains and blends.  It's also very much the same problem when it comes to the drinking of good whisky but what is also clear is that we seem to be catching up.  Slowly but surely.

In order to help the budding whisky enthusiasts of Belfast I shall endeavour to highlight where I feel the best places are to buy and drink the spirit we all love the most.  I shall begin with this update where I shall cover the buying side of things by showcasing where to buy and where to avoid.  I shall also categorise these retailers under certain headlines to try define them to each drinkers personal taste.

For info I shall add web links to each retailer at the very end.

Here we go...

"CREAM OF THE CROP" - The Vineyard, 375-377 Ormeau Rd, Belfast

Located on the ever busy Ormeau Road, in South Belfast, is "The Vineyard".  Now I could be seen as being a touch biased in my top selection, as this is also my local off sales, but in my opinion it truly is the best in Belfast for buying top notch whiskies.  

They boast a fine range of drams and go a bit further than your typical entry level whiskies.  They are the only retailer, I can find, that have a full range of Teeling whiskies and to accompany these they have an excellent selection of other Irish brands including most from Midleton, Bushmills and Cooley / Kilbeggan.
Fine range of Irish whiskies - The Vineyard

On the Scotch side of things they stock another fine range with Ardbeg, Edradour, Laphroaig and Glenfarclas the best represented.  The Scotch they have in stock would be better than your entry level malts but not up into the crazy, prestige, collectors bottles.

Scotch cabinet - The Vineyard
On top of what they have in store they can also provide the service of "If we don't have it, we'll try and get it".  I recently tested this out when looking for a bottle of Bruichladdich Islay Barley.  They were able to source this for me and I even had an option of choosing when I'd like it to arrive.  Now, if you want a bottle ASAP then be prepared to pay for it but if you can hang on until they are putting in their own bulk order then you should be able to get what you're after at a reasonable price.  I found my bottle to be the same price as most online retailers but without the cost of P&P which is still a huge saving in my eyes.

The only slight criticism I have is that when I popped in a few weeks ago they had nothing in terms of world whiskies but in opposition to this I know this is very different in the run up to key events, like Christmas, when their cabinets are close to bursting point.

"DECENT RANGE" - Makro, Kingsway, Belfast

Makro may be a retailer that is completely forgotten about when thinking about getting your hands on decent whisky.  It could be a combination of being out of the way and a misconception of thinking you need a Makro card to buy anything in store.  While the latter is true for the main store the off sales operates a different system where you can buy anything you like as long as it's not in bulk which is perfect for us who are only looking for a bottle or two.

Now, whilst there's nothing really here to blow your mind there is enough here to give you a little choice.  Again, as with all retailers, world whisky is not represented at all but then again I did say we were behind the times.

"WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON" - The Wine Company, 303-305 Ormeau Rd, Belfast

This is one of two retailers I've listed as worth keeping an eye on for different reasons.

I have added the The Wine Company as, whilst their selection is small, they had a few bottles not seen anywhere else.  These were, Tamdhu, Glenrothes and The Laddie Ten.  

Maybe over time this could be a retailer who can rival The Vineyard for choice and something that little bit different.  It certainly would make sense as they are already their rivals geographically.

"ALSO WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON" - Gapwines, 642 Antrim Rd, Belfast
                                                                also at - 75a Belfast Road, Carrickfergus

Established in 2003, Gapwines prides itself as being one of Belfast's leading independent wine merchants.  They also stock a fine selection of craft beers from both local producers and further afield.

In addition they organise various events throughout the year which are held in partnership with The Bay Tree restaurant in Holywood, County Down.  These are tasting nights that showcase a certain type drink whilst pairing it with fine food from the restaurant.  

Now whilst the selection was a touch sparse, when I attended the store, I have added this retailer onto the list as it appears they could come up with a surprise or two around Christmas and Father's day and their tasting events are definitely worth watching out for as well.

When I attended the shop I also got the chance to speak with Peter McBride of Gapwines who confirmed that should the interest in whisky increase they are more than ready to meet demand and react to the market.  All good in my view so get out there and start asking.  

"BEST SUPERMARKET" - Marks and Spencer, Forestside, Upper Galwally, Belfast
                                                                  Donegall Place, Belfast City Centre

The simple reason why I have selected M&S ahead of Asda, Tescos and Sainsburys is again for the ability to get something that little bit different.

They stock a Glengoyne 14 and a Glenfarclas 2003 vintage, both of which are exclusive to M&S.  In addition they have Compass Box - Spice Tree, the Irish blend Writers Tears and a single malt from the English Whisky Co. of St. Georges Distillery.  To accompany these they also have a nice range of aged, own brand whiskies from the Highland, Islay and Speyside regions. 

Each store has a couple of nice little tasting gift sets and the city centre branch impresses with the additions of Balblair '03, Kilchoman "Machir Bay", Compass Box "Great King Street" and anCnoc.

"OTHER SUPERMARKETS" - Asda, Tescos and Sainsburys

Each of these has their own plus points.  

Asda has a good range of single malts and I shall have an updated list of what's available next week but I can say that they have their own range of seriously old blends named Tasgall with a 25 year old setting you back £50 and a 30 year old costing £60.  I think these are pretty good prices but they may come down further.  If they do I'll update this again.

Sainsburys have all the main Irish whiskies covered along with a good range of Grouse and Grants but not much in the way of Scottish single malts but, as of 04/12/14, they did have Aberlour 10 year old on offer at £20.

Tescos have a pretty standard range but have got some excellent offers on at the moment (04/12/14) with the highlights being Cardhu "Gold Reserve" - £30, Auchentoshan "American Oak" - £25, Laphroaig "Select" - £25, Old Pulteney 12 year old - £25 and Singleton "Spey Cascade" - £25.

Where these retailers really come into their own though is with offers and discounts.  Throughout the year each will have different deals on their whiskies and it's not just at Christmas and Father's day.  While they may not have the selection of Makro, or the quality of The Vineyard they will beat anybody for price should the malt you're after be on offer.  My advice for shopping at these stores is simple….keep your eyes on their offers and snap them up when they arrive.

One last point I'll mention is that their range can change from store to store so be sure to call into various stores if you happen to be passing.

"THE COLLECTOR'S PARADISE" - Lavery's off sales, Bradbury Place, Belfast

If money is no object then this is the store for you.

Whilst they have some affordable whiskies in store the majority of their cabinets are stocked with bottles starting at the £100 price range going all the way up towards the £500 price range.

Glenfiddich 30yr old, old Midleton, old Johnnie Walker and old Jameson are there in force.

A lot of value in this cabinet in Lavery's, check out the Midleton first shelf up

On show, they also have a large range of Japanese whiskies, that are a touch more affordable, and also a bottle of Old Comber standing proudly in the window.

The more affordable drams include some nice bourbons and a full range of Irish including Green Spot, Yellow Spot, most Bushmills, most Connemara and a good few independent Irish blends.

"SUPERMARKET BEST AVOIDED" - Lidl, Montgomery Road, Belfast
                                                          High Street, Belfast

I nipped in to this store in the hope that I'd find some surprises similar to what can be found in Aldi over in the mainland.  

While Aldi have some amazingly aged single malt at incredible prices, Lidl have nothing more than a dodgy looking Irish blend and some equally bad looking bourbon.

They have recently updated this though to included an basic Scottish blend, a 5 year old Scottish blend and a slight surprise in the form of a blended malt named Abrachan.  

Abrachan is bottled at 42% ABV, which isn't bad, and is triple matured with bourbon and Oloroso casks being used along with tawny port pipes.  Only costing £15.99 this isn't a bad gift for the amateur whisky drinker or someone looking to get started but beware, whilst not bad on the nose this is very young on the taste.

'DON'T EVEN BOTHER" - Winemark, Russels Cellars and Wineflair

These off licences can be summed up easily.

While driving back from Makro, along the Lisburn Road, I was shocked to note that there was not one decent off licence along one of the most affluent shopping strips in Belfast.

The only off licence in amongst the fine shops was a lonely Winemark and while I knew not to get my hopes up I still thought that out of all their stores this one would have a half decent selection due to it's location and potential buyers.

How wrong I was, all they had in store was a single Laphroaig, a single Highland Park and two different Jura.


These retailers need us to vote with our feet and shop elsewhere.  Only then will they see the need to widen their range and become more aware of what we want in the way of a decent choice of whisky.

Well that's about it, I hope I have highlighted some stores that you were not aware of so you can all get out there and start enjoying a proper choice when it comes to buying whisky.  

All I'll say in conclusion is that Belfast still has a long way to go in terms of a love for whisky but as some of the stores mentioned here have shown we seem to gradually be going in the right direction.

I'll be back again later in the year to cover the best Belfast has to offer in the way of whisky bars and I shall also be back sooner with some more reviews and maybe some news.

Until next time,



Web Pages:

The Wine Company -


  1. Good man, well said and very informative. I am a member of a whiskey forum on Facebook for colleagues at work, and will link this in to let htem have a read.



  2. The Lidl blend will be from one of the Irish distillers so should be ok for a mixing whiskey, Sainsbury used to do a Cooley malt as their own label Irish for £15 amazing value.

    Sainsbury currently has Redbreast for £31 an absolute snip!

  3. I have a sealed bottle of old comber whiskey. Any interest in it?