J.D. William’s Whisky Bar

Somehow, Amsterdam is pretty dry when whisky is regarded. Admitted, there are two festivals and a bar with more than 1800 whiskies open, according to their website. There also is a whisky shop quite a ways out of the city center.

But that’s it. One bar. One shop. Until recently. A couple of months ago a new whisky bar opened in Amsterdam called J.D. William’s Whisky Bar.

Who?

The first logical question, of course, is to ask who the heck is J.D. William? I don’t have a clue. The website doesn’t inform us about that either. I guess it’s a fictional name which just happens to sound American enough to use. Like Jack Daniel, Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, and about a 100 more bourbon brands.

The next question, and the more important one is: Is the bar any good? Yes. Yes it is. They don’t have 1800 different whiskies open, thank God*. There are some 200 open bottles, and there’s a list of about 10-15 craft beers from all over the place (NL, IT, UK, USA, BE to name a few). Having a limited number of options is good for me since I find it hard to choose, plus I want a fresh tasting bottle.

Also, you can eat at J.D. William’s. I went there with colleagues on a Tuesday which is taco night. I found this a surprising choice of theme in a whisky bar, but the tacos were great. You can choose from three different ones (beef, chicken and falafel), and after tasting through that entire menu, I decided I liked the beef best and ordered another one.

Pricing

With dinner we had some beers, and after we decided to switch to the hard likker. This is where we get to the awkward bit for every whisky bar: pricing. I’ve had some bad experiences with this in The Netherlands, where bottles get inflated hugely to the point where I once had to pay € 7 for 2cl of Lagavulin 16, at a time a bottle only cost me 40 bucks. 7 (price) x 35 (amount of glasses poured) = € 245. Over six times the value of the bottle for average Joe. The bar could buy cheaper.

At J.D. William’s this happens too, but only on rarer bottles. Lagavulin 16 was 9 euros, but that was 4 cl. Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength was 10 euros. Contrary to the rather affordable Lagavuling 12 CS were some indie bottlings of which a bottle sit at the same price point per bottle but those were priced at about € 20.

So, pricing is generally acceptable, if you pay attention to the menu and not order off the shelf. A lot of prices are very okay, but some are ridiculous. Somehow a Bruichladdich Islay Barley was more than twice as expensive as other whiskies at the same retail value.

All in all, I found this to be cleverly done. They didn’t only pay attention to the value of a dram, but also to the perceived value of it, and the rarer the bottle, the higher the price. This is clever because those bottles are the ones to sit around longest and by doing this, you at least get your money back before the go flat.

The bar

Then the atmosphere. It’s great. It’s modern without being too ‘hipster’. It’s fitting for a whisky bar and for Amsterdam. I think this too is cleverly done.

The thing that bothered me most is that halfway through our dinner they wiped down the bar with really smelly cleaning spray. We were having tacos at the time so it wasn’t too bad but if my € 10 dram suddenly was overpowered by chloride and lime I’d be pissed.

By the time the evening with my co-workers was over I had had:

  • Anderson Valley Boont Amber
  • Punk IPA
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale
  • Wild Turkey 101
  • Tomatin 18
  • Elijah Craig 12

Concluding: Highly recommended and I’m really happy with this addition to the Amsterdam ‘quality booze scene’.

J.D. Williams’ Whisky Bar is located in Amsterdam’s city center at Prinsenstraat 5, about a 5 minute walk from Central Station.

* Having 1800 whiskies open in a tiny bar in Amsterdam sure is an achievement, if they had enough space. They don’t. A lot of bottles have to lie down. And with 1800 bottles open it takes forever for a bottle to go empty, except for the usual suspects. This means huge surfaces for oxidation, and therefore MY IDEA that those whiskies can’t be good anymore.

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm a web developer at Emakina. I'm highly interested in booze, with a focus on whisk(e)y. I like to listen to loads of music and read quite some books. I'm married to Anneke, have a daughter Ot, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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4 Responses to J.D. William’s Whisky Bar

  1. Emile Smits says:

    Hi Sjoerd,

    First off, I’ve been following your blog for some time now and I really like your direct and honest approach to whiskies. It also a nice way to keep posted about new indie releases and official ones. So kudos for that!
    Secondly then, about whiskycafé L&B and the amount of open bottles. I do agree with your concerns; oxidation can indeed have an impact on the flavours of the whisky. But on the other hand, I also think the effects of oxidation are highly overestimated within the whisky community. Especially cask strengths whiskies are very hard to ‘kill’. On top of that, there are bottles where a bit of oxidation actually helps the flavours to come out. It all depends on the amount of whisky left in the bottle and how often the bottle is opened and closed again (when fresh air enters the bottle again). And as you’ve probably seen with your own bottles, as time passes, the whisky slowly changes revealing different sides of its flavour profile every time you open it. To compensate oxidation though, know that at the L&B care is taken to empty out bottles who have been sitting on the shelve for a certain period (especially the non-cask strength ones), plus argon gas is used to preserve and give the whiskies a longer lifespan. This certainly applies for the part of the collection that is stored horizontally, indeed due to shortage of space. And in case you’re worried about the corks; most natural corks have been replaced with plastic ones. My apologies, but I just wanted to set that straight🙂

    But you’re welcome to come and find out if the whiskies at the L&B are still fresh and potable. At least there will be something else to try apart from the usual suspects. Oh, a quick warning about the atmosphere; nowadays it is generally old jazz records that are being played, so no non-descript techno on the background I’m afraid😉

    Cheers!

    Emile

    • Hi Emile!

      Thanks for getting in touch and sharing info that is quite important in the view I have of L&B. It appears I have to come by again. It seems you guys know how to take care of the bottles and with that many open I know I can find something new to me.

      I am just a little in awe of the menu and I know I will have to limit myself to two pages of it… Or just get advice.

      Whether or not JDW plays nondescript techno I can’t tell since I was there with colleagues to blow off steam after a rather stressful project, so we might have been a bit on the loud side of decent.

      Thanks again!

      • Emile says:

        Hi Sjoerd,

        you’re welcome of course! Glad to hear you are willing to revise your judgment. We know the menu is rather intimidating so we’re always happy to help with a suggestion.
        Hope to see you around!

  2. Michelle says:

    Thank you for the positive write up!

    Our name J.D. William’s Whisky Bar does have some significance for us. The J stands for our first son’s name, Jackson, and my step father, Jeffrey, who passed away about a year ago. The D stands for our youngest son, Donovan. And “William” is my husband’s father name. We should (and will) include this story on our website.

    And tacos don’t traditionally go with whisky but our intention was to introduce food and whisky pairings (pure whisky and also our whisky cocktails) in a creative and innovative way. It’s not something one would normally put together but we hope people in Amsterdam will be open to it. nonetheless, we are really glad you enjoyed the tacos and your overall experience🙂

    Hope to see you back soon!

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