Dublin’s Bison Bar satiates the most discerning of palates with its selection of 150 whiskies and 50 tequilas. Sadhbh Connor talks to manager Luke Brock about the pub’s success and learns a thing or two about taxidermy.
Snuggled in beside sister venue the Workman's Club, on Dublin's Wellington Quay, the Bison Bar specialises in whisk(e)y and tequila, and stocks a rather impressive taxidermy collection to boot. The stuffed, mounted head of a bison welcomes you into the pub and taking a seat on a saddle-clad stool at the bar, 150 whisk(e)y and 50 tequila bottles glint enticingly behind the counter. Bison Bar has carved out a cosy little niche for itself, satiating the palates of the city’s growing number of whisk(e)y drinkers. The pub stocks a number of varieties from traditional Irish and Scotch, to rye and Japanese whiskies. General manager Luke Brock says he has noticed the growing interest in the spirit over the last few years and believes people are more open to trying it. “Whisk(e)y has taken on a different image in the last few years, it’s much more accessible for people,” he says. Irish gems Greenspot and Redbreast 12 are the bar’s best-sellers but customers are also taken with the range of peach and lemonade-flavoured corn whiskies stocked. Thomas H Handy rye is popular too, Brock adds, surprisingly so at €29.95 per dram. The pub is essentially a snug in itself, all wood panelling and nooks, and the décor creates a warmth and atmosphere that belies its young age. Despite opening in June of last year, the Bison Bar looks like it could have come straight from the 1800s, somewhere in America's mid-west. The namesake bison is joined on the wall by stuffed deer heads and old-style lanterns provide the light overhead while the walls are decked in grainy black and white photos, along with bookshelves of antique books. A large old-style window gives a view out onto the smoking area, complete with a mural of a galloping bison by artist James Early. The theme for the bar was originally a literary one which evolved to tie-in with the food menu. A kitchen is due to open within the next six weeks Brock says, and will serve a suitably meaty selection, with frill-free fare including brisket and chicken wings.Having sat unused for over seven years, both buildings were in need of some TLC before the Workman's opened in August 2010. “Since the Workman’s opened we've just been knocking down walls and adding bars,” Brock laughs. The pub is somewhat of a respite from the packed rooms next door, “When upstairs is heaving, you can come down here and have a chat,” Brock says. While the sister businesses are treated as separate entities with their own staff, they become one at weekends when the Bison Bar opens late. A myriad of staircases adjoins the pub to the club which also owned by developer Patrick McKillen Jnr, the man behind recently-opened Dublin venues Everleigh Gardens on Harcourt Street and Temple Bar’s Vintage Cocktail Club. Like the Workman's, the Bison Bar has been a roaring success since its opening. Having such eye-catching décor may help, but this is essentially a homely, traditional pub with welcoming staff. “Customers don't want to come in to a place where the bar counter alone cost €25,000,” Brock says, “From what I see, people don't want anything really fancy - they just want somewhere comfortable with a good atmosphere to sit down and have a drink.” The bar’s vast selection of whiskies starts off at €4.95, while a pint of plain is €4.85 and a draught lager will set you back €5.10. The chatty, well-informed staff are more than happy to advise but if in doubt, ask the bison.