A recent holiday in Lisbon offered me the opportunity to visit the largest whisky collection in the world. The Scottish Whisky Experience displays an almighty array of bottles collated by a Brazilian collector as part of their Edinburgh facility. Their collection is purely Scottish whiskies but if you’re talking about worldwide whisky/whiskey and looking for the biggest and the real deal; its at Whisky & Co.
If you’ve never been to Lisbon then a day travel ticket costs 6 Euros and allows you to use the tram, metro and bus for 24 hours. Whisky & Co is located in a district of Lisbon that isn’t frequented by tourists but is just a 2-minute walk from the nearest metro station called Entre Campos. Due to the excellent infrastructure and concise metro network it is a very central location and easily accessible from the main tourist areas. It represents a perfect location for a spot of retail therapy in a country dominated by green wine, Super Bock and Port. I like all 3 for the record, but there’s something wonderful about home comforts far from home.
The front of Whisky & Co is a well-stocked whisky shop that puts many Scottish equivalents to shame. It features the latest releases and also some obscure examples including some rarely seen editions from La Maison du Whisky in Paris. The alcohol tax in Portugal of 23% isn’t helping business but the store seems to be a main hub for local whisky enthusiasts.
I did make a purchase of some Nikka whisky samples that will be useful for future reviews. The shop wasn’t busy during the mid-afternoon when we visited and I asked if it would be possible to see the collection. In the above photograph which is taken at the back of the shop, you can see another door that leads onto whisky nirvana.
If you do plan on visiting then I’d contact the store in advance. I was fortunate as we were the only customers in at that time, but if there is only 1 member of staff and the shop is busy, then a viewing would have been impossible to arrange on the spot. As it was our luck was in and you can see from the guestbook on display at Whisky & Co just how many industry representatives have made this pilgrimage. While the collection remains intact I would urge any enthusiast to pack a bag and make the trek.
The collector responsible for this magnificent array of bottles is Alfredo M.Goncalves. Over a period 50 years he has amassed a collection in excess of unduplicated 10,500 bottles. Alfredo is now and his 80’s and has stopped collecting as the price of whisky is too much nowadays. I thought this was interesting with so many jumping on the investment/collecting bandwagon, that the biggest collector of them all had stopped.
Alfredo had the opportunity to travel with his place of work and this gave him access to Scotland and other countries to pursue his interest. During my 10 days in Lisbon I noticed a passion amongst the locals for collecting; whether it was Panini stickers, stamps or coins. Everyone seemed to have a passion and enjoyed curating their own collections.
We were extremely fortunate that Alfredo’s daughter was available to guide us around the collection and provide her own recollections of amassing the definitive whisky library. This personal touch brought to life the journey of those involved in creating such a remarkable collection. The collection is divided into 3 sections which correlate with the trio of rooms that house the collection. The first room, which is pictured above, houses specifically decanters. Here we are looking back across the room towards the shop.
This is the fun section of the collection. Housing whisky and bourbons from across the world and decades. I could have spent hours taking in some of the unique statues and characters recreated to contain whisky. To highlight a couple of memorable examples we had Elvis and J.R. Ewing.
Some of Alfredo’s favourite decanters are those in the shape of cars of all types; from famous racing to everyday domestic vehicles. They are all treated with the same respect and passion. Also notable was a set of decanters in the shape of firemen and these amongst other favourites are kept separate from the collection in his office. All of these represent a bygone era before the refined image and presentation of today’s marketing took a firm grip of the industry.
These shadowy icons of the past slipped from memory as we entered the next room which is arguably the biggest and most impressive. This is the chamber devoted to single malts. An amazing array of bottles are display, each section relevant to a particular distillery or special collection. The infamous Playing Card series? Yes, that’s here along with all the Japanese distilleries in their glory.
Even the ceiling was put to use and through the rooms were whisky-related memorabilia adding to the journey. Each room was meticulously organised, collated and displayed. The bottles as if they were only purchased the day before and each with a story to tell, I’m sure.
After recovering from the single malts, we moved onto the final room that is devoted to the art of blending. This was a particularly cavernous structure, sprouting off in various directions. We stumbled through its avenues, reviewing bottles from blends alphabetically, many of which we’d never heard or seen of before; some cracking names and label artwork. Bespoke pieces from fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood were proudly on display. It paid not only to look ahead and above, but also down below with a bourbon train set owning a section of the floor space.
This room should have marked the end of our tour but we were kindly invited into the office to see some of Alfredo’s favourite pieces proudly on display. It was a wonderful way to end the tour and our jaunt to this area of Lisbon. There is no fee to view the collection but I would have gladly given a donation if there was such a thing. Instead, hopefully my shop purchase will assist in keeping this collection intact.
The photographs were taken in low light conditions with no flash obviously so they aren’t up to my usual standard but remain passable.