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‘A real classic Scottish pub’: St Machar Bar to host local whisky festival

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

University watering hole ‘one of the few true local bars left’


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

photo courtesy of Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

The historic St Machar Bar, located on the High Street in Old Aberdeen since 1904, which emerged from the struggles of the COVID pandemic with a renewed focus on whisky, will play host to the inaugural Old Aberdeen Whisky Festival on Saturday, 29 October.


Darren Murray, owner of The Machar for the last several years, told The Gaudie, ‘The St Machar Bar is a hidden gem these days, we are really pushing our whisky selection but we also have real ales, craft beer, gins and rums on offer. We do monthly whisky tastings and have a great relationship with a few societies but especially with the whisky and beer ones.’


On Saturday, the pub will host the Old Aberdeen Whisky Festival, which features a number of local and international distillers, including Big Peat, Singleton, and the New York Distilling Company. The festival, to be located inside Elphinstone Hall on campus, will also feature a cooperage (or barrel-making) demonstration and talks from whisky experts. Additionally, the University of Aberdeen Malt Whisky Society told The Gaudie that they ‘are going to be participating at the festival and are very much looking forward to it.’


Murray sees the Machar as an essential part of the University and Old Aberdeen community.

He told The Gaudie, ‘It's definitely a place that should always be here. We routinely get customers either visiting for the first time in 40 years and reliving their time here or even people whose parents met here at the bar. It's a place that stays with people for a long time if you're a regular here.’


The Machar faces stiff competition from The Bobbin, the popular student bar on King Street run by the Stonegate Group, a conglomerate of 4000 pubs across the UK. In contrast to The Bobbin, which features a bevy of society deals and cheap eats geared toward students, The Machar focuses more on its selection of spirits and other liquor, currently featuring over 300 varieties of whisky.


Despite this, Murray is confident in the community he has fostered at The Machar, commenting, ‘... we have a great community and people all know each other. There are some pubs that you go into with friends and you just stick with those friends. Here you can come in alone and leave with new friends. It's a place where business deals are made, dissertations are written, big life choices happen, people meet and fall in love. The Machar is one of the few true local bars left and as long as you are sound you can come in and have a great night with total strangers.’

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