Kismet – And Then Some!

Oh, what a magnificent treat!

On several levels.

Suspecting that I have a interest in things whisky (I don’t know where he got that idea), my Nelson-resident cousin has been telling me for some years about a whisky bar in the city.

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I went to stay for a few days with him and his wife.  Late on the first afternoon we all made a sort of snap decision to go and see the bar.

I finally got to experience the whisky bar.  I was going to say “visit”, but the word visit is very inadequate to describe going to Kismet Cocktail and Whisky Bar.  It is way more than just a visit!


Opened around Christmas 2018, the bar is situated about 250m from Trafalgar St, Nelson’s main shopping street.  Owner Nick Widley says that the site was selected so as to not be just another main-street drinking establishment.

Bearing in mind that Nelson is largely a tourist town, Nick aims to provide a welcoming place that people could seek out, rather than just trip over.

Kismet has one of the largest ranges of open whiskies I have ever seen in one place (and I include the Bowmore Hotel on Islay). 

Entering the premises, the first thing that struck me was the huge display of bottle-laden shelving behind the bar.

The First Impression

It is enormous!  Five shelves high and so tall that a nine-runged moveable wood ladder is permanently there to enable staff to reach stock on the upper shelves!

Wooden tables with comfortable chairs occupy the space directly in front of the bar.  Further back is a selection of those magnificent, sumptuously deep leather couches and chairs always pictured in the better Gentlemen’s Clubs.

Sumptuous Leather Couches

I am going to get a bit one-eyed here.  Please excuse me if I gloss over the impressive selection of cocktails on the menu and just concentrate on the whiskies offered.  This is a whisky blog, after all.

Kismet has one of the largest ranges of open whiskies I have ever seen in one place (and I include the Bowmore Hotel on Islay).  The choice currently stands at more than 340 open bottles from a wide variety of countries.  Scotland (obviously), other parts of the UK and Ireland, and Japan feature heavily.  The bar also has the distinction of being an Ardbeg Ambassador (32 of the open bottles are from there) and holds a large stock of peated drams.

But the one thing I found most impressive at Kismet was the very wide range of New Zealand whiskies.

New Zealand Whiskies

Drams from Cardrona, Pokeno, and Waiheke Island distilleries abound.  One of Nick’s aims is to showcase NZ whiskies to whisky-drinking tourists, taking the view that NZ whiskies are totally comparable to the best from other countries.  I am certainly not going to argue against that!

Looking through the menu, and playing “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” to try and find the best from the dizzying range available, Nick suggested a Tamdhu Batch 7.  I’ve not tried this before, so I went with his recommendation – a great choice it was, too.

Tamdhu Batch Strength 007

57.5% abv
Nose: Oloroso sherry and smoke.
Palate: A lot of alcohol, sweet, more oloroso sherry and citrus. A strong fruit cake.
Finish: Medium +, but not quite as long as I might have expected.
Comment:  Descended from the gold 6th edition.  Look for some more of this.
Score: 8.7


Then I had a massive surprise sprung on me from the most unlikely place!

At the last Dramfest, I had heard that some cask experimentation was mooted.  But I was certainly not aware that it had come to fruition.

We were chatting about NZ whiskies and particularly the activity at Pokeno Distillery.  Nick happened to ask if I had tried the Pokeno Totara Cask.  No, I had not had that pleasure.  And, yes, it does exist!

Nick then very kindly offered me a taste from a bottle he had.  And what an experience that was!

That’s a huge vote of thanks, Nick!

Pokeno Totara Cask

Pokeno Totara Cask

46% abv.

Colour: Light gold
Nose: Roses chocolates, sweet and spicy with ripe stone fruit.  A lovely nose.
Palate: Initial tongue heat and spice.  Dark chocolate notes continue.
Finish: tongue heat stays, as does the stone fruit taste.
Comment: This needs a whole lot of further investigation.  And tasting!


Very sadly, the distillery is now reporting it out of stock,

Things to do in Nelson

I know the travel advisory websites will give you lists of stuff to do.  But if you want a phenomenal whisky (and/or cocktail!) experience in Nelson, take yourself to Kismet Cocktail and Whisky Bar.

And if you need a reason to go to Nelson, Kismet is also one of the best reasons you will find!

Please make sure you introduce yourself to Nick.