Bertie’s Bar at The Fife Arms Hotel is a whisky bar located in the former library of this five-star 18th century coaching inn. The design concept by Russell Sage was inspired by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII (known as ‘Bertie’), a famously extravagant bon viveur. There is no actual bar, guests are invited to explore the range of whiskies which are arranged like books on a shelf with 365 whiskies, one for each day of the year.

The brief was to beautifully illuminate the whisky bottles and cast a warm amber glow around the room and its guests. The interior designer wanted the bar to feel like an alchemist shop, shelves burgeoning with a library of tinctures, creating a space that is dramatic and glamorous yet comfortable.

With the whisky selection including a single malt Dalmore selling at £700 a dram, it was crucial that the lighting design considered both heat and UV light to eliminate the risk of degradation of the fine spirit. We opted to use a high-quality LED strip light with full photometric data to demonstrate that minimal UV light was emitted between 100nm and 400nm wavelengths. Accurate colour rendering of the amber tones was essential; and testing of different colour temperature light sources with whisky bottles and the shelving finishes resulted in the selection of a 2200K light source for the optimal amber lustre.

We worked in close collaboration with the joinery manufacturers, providing detailed drawings to ensure all the integrated lighting was perfectly installed and any backwards heat produced by the LED lighting was adequately dispersed.

Backlighting of the bar’s amber glass window screens carried through the lustrous amber theme, adding an air of continuity throughout the space. Underneath the bar’s sofas and whisky shelving, subtle colour changing lights have been used, which radiate a rich, smouldering red-orange colour once the small hours set in. Uplights in the cocktail tables deliver a sense of theatre, so the whisky glimmers as it is poured into the glasses.

A bespoke whisky keep with lockable shelves plays host to the client’s own bottles. These have been spotlighted with miniature jewellery spots to create focus and sparkle. Elsewhere in the bar, bespoke wall lights made of antique corbels with crystal embellishments add interest. We devised lighting within these to create glow to the bottles displayed above, and more sparkle below to the crystals. The attention to detail in the interior design was matched by the lighting design, with no element left aside from the muted mood-shift lighting scenes to the ultra-warm LED filament lamps in the decorative lights.

The project was completed in an ambitious 3 months from engagement to completion, and with a challenging lighting budget of under £15,000. Alice Lascelles of the Financial Times asks “Is this the best whisky bar in the world?” and the Hotel website reads: “One of the most striking features of Bertie’s interior design is the incredible lighting, conceived so the room is always glowingly welcoming: dramatic, intimate and sumptuous.”

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