Even if you are looking for The Whiskey Shop, you may still walk past it. Tucked right next to the Whiskey Brooklyn Bar the place is basically a closet. There is enough counter space to accommodate 2-3 people and behind the counter on floor to ceiling shelving is booze. No cheese, no fancy chocolates. Only booze. The usual suspects are present (it is of course a store not a museum) but there was a ton of stuff we’d never heard of. We were at the store on an actual mission – Max was looking for a gift for the chef of Fatty Cue since we were heading in for dinner that evening. (Max is a classy dude so he’s never empty handed when rolling into a place for dinner where he knows the kitchen.)
What is exceptionally enjoyable about working in a kitchen is that sometimes, when everyone else is sitting behind a desk running sales figures dreading that next meeting, zoning out on Facebook dreading that next meeting or in a food coma from lunch dreading that next meeting, Max and I have the day off and we are heading into a store that sells whiskey to sit around and drink for a while.
We saddled up to the bar and just started talking about Whiskey. It was a historical, scientific and economics rich discussion that covered proofing, distribution channels, southern vs. northern operations, why Oregon makes crap whiskey and a myriad of other whiskey based info. We learned more in the first 5 minutes than we’d known about whiskey in our entire life prior to entering the shop.
With the extremely knowledgable shopkeep Jonathan Wingo on the ready and Bon Iver on vinyl serenading us, things were sufficiently classy enough to begin some daytime whiskey consumption.
First off was the Willett. I’m a sucker for a bottle that hand writes the Barrel number. I don’t care if its a new trend or perhaps every small distillery does this, but the personalization it lends each bottle is enough to make me shy away from the mass producers (ed. Note – we will never in our life turn down any kind of whiskey – let’s just make that perfectly clear). The Willet had no end finish and was spicy up front. While we enjoyed the small taste we had, we agreed that the spice up front was a bit much. We ust didn’t see it as our gift choice or breaking into our own regular sipping rotation.
Next up we tried a new make. This was shipped to the shop keep from a distillery that makes product Whiskey Shop already carries. This bottle, filled with clear liquid had yet to touch a barrel. Closer to White Lightning than to the final amber colored product, we sipped it and really enjoyed the shit out of it. Our man behind the counter placed a small cup in middle of us so we could dump any remainders from our taste glasses. This seemed responsible considering it was 3:30pm on a Wednesday and we were essentially drinking moonshine.
Next up we tried a single malt Balcones labeled at 53.5%. We learned that distilleries batches are tested and they can face heavy fines for mislabeling (and misleading) about the alcohol content. The proofing of the booze is a process that is mastered over time by distillers. It takes patience, skill and a lot of trial and error to get your product the way you want it time and time again.
Our fourth (fifth? We were getting a bit drunk) taste was Corner Creek Bourbon that had no age statement (so 2-6 years the shop keep told us) that was smooth with no end spice. It was a relaxed drink that worked excellent straight up. It would mix well if desired. We both enjoyed it and it instantly became our potential purchase.
But before any decision would be made, more drinking had to occur.
We circled back to Balcones and tried the Baby Blue, which is a young roasted blue corn whiskey. Balcones uses old wood for its barrel – its toasted with little char over a long period of time. This process of toasting the barrel wood, imparts flavor to the liquid and greatly affects the outcome of the product. The taste was crisp and the blue corn flavor actually came through which removed any gimmicky stigma one might think upon first picking up the bottle. If we were stocking our apartment with an epic bar outside of the realm of essentials for cocktails, Baby Blue would be tops on our list. This is a whiskey for someone who keeps a 7-10 bottle rotation at his or her place.
For our final pour, our fine whiskey tour guide unveiled the Balcone Brimstone. It was everything he said it would be. Max said it best, “this is like drinking a campfire.” This corn whiskey (53%) was a bottle of smoky smoky goodness. Also made with blue corn, its not for an everyday drink. But if you were on the trail of an outlaw across the plains and needed some warming through a rainstorm (or if you were just reading Dwell on your couch in Park Slope in winter) a finger of this would warm up your insides faster than a Filson blanket every could.
Stop by The Whiskey Shop and let Jonathan Wingo impart some of his Whiskey wisdom. You’ll leave with the right bottle whether it’s for a gift or for yourself. (We left happy and boozed up with a bottle of Corner Creek Bourbon). Let us know in the comments anything you’ve been drinking these days you think we should try. We’re always on the lookout for new bottles.