For whiskey (or whisky) drinkers, these are the golden days. Even at seemingly run-of-the-mill bars, the selection of the spirit is likely to be as broad and well-curated as you’ve ever seen. Bartenders, mixologists, even chefs are getting into the act, stocking their coffers with bourbons, Scotches, ryes, Irish and Japanese whiskies that most people have never even heard of.
But as with wine and dishes on a menu, unfamiliarity should never be an excuse to shy away from them. Rather, use the opportunity to educate yourself: For $10 or so per glass, there are few better ways to learn about all the new intricacies of whiskies from around the world.
I recently fell in love, for example, with the Balblaire Highland Single Malt that was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2010. Vintage dating, of course, isn’t terribly commonplace in the world of Scotch, but, after tasting this one, perhaps it should be. Not only did it show beautifully, with delicate notes of honey, pear, and warm cinnamon bun, but it also provides any number of gift-giving opportunities: As we near wedding and holiday season, vintage bottlings are excellent ways to commemorate life-cycle occasions.
Irish whiskey, too, is seeing its stock rise. A bottle of Knappogue Castle I recently tasted, distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2011, was among the most profound examples of this spirit I’ve ever had. WhistlePig Rye, from Vermont, is a bottle that everyone should run out and order immediately.
And Philadelphia’s best bars, recognizing the trend, are reacting in the only appropriate way: By offering more whiskey. Tasting through them is a great way to broaden your drinking horizons…just make sure to stretch it out over the year. It’s not a project for a single weekend, tempting as it may be.
Philly Bars with Standout Whiskey Selections: