A couple of days ago in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, I was introduced to a whisky bar and restaurant called Char. The place has nice warm lighting that makes me feel mellow, like I’m already a couple of glasses into the evening, even if I’m not. It was my last night Stateside, and even though I hadn’t had my customary celebrity sighting in NYC, it had been a stellar visit.
I was with the same friend with whom I had shared an amazing meal earlier in the week – and at that meal, we’d been invited to try Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. The waiter made quite a fuss about having it, but unfortunately, we were not yet aware how rare the treat could have been ours and we ordered up something else instead.
When we got to Char, however, we decided to ask whether they had this Pappy Van Winkle stuff. We’d been told it was pretty good. “I only have a glass or two of the 23-year stuff left,” the barkeep told us. “32 dollars a glass.” And a meagre glass it turned out to be at the price. Still, we found ourselves deeply impressed. I don’t know much about American bourbons, but I know I like Pappy 23. Perfumed and complex, smooth, rich, honeyed and a hint of caramel, a wee bit smoky – good stuff that only got better as we let it open up in the glass!
We determined that a bottle of this wouldn’t be a bad addition to any shelf. The other stuff we ordered didn’t stand a chance by comparison.
So, not having time to do any shopping for Pappy Van Winkle while on the road, and arriving too late at the airport to see if it was available in duty-free, I checked it out once I got home to France. And now I feel so very fortunate and trendy! Most reviews are ecstatic, calling this bourbon a masterpiece. Articles abound on the elusive 23-year-old Pappy, eBay auctions abound, it’s $250/bottle – if you can get the stuff in a store or online. Enterprising sellers even auction the empty bottles on eBay (so people can fill them with other stuff and have on the shelf?). The production amount is tiny, which makes the hunt all the more voracious and energetic. Avid seekers carry out long forum discussions on various bourbon web sites.
Not only was bourbon great, but clearly, this counts as a real celebrity sighting of the bourbon variety. As it was, it was more like the time my daughter and I found ourselves standing next to Catherine Deneuve in SoHo a couple of years ago. I was quietly thrilled with this NYC sighting, my daughter had no idea we were shoulder-to-shoulder with one of cinema’s greats.
If I’d only known, I would have let out a victory yelp under the amber lights of Char.