“Well, show me the way. To the next whisky bar.’’
– The Doors
Washington, D.C., over the past 200-plus years has been many things to many people. But what the nation’s capital always has been is a refuge for whisky and whisky drinkers. Legendary 19th century Kentucky statesman Henry Clay, for example, was known to send barrels of whisky from his home state to D.C.’s Willard Hotel to help lubricate the wheels of democracy.
Last year the Kentucky Distillers’ Association partnered with the Henry Clay Center to provide a custom 42-gallon white oak barrel filled with the state’s most famous brands that traveled with Kentucky dignitaries to the Willard Hotel. Clay, who introduced the classic Bourbon Mint Julep to Washington, D.C. at the Willard’s Round Robin Bar, would have been proud.
So to remember Clay and celebrate International Whisky Day on March 27, I give you Bill Thomas, owner of the famed Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. For whisky aficionados – and spirits fans in general – Jack Rose is every bit a DC landmark as the Washington Monument or Smithsonian. With more than 2,400 selections of whiskies and bourbons from around the world Jack Rose has re-defined the whisky culture in a city whose culture, in many ways, is whisky.
Thomas said Jack Rose sells more than 10,000 bottle of whiskies and bourbons annually. That number, by the way, is counted by the ounce.
“I think we’ve had some influence,’’ in terms of fueling the whisky boom of the past few years, Thomas said. “We really saw it take off like crazy about two years ago. Irish (whisky) is up dramatically. Bourbon is through the roof. I’ve heard Scotch has taken a little bit of a hit, but you wouldn’t know by Jack Rose. In the DC market, (scotch) seems to be up.’’
The whiskies and bourbons selections at Jack Rose range from the standard brands to rare brands, including a rare Black Bowmore single-malt scotch that sells for $600 an ounce.
“All day long I search for whisky. I follow leads, I search at auctions, I travel. That’s all I do know. I feel like I’m never in Jack Rose,’’ Thomas said.
But regardless of where he’s at, Thomas is never a stranger among his fellow whisky purists.
“Whisky people have got to be the most welcoming people on the planet,’’ Thomas said. “I can probably make a call now to any whisky person and someone would probably put me up at their house. People want to show their love of whisky.’’
Nowhere does that love show more than at Jack Rose.