One of beverage director Jamie Buckman’s favorite things is when someone walks into Bookstore Bar & Café and professes to not like whisky. Her response?
“Give me five minutes.”
She’ll make you a believer, or at least give you a crash course in all things whisk(e)y*, regaling you with tales of her trips to Scotland and how climate affects flavor. With 70 single-malt Scotch whiskies and more than 50 American bourbons and whiskies on hand, whisky tasting at Seattle’s Bookstore Bar & Café is definitely a top-shelf experience.
(*For those who are wondering, whiskey applies to American-style bourbons, ryes and Tennessee whiskey, along with Irish whiskeys, while whisky is favored by Scotland, Canada and Japan. Scotch whisky, often just called Scotch, is by law made only in Scotland.)
This cozy spot with windows overlooking First Avenue has a lot more to offer than just the “water of life,” which is what “whisky” means in Gaelic. After doubling its space in February, the new-and-improved Bookstore Bar has added a dining room that you’d think has been there as long as the historic brick wall, if you didn’t know better. Now kids can have dinner, too, and adults can drop in for happy hour not once, but twice a day (from 2 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to midnight).
More than 20 wines by the glass, an extensive beer selection, cocktails old and new, and spirits that go on for pages give you plenty of sipping options. So even if you don’t like whisky (which, uh, you will after Jamie gets ahold of you), you won’t go thirsty.
Beginners shouldn’t feel intimidated — all palate proficiencies are welcome here. And fortunately, the tasting process for whiskies isn’t as complicated as something like coffee or wine. There are basically two steps: smell and taste. Broken down into slightly more detail, they are:
Smell. Start with a good sniff, but don’t feel compelled to bury your nose in the glass. (Do you want the hairs on your nostril to burn? I didn’t think so.) Breathe through your mouth.
Taste. Take a sip. Let the whisky sit on your tongue, then let it roll around your mouth a bit. Then swallow. If it was aged in a cherry cask, you’ll feel a tickle on the back of your tongue. Bourbon casks move that sensation to the sides.
Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself picking up on those obscure tasting notes of stewed fruits, sweet clementine oranges and leather — or maybe you won’t, in which case you’ll just have a tasty drink whose flavors you can most accurately pinpoint as “whisky-like.” In either case, the team will put together a flight based on your preferences and walk you through the experience of a choose-your-own-whisky adventure crafted just for you.