Feeling thirsty? How about a $200 taste of super premium whiskey?
Downtown watering hole Cask and Ale is getting in on the national craze for high-end, small-batch American bourbons, showcasing a bottle of Michter's Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey, one of only 273 bottles in existence. Total cost: $5,000. An ounce will set you back that $200.
Believed to be the most expensive American whiskey, this is not something you're mixing in a Manhattan or whiskey sour. A blend of 30-year-old, 20-year-old and newer bourbons and ryes, it's offered as a 1-ounce pour, swirled slowly in a snifter, after which you have the bragging rights for life.
For the price of the bottle, you could get an Antarctic cruise or a TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre men's watch. Is a bottle of whiskey worth it? Jason Fackler, former mixologist at Mandarin Hide and account development specialist for Premier Beverage, can speak from first-hand knowledge.
"The smell is fantastic. It evolves in your mouth, with layers that develop with each sip," Fackler said. "With these whiskies that have been aged 20 or 30 years, you think about how much is lost in the angel's share (the amount lost to evaporation) and just the idea that you're drinking something so old is amazing."
Fackler was instrumental in procuring the rare bottle, which is hand-stenciled with 18-karat gold lettering, for Cask and Ale owners Jeremy Wallace and Jeff Catherell. But this is where the plot thickens.
Catherell, who with Wallace owned Vintage Ultra Lounge, wanted to get in on the craft beer and craft cocktail trend. They have a shelf of small casks in which they will blend their own whiskies and barrel-aged cocktails. They are muddling fresh fruit and have purchased a $6,000 Kold-Draft ice maker that freezes water in a way that minimizes air bubbles and impurities. Still, $5,000 is a lot to pay for a bottle of whiskey that, as Catherell says, "you might only sell a shot of every great once in a while."
Enter Chad Davis, 26. A St. Petersburg entrepreneur who dabbles in real estate and owns an advertising company for high-end products and a telemarketing company. Davis bought the bottle of Michter's from Fackler, with Catherell and Wallace serving as middlemen, and keeps it at the Cask and Ale in a private bottle locker. He visits the bar now and then, pouring himself, and sometimes lucky barmates such as Fackler, a snifter. In his absence, Davis has given the bar owners permission to sell 1-ounce pours. This 2013 release, purchased last month, is still more than half full.
What's the allure? From Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve to the Evan Williams' 23-year-old collection, premium whiskies are a badge of connoisseurship. Like a birder's "life list," sampling these rare quaffs is a testament to the lengths, and expense, to which a drinker will go for a new experience. When Fackler sampled the Michter's? That picture went up promptly on Instagram.
For Davis, whose regular cocktail is Stoli Elit with soda and lime, an enthusiasm for whiskey is fairly new.
"I'm not a connoisseur, I'm a young professional. I'm a very simple person, but I love luxury items."
He's been known to share in his new passion.
"One night I was at the bar and two guys from Texas were there. They were trying some of the Johnnie Walker Black Label and I told Jeremy to pour them a taste of the Michter's."
Somewhere out there are two lucky Texans.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter @lreiley.