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Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan claims to stock the largest whiskey collection in the western hemisphere. I walked in as a dark-liquor dunce, daunted by the 1,200 different bottles on the menu, and walked out a fledgling whiskey nerd. To help you do the same, owner Bill Thomas showed off five bottles that exemplify the depth and breadth of his library of spirits.
Auchentoshan Three Wood Triple Distilled Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43 percent alcohol
$12 for 2 ounces
Whiskey (or whisky, as it’s spelled when it’s Scotch) develops a sweeter flavor profile through the type of cask in which it’s aged. A fresh cask produces a more intense sweetness, whereas a refilled cask is less sweet. The Auchentoshan Three Wood, distilled in Glasgow, Scotland, is finished in sherry casks. This bottle possesses a palate of butterscotch and hazelnut that balances its sherry flavor.
Macallan’s Blackadder Raw Cask
60.5 percent alcohol
$120 for 2 ounces
As the folks at Jack Rose ask, “Are you looking for a knockout punch or a slap on the face?” The level of burn in a bottle of whisky depends largely on its cask strength, also known as barrel proof. Translation: alcohol content. The Macallan’s Blackadder Raw Cask has been aged for 22 years and is one of only 382 bottles with so high a cask strength, making it extremely rare.
The Blackadder Raw is also the only unfiltered whisky at Jack Rose, meaning sediments from the cask sit at the bottom the bottle. It’s unadulterated, no nonsense. Add filtered water to the Scotch using an eyedropper available at the bar. While Thomas prefers his neat, he says “there’s no wrong way to drink whisky.” If the fire packed in the Blackadder Raw proves too extreme, you may prefer a slightly diluted glass.
59.5 percent alcohol
$30 for 2 ounces
Peat is a moss burned by some Scotch distilleries to dry the malted barley used to make whisky. Peat gives liquor a distinct quality of “peatiness” some refer to as peat smoke. Thomas says there’s no other word to describe it. The Ochdamh-mór from the Scottish Isle of Islay breaks the record for the highest peat content in any Scotch on the market, measuring 169 peat parts per million. This limited-edition bottle is alcoholic to the nose and rounds off to the middle of its tail.
Islay Farm’s Distillery’s Kilchoman
50 percent alcohol
$18 for 2 ounces
Though age doesn’t always equal quality, the flavor of Scotch becomes more complex as it matures. The Kilchoman is the young star and one-to-watch in Jack Rose’s collection. Light in color and full of citrus flavor, this unchilled filtered whisky is less than five years old. Taste a boyish bottle like the Kilchoman before moving on to older varieties. Thomas says fans of whisky from Islay will love this one.
Redbreast Irish whiskey
58.6 percent alcohol
$25 for 2 ounces
Thomas considers the Redbreast the best cask-strength Irish whiskey available. This 12-year-aged whiskey coats every part of the tongue and tastes like vanilla. Let Redbreast sit in a snifter, tasting how the well-balanced flavors evolve and change. The Redbreast is ideal for the cold weather.
Photos by Darrow Montgomery