I once asked a bartender I both respected and wanted what she thought the manliest drink a patron could order. Without hesitation she said, “Whiskey neat.” Straight whiskey – no mixer, ice nor chaser – was never my thing, but ever since that day I became a whiskey fan. Maybe I wanted to be more manly, or maybe I just wanted to get laid more. Most likely it was a combination of both.
Anyway, the past couple of years I’ve been doing my best to expand both my whiskey knowledge and palate. I often bring back bottle from my various travels, and I’ve also become fond of following whiskey industry leaders on social media and reading a magazine called Whisky Advocate. That publication is where I first learned of the Whisky Attic, which boasted that it contained “The Greatest Collection of Whisky in America.” I was intrigued.
That proved doubly true when I learned that it was in Las Vegas, a fact that both surprised and excited me. I was surprised because I’d spent the last four summers in Las Vegas and had never heard of the Whisky Attic, which has been since 2005. I was excited because I was slated to go to Vegas at the end of May. I knew I had to go.
The Whisky Attic Experience requires a reservation, and it’s not exactly cheap. A regular ticket is $75, but for $120 they have a High Roller package that offers quite a bit more. Of course I had to go all out. I invited my Vegas friend Matt Sexton to join me as a birthday gift to him, and also told my friend and mentor Nolan Dalla about it. Being the liquor aficionado that he is, I figured he’d be interested and indeed he was. He also brought along his wife Marietta, who was delightful.
The Whisky Attic is located inside the Freakin’ Frog -- the largest beer bar in the country – and is just five minutes off the Strip near UNLV. I was a bit surprised to find the Freakin’ Frog at the end of a desolate and somewhat rundown strip mall (it definitely was the type of place I’d expect to find “The Greatest Collection of Whisky in America,” but once you make it inside it’s like you’re a world away.
Appropriately, the Whisky Attic is upstairs in the Freakin’ Frog in a quaint room filled with hand-crafted wood reminiscent of a bar you might find in Scotland. The experience is the brainchild of Professor Adam Carmer, who is an expert in spirits and teaches at the aforementioned UNLV. Unfortunately Professor Carmer wasn’t there to lead our tour, but Jon “JD” Darrow, the manager of the place, filled in. He was both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which made the experience that much more fun.
We learned about the history of tasting spirits, and then were taught a new tasting method called C:STEM (Carmer Spirits Tasting Enhancement Method), which was designed by Carmer. JD was a certified CSTEM Instructor, and I must say that the method was incredible. It’s hard to explain the method, so I’ll let this video do it for me:
Once we learned the method, JD selected ten whiskies for us to try suited to our own personal tasting profile. They weren’t cheap whiskies either, and thanks to the new method, I was able to enjoy them much more fully than I have whiskies in the past. I will definitely be using the tasting method moving forward.
The whole experience lasted about 100 minutes, so given the length and price it was on par with a Vegas show. Aside from the tasting, you also get the chance to see their expansive beer selection (they have one bottle that costs $3,000) and the collection of over 850 bottles of whiskey (three of which cost $100,000 apiece).
Being big into whisky I had a great time, and the other members of the party who weren’t quite so hardcore enjoyed it as well. Matt wasn’t a fan of whiskey, but he had fun and even found a couple he liked. Likewise, Marietta was more partial to wine, but she seemed to have a blast (probably because a lot of what we learned could be applied to wine and other spirits).
If you’re in Vegas and looking for something fun and unique, I highly recommend the Whisky Attic. It’s one of those off-the-map destinations (Nolan and Marietta have lived in Vegas for decades and didn’t know about it) that leaves you feeling fulfilled… and a little buzzed.
Here are some photos from the Whisky Attic:
I believe Nolan will be writing his own blog on the experience. If and when he does, I will be sure to share that with you on here.
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