Location: Seven Grand 515 W.Seventh St, Second Floor, Los Angeles
Knob Creek Cask Strength Bourbon 60%
A Black & White film on a small TV top left of bar, no sound, Juke box, “The girl from Ipanema” permeates the room, 20 punters, and two barmen. The sound of pool balls and conversations being struck. The beer...cold, the Creek...deep, sweet chocolate and caramel rye notes meander down my throat...escape, an escape from the oppressive heat, from the tensions that come with being alone in a sprawling city in a foreign country, from the streets punctuated with business bods and downtrods, and from the demands of having to stay focused. The decor whispers English boozer & American bar in equal measure. It's like a big old-fashioned, old English pub "snug" wrapped in speakeasy.
The whiskey list is impressive, they've even got Ardbog in here & it's only been out for three weeks!
Two guys swing alongside & order 2 old fashioned. I've still not dipped my toe into the world of cocktails, maybe one day. A waft of lemon hits me from the dexterously crafted drinks ... maybe one day. I occasionally try to strike up a conversation with the barmen who are very accommodating, but the problem is, once I've uttered my sentence, my musician deafness kicks in and I can't hear their response, so I come across as a muttering, hapless, odd Brit who's not worth spending time with! Enjoy the solitude.
I ask the barman what the procedure is regarding tipping. I suppose I want to come across as "all cutesy, folksy, quaint, British tourist" whose politeness screams out "look after me, pour drinks down my neck"! He politely explains that I could open a credit account & tip at the end, or "pay & tip as you go". I opt for the former; it seems cleaner, quicker, & less stressful. Perhaps more importantly, it would allow me to forget how much I might be spending. I reach for my wallet only to find that I've left my credit card in my hotel safe in case I get kidnapped, held hostage, caught in cross-fire, or mugged on the 800 yard route from hotel to bar (the unworldly wise, neurotic tourist screwing with my head). I come across as a muttering, hapless, odd Brit who's not worth spending time with!
This whisky/beer combo is hitting the spot. Physiologically, which spot it's hitting I have no idea...but in the head it feels good.
"I haven't eaten today so I'll have a pint of lunch.... the O'Hara's Irish stout", my humour goes unnoticed. I should have added “my good man” to the end of the sentence in order to provide the complete “Lord of the Manor” experience... maybe next time.
O'Hara's Irish Stout (in a Guinness glass)
Lost Spirits Leviathan 1 Cabernet Wine Barrel. 53%abv *
The phrase "good pour" has entered my mental vocabulary. There are no "measures" in here, it's at the discretion, manual dexterity, and bonhomie of the barman. The Knob Creek was a good pour. The Leviathan was also a good pour. The advantage of a good pour is a longer, more pleasurable experience with a quality drink. The disadvantage occurs when the whiskey presses your "wrong" buttons! For me, the Leviathan was a slow starter of a whiskey that gradually began to impress.
My immediate opinion of the Leviathan is that it is a marriage made in a 7/11 store, a marriage of convenience, an adolescent underachiever. The Cabernet influence is in my face demanding my attention and I don't have the time, there's too much other stuff to take in. Now this doesn't make it a bad whiskey, in my experience there aren't many bad whiskies, there are whiskies that don't meet your requirements at that particular moment, whiskies that don't match your mood, or styles/flavours of whisky that you don't like. There are those that don't work well due to their proximity to the whiskey you've just had, and so on. There are also whiskies that you need to befriend, to spend time with and appreciate at your leisure, I'm thinking that the Leviathan fits into this category. This is definitely not a bad whiskey. (I realise that I normally taste whiskey in the safe confines of my tasting space, I need to get out more! I'm running the risk of becoming a whiskey technician with a limited understanding of the totality of the whiskey experience.)
On my left, I hear a young man explaining to his new girlfriend how there are many different kinds of whiskey...bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Kentucky.. Should I correct him? I think not (this is America and he's probably packing a piece!). I don't need to look at them to know that this is a new relationship. Their conversation fluctuates between "shallow" and "über shallow" and that's absolutely how it should be. I'm sure the whiskey will massage their confidence genes, allowing them to stumble out of the shallows and flirt with "depth" before confronting the big question that has been on their minds from the moment they met.
On my right I hear a Frenchman trying to impress a Japanese woman....the conversation seems to have moved on to how you stuff geese (a "foie gras" moment if you will)! I can't wait to get home and try it out (not). It's also a new relationship........he's now talking about his mother.
A couple of minutes later, two young men (to my left) ask for tequila shots, I think the barman indicates that he doesn't have what they want, and offers them a whisky alternative. They agree, he suggests one or two possible whiskey options, they choose and agree, he double checks their choice, they agree, he comes back and asks them for $86 ...they are shocked, shamefaced, and shit themselves...they disagree...he is polite, he takes the drinks back and brings them two shots of bottom of the range, hang your head in shame, adolescent shot, puke in two hours liquor....they are happy.
It's been a while since I've turned around. I've not eaten for 18 hours, I'm jet-lagged, the adrenalin of the day has eaten into my reserves. Focusing on the bar and drink in front of me provides a much needed anchor. Everything seems stable when I've only got two things to focus on. Fuck me, this Leviathan is starting to taste good, perhaps that's the secret of whiskey drinking...perseverance, it will all taste good in the end.
I'm walking back to the hotel. I'm smiling, LA seems somehow safer. A great bar, top quality whiskies, and great bar staff.
(c) Alcock 2013