In an emergency effort to support staff and generate quick cash while the coronavirus pandemic devastates the restaurant community, famously well-stocked Adams Morgan bar Jack Rose is selling off as much whiskey as it can.
Since opening in 2016, the beloved liquor library’s collection has ballooned to about 2,700 bottles. It’s considered one the biggest and most respected in the western hemisphere. Whiskey aficionados are naturally champing at the bit to get their hands on rare bottles, some of which are now discounted by 20 to 50 percent.
Washingtonian’s story on the sale points out some of the rarest and most unique spirits on hand: 20- or 30 year-old pours of Arbeg and Macallan, hard-to-find Willett Family Estates, and Jack Rose’s private barrels made with Blanton’s and other distilleries. Wild Turkey’s 15-year Japanese Tribute normally sets back drinkers a whopping $145 per ounce. Rare Steakhouse’s downtown takeout and delivery menu also includes a selection of vintage spirits, including a $2,000 bottle of Haig & Haig Five Star Blended Scotch Whisky.
After the local magazine reported on the liquidation sale Thursday, Jack Rose’s website crashed and the bar was flooded with hundreds of calls from interested parties. One frantic fan sent the team an Instagram message saying they tried to call 78 times.
The pop-up began at 1 p.m. Friday. Shoppers hoping for first dibs braved the rain to line up along the bar-heavy strip while a staff conscious of social distancing protocols let them in a few at a time.
Here’s what you need to know:
D.C. drinkers have the easiest access to the goods, which are available for pickup only. That instantly weeds out worldwide and non-DMV connoisseurs currently restricted on traveling.
Owner Bill Thomas walks customers through a “whiskey bible” that spans nearly 70 pages (available online to eliminate contact). Staff will also help package to-go whiskey flights and send customers home with wine, beer, cigars, and takeout bites from chef Russell Jones, like shrimp cocktail, chicken skins, and charcuterie.
Drams are packed in sealed bottles for at-home whiskey tastings. Gift cards can be cashed in for whiskey flights once the bar reopens. Jack Rose is also hopping on the to-go cocktail train, with $10 tubs of Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and other elixirs made at Jack Rose and its new sisters Imperial and Dram & Grain nearby.
Thomas spent decades amassing bottles that are suddenly for sale, meticulously plucking product everywhere from online auctions to estate sales. His contingency plan to restock the bar when it’s time to reopen includes tapping into a personal library of 8,000 bottles he stores at home in D.C.
“When we come out of this on the other side I want to be debt-free and get everyone back to work—that means selling a shit ton of whiskey,” Thomas tells Washingtonian.
Thomas is not alone in the fight. Restaurateurs coast to coast are living the same real-life nightmare on Friday afternoon, coming to grips with the fact they won’t be welcoming any imbibers on what should be a busy, celebratory weekend to kick off spring. What’s worse, many of their employees are going without shifts or tips this weekend, leaving them frantically wondering how they will make ends meet for the foreseeable future.