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At one-week-old Hearth & Dram, it wasn’t the intoxicating smell of roasted suckling pig, the game-y bite of fresh bison tartar, or the deep savoriness of roasted hen of the woods mushrooms that secured my devotion. No, it was the impressive library of whisk(e)y, bourbon, and rye—more than 350 varieties in total—that won me over.
The centerpiece of Hearth & Dram’s old-timey-cabin-meets-modern-industrial space is the soaring, backlit bar (complete with a rolling ladder). The stunning display is home to an eye-poppingly long list of libations, some hailing from Colorado and others coming from as far as Japan. An iPad houses the selection of spirits and the cocktail menu (try the Paper Plane, made with bourbon, amaro, Aperol, and lemon juice), which makes browsing a breeze. As an alternative experience, Hearth & Dram also offers a portable cart dedicated to reserve whiskeys such as the Distillery 291’s Bad Guy bourbon, 13-year Willett Family Estate single-barrel bourbon, and Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-year Family Reserve (which runs for $65 an ounce!). Flag down the roving cart and the barkeep will make you a tableside old fashioned with the tipple of your choice.
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Although the long list of options can be intimidating, Christopher Straka, Hearth & Dram’s general manager, has suggestions for both novice whiskey drinkers and aficionados. “Whiskey is the American spirit,” Straka says. “Lots of small producers are unifying and redefining it, taking it back from the big corporations.” There’s no better place to taste such delicious craftsmanship than Hearth & Dram. Here are a few highlights from the list to get you started:
A good starter whiskey: Leopold Bros. American small-batch whiskey, which Straka describes as light, smooth, and approachable, is made right here in Denver. It has hints of vanilla, pear, and raspberry on the palate and subtle notes of oak and vanilla.
For someone who enjoys and understands whiskey: Michter’s small-batch Kentucky straight bourbon is well-balanced, with rich caramel, vanilla, and stone fruit notes.
A whiskey enthusiast should definitely try: A.D. Laws small-batch secale rye, another local favorite. Straka loves the hint of spice that lingers on the palate from this phenomenal, complex rye.
1801 Wewatta St., 303-623-0979
—Photo by Rachel Adams