Back in 2007, Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) introduced a simple resolution that named the month of September 2007 as "National Bourbon Heritage Month." While that resolution was only a one-time acknowledgement, bourbon bars have continued to celebrate every September as Bourbon Heritage Month, giving bourbon enthusiasts a good reason to indulge in "America's Native Spirit."
Over the next few weeks, Jack Rose, McClellan's Retreat and other bars will host special tastings and events celebrating American whiskey. Just remember a key point from Bunning's resolution: "Whereas people who enjoy bourbon should do so responsibly and in moderation."
2007 18th St. NW. 202-588-7388. www.jackrosediningsaloon.com.
With the largest collection of bourbon in the Western Hemisphere, it's no surprise Jack Rose is going all-out for National Bourbon Heritage Month. Each day finds a different bourbon discounted, ranging from Willett to Pappy Van Winkle. The real fun begins on Sept. 23, with four nights of events. Wednesday is a beer, cigar and bourbon tasting on the rooftop deck, with Jack Rose-exclusive beers, such as Devils Backbone Old Ale aged in a 12-year-old Willett barrel, and Saucony Creek's imperial coffee stout aged in a 21-year-old Willett barrel, all paired with cigars.
On Sept. 24, the action moves to the Dram and Grain basement bar, where eight house bourbon cocktails, including the Mother-in-Law and the bone-washed Double Dragon, sell for $10 all night. In a move certain to raise hackles from people who get up in arms about the prices of one-off cocktails, bartender Lukas B. Smith is making a $1,000 cocktail for the occasion: A mint julep concocted with the very, very rare barrel-proof Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old bourbon that was packaged in a limited-edition decanter set back in 2009. (There's also mint and sugar in the glass.)
Sept. 25 is Pappy Hour, with discounted Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, including rarities, from 5 to 7 p.m. And on Sept. 26, events wrap up with a five-course dinner dinner and guided tasting with Fred Minnick, the author of the new "Bourbon Curious." The $125 ticket includes a signed copy of the book. Then, from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., there's a tasting of super-rare bourbons in the basement bar called "The Greatest Tastes on Earth." There's no charge to attend, but the bourbons will be a la carte. (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.)
2348 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-625-7770. Facebook page.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, Fred Minnick will also be at Bourbon in Glover Park to talk about "Bourbon Curious" and taste the highly curated list of rare bourbons and ryes. A cursory list includes Prohibition-era bottles, some 1970s and '80s Stitzel-Weller bottles and vintage Brown-Foreman President's Choice, to Willetts that range from the first bottles in D.C. (Iron Fist and Velvet Glove) to 20-year-old bottlings. General Manager Jared Hayman is setting up some blind tasting flights, including "Spot the Pappy," where would-be experts can try three different pours to identify the Pappy Van Winkle again similarly aged bourbons, or try to pick a vintage wheated bourbon from a lineup of three whiskeys. The book signing and talk runs from 4 to 7 p.m.
1841 Seventh St. NW. 202-316-9396. www.whiskeyhome.com.
For Derek Brown, National Bourbon Heritage Month is about education. Each week, Southern Efficiency prepared three legendary bourbon drinks – the Bourbon Rickey, the Whiskey Sour and the Old Fashioned – with a different style of whiskey. Not just a different label, but a different type of bourbon: The first week involved the classic 100-proof Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond in any of those three cocktails for $9 a pop. Upcoming weeks include W.L. Weller, a wheated bourbon, and Four Roses Single Barrel, known as a high rye bourbon. For the last week of the month, there's a focus on classic Kentucky cocktails, such as juleps, the Seelbach and the Pendennis Club, and a happy hour with the Kentucky Society of Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. Food specials for that last week include Louisville Chips n' Dip (cream cheese, roasted onion, cucumbers and charred hot peppers) and an Owensboro sandwich (braised goat or mutton with pickles on a potato roll).
501 Florida Ave. NW. 202-332-7777. www.theroyaldc.com.
The Royal is best known for breakfast bites and having Vermouth on tap, but on Monday, Sept. 14, it's hosting a bourbon takeover with D.C. distributor LeDroit Brands. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., bartenders pouring at least eight whiskeys from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, the producers of Willett. In addition to Willett – including a rare 22-year-old bourbon from the distillery gift shop – they'll have Old Bardtown, Noah's Mill and Rowan's Creek. All whiskeys will be $8, whether you want it neat, on the rocks or in a classic cocktail, such as a Manhattan or Boulevardier.
613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-543-3622. www.barreldc.com.
Throughout the month, the Capitol Hill whiskey bar features a menu of bourbon-focused cocktails, ranging from the Scofflaw, created in Paris during Prohibition, to the more modern Revolver, with whiskey, orange bitters and a house-made cold brew cordial. Each week, a different bourbon sells for $5 at happy hour (4-7 p.m. weekdays), starting with Old Forester.
America Eats Tavern
1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean. 703-744-3999. www.americaeatstavern.com. $150.
Since few things say "America" like bourbon, it's natural that America Eats is hosting a bourbon-tasting dinner in September. A reception with passed hors d'oeuvres and whiskey cocktails, a six-course dinner, and guided whiskey flights are included in the $150 ticket, but the value also comes from the speakers: Mack McConnell, the founder of the Taster's Club; Brian Thompson and Tim Moll of the Whisk(e)y Library; and Smooth Ambler distiller John Foster.
2031 Florida Ave. NW. 202-265-6270. www.mcclellansretreat.com.
The Civil War-themed McClellan's Retreat has always offered a stellar bourbon selection. For National Bourbon Heritage Month, it has unveiled its first flights. A $38 trio of WhistlePig whiskeys includes a pour of the bar's own 10-year-old over-proof whiskey and a pour of the 12-year-old Old World, which was aged in Madeira, Sauternes and port barrels, and can sell for around $145 a bottle. Locals might want to scope out the $20 Virginia flight, with Bowman Brothers Small Batch and Copper Fox Rye.
1836 18th St. NW. 202-299-0399. www.rebelliondc.com.
Every Wednesday, the Dupont Circle whiskey bar offers 25 percent off all bourbons "not ending in Van Winkle," plus occasional tastings with reps from bourbon companies.