The Multnomah Whiskey Library opened yesterday, October 8, and now is operating under a regular T-Sat 4pm-midnight schedule. There is no window that shows their space- in fact look carefully for their sandwich board sign because that’s all the hint you’ll get to look left and see the door nearby 12th and Alder. You go down a hallway to reach their big wooden door, where you must then inquire about a table. I can imagine that this hallway will be quite populated if the wait times continue through the upcoming rainy season, rather than guests waiting outside on the sidewalks.
I arrived around 5pm and was told there was a 40 minute wait. I gave the host my name and phone number to put down, and about 20-25 minutes later got the call that they had an opening and I needed to be there in 5 minutes. Unfortunately the rest of my part was not there yet, so I confirmed my presence and quickly contacted everyone to get their butts over, as they will seat everyone at the same time.
The inside really does remind me of an Ivy League university library, resplendent with its communal “study” table as well as some big leather booths and couches. The servers are dressed in ties and vests, and serve your beverage selections either from a cart or silver tray, giving a level of formality that underscores the elegant chandeliers and stained glass on the ceiling, as well as the shelves with their seemingly fragile precious treasures on display.
I was impressed by their whiskey selection, which included 9 Scottish Whiskeys, 4 Irish Whisky, 4 “World Whisky/Whiskey” from India, France, Japan and Canada, 4 American Whiskey and 5 Kentucky Bourbon. I somehow missed the page of other alcohol bottles and the beer selection (they plan to have three beers on tap, one local, one English ale, one stout as well as a dozen or so bottles). However, I did catch a snap of the 8 cocktails.
But I was disappointed they did not offer whiskey flights so that I could try a few different options from their vast collection. I understand that they plan to rotate a list of 12-14 to highlight every 2 weeks, but with so many bottles why wouldn’t you offer some educational pours such as one that is all the same year, or same area, or all very smokey, etc? At each tasting of these ranging from $6-7 at the least and up to $57 (most are in the $15 range) and with this kind of wait continuing as I’m sure many are excited about the Whiskey Library, I wonder who can really spend the time and money needed to get the desired whiskey education.
Still, the servers are certainly excited- they have been learning for months, and have a weekly “study group” themselves on Monday to continue their education in order to serve us better. That makes me excited. They also have a free book you can ask for, a little journal where you can make notes of your tasting evaluation. It is a great little book that includes illustrations and quotes on one side of 2 pages and the other having areas to jot down information about the spirit and take notes on appearance, nose, palate, finish, and misc.
They do offer food in a hidden kitchen- when there are plates ready for service a panel on the side of one wall opens, and then closes, hiding the kitchen away. The restroom seems very secretive as well- you have to tell the host stand because they have to buzz you past the first door outside, and then there is a code on the restroom door as well. I’m sure this is a thrill for both sides in having to know the details of this interaction.
I was surprised by how wide the menu ranges. Small snacks (under a section called “Tidbits” priced less then $5 include baguettes or pretzel rolls or olives or nuts. Slightly more substantial from $6-10 include bites like a salad, blistered padron peppers, crispy potatoes, seared scallop or oysters, or an intriguing dish of chanterelles with a slow poached egg and stewed whiskey grains, or a salmon smoked over peat. Both these sections are under “The Farmer” for vegetables and “The Monger” for seafood.
Larger plates are under “The Butcher” and include options such as a plate of country hams, a cheese and meat plate, pork belly, scotch egg, bacon wrapped pluouts, mac n cheese, a “hot brown”, and a cheeseburger and a steak. The most expensive items were the filet mignon at $30, and an American Caviar Service at market price. They also offer a few desserts: a cheese plate, butterscotch pudding, chocolate stout cake (it was listed with Old Fitzgerald Barrel a Imperial Stout beer by FiftyFifty Brewing Co), and a similarly intriguing fried pecan and bourbon pie.
The bites I tried included the heirloom tomato tart at $6, the “hot brown” I mentioned, which was described simply as “dark meat gravy, gruyere, belly, baked egg” at $9, and the dessert cheese plate of fennel pollen crackers, 2 selections from Steve’s cheese (seriously how hard is Steve working, going all over the city providing selections!), and preserved apricots. The tart was nothing special, but I was surprised at how hearty the Hot Brown was, though also a little awkward for us to eat as we were sitting at a couch with little individual TV trays for each of us that didn’t even come up to my knee.
There are more beautiful photos of the inside here at this Eater article “Check Out the 1,500-Bottle Multnomah Whiskey Library”. I’m still thinking about that fried pecan and bourbon pie, so I’ll check up on them in a bit and see how things are doing.