The inaugural Toronto Bourbon Week (Friday, September 27, to October 3, torontobourbonweek.com) is upon us, testament to our city's obsession with American whiskey. Five years ago, you were lucky to find six bourbons on LCBO shelves. Now, new esoteric imports seem to appear weekly.
But what's at the root of this renaissance? According to Matt Jones, whiskey ambassador for Beam, many factors contribute to consumer thirst, but the availability of quality bourbon and the revitalization of classic mixology play a big part.
"For the folks who really appreciate whiskey, it's about the complex palate, the lingering mouth-feel that comes after each sip," he said. "Each distillery offers diversity in style, something for everyone - a whiskey for every occasion, for every mood."
So when you're not busy hitting events like Bourbon And Barrel Beers at Bar Volo (587 Yonge, 416-928-0008, barvolo.com) on Tuesday (October 1), the Bourbon Mix at Ursa (924 Queen West, 416-536-8963, ursa-restaurant.com) on Wednesday (October 2) or the Bourbon Derby at 3030 (3030 Dundas West, 416-769-5736, 3030dundaswest.com) October 3, here's where to soak up your bourbon fix.
1602 (1602 Dundas West)
Jason Abrams's lo-fi bar boasts 80 bourbons (alongside a ton of single malt whiskeys and American ryes) and treasures like William Larue Weller ($24) and Black Maple Hill ($12).
The Emmet Ray (924 College, 416-792-4497, theemmetray.com)
Owner Andrew Kaiser curates one of the most impressive whisk(e)y selections in the city, stocking 53 bourbons - from Old Charter and Old Forester ($7.25) to George T. Stagg ($19) and Eagle Rare 17-year-old ($16).
Grand Electric (1330 Queen West, 416-627-3459, grandelectricbar.com)
Grab a glass of Old Fitzgerald ($13) or Woodford Reserve Copper Still ($18) with your tacos or take advantage of daily bourbon specials ($4). Sister spot Electric Mud (5 Brock, 416-516-8286, electricmudbbq.com) keeps the same list.
The Red Light (1185 Dundas West, 416-533-6667)
Nic Savage's sexily lit whiskey cave is easily one of my favourite spots in town to sip quality bourbon. The cozy bar is awash with glistening bottles of brown booze, from Old Grand Dad ($6.50) to Hancock's President's Reserve ($14).
BARCHEF 472 Queen West, 416-868-4800, barcheftoronto.com
Co-owner Brent VanderVeen has a knack for procuring hard-to-find bourbons like Eagle Rare 17-year-old ($18) and Colonel H. Taylor Single Barrel ($12), and Frankie Solarik crafts sublime whiskey cocktails.
THE COMRADE 758 Queen East, 416-778-9449
This Leslieville institution stocks the finest American whiskey selection on the east side and one of the best in the city.
THE COUNTY GENERAL 936 Queen West, 416-531-4447, thecountygeneral.ca
The County's amber-centric bar is home to over 35 bourbons - from Old Forrester Birthday Bourbon ($16) to Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel ($20).
GOODS AND PROVISIONS 1124 Queen East, 647-340-1738, goodsandprovisionsrestaurant.com
This Leslieville local stocks over 20 bourbons, including scarce drams like Pappy 12-year-old ($20) and Old Rip Van Winkle 10 ($15).
THE MILLER TAVERN 31 Bay, 416-366-5544, themiller.ca
The Miller's downtown location boasts a back bar stocked with some of the choicest brown stuff. Be sure to ask for a whiskey-forward cocktail from the stellar bar team.
THE MONARCH TAVERN 12 Clinton, 416-531-5833, themonarchtavern.com
A go-to for bourbon lovers, the Monarch is hosting TBW's Classics From The Old School on Monday (September 30).
SPIRITHOUSE 487 Adelaide West, 647-277-1187, spirithousetoronto.com
True to its name, this is where you can splurge on special pours like the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection ($40/50ml) and Colonel E.H. Taylor ($19/50ml).