Whiskey Wonderland: The best Columbus bars for bourbon, Scotch and Irish whiskey

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From the March 13, 2014 edition

We at Alive are so dedicated to finding the best whiskey haunt for you that the five covered will surely satiate any whiskey drinker’s thirst (with both style and substance). But there are a few places in town that specialize in one type of whiskey, whether that’s bourbon, Scotch or Irish whiskey. Here’s a rundown of places to seek out when you’re looking for something specific, not just saying, as Jim Morrison once put it, “Show me the way to the next whiskey bar…”

BOURBON BAR: Bakersfield

733 N. High St., Short North

bakersfieldshortnorth.com

Inspired by the Bakersfield Sound, this joint is just right for bourbon fans looking for some fun. The atmosphere is part-modernized-old-Western-saloon, part-swanky-minimalist with its wood floors and Clint Eastwood classics playing on the TVs. Steal away to a booth in the back (if available) and begin your bourbon adventure.

Featuring, well, a crap-ton is really the only way to describe it, of bourbons, American whiskeys and ryes, Bakersfield is second to none. The bourbon portion is as diverse as it is extensive; packed with cheap steals (Buffalo Trace for $5) alongside quality high-end sippers (Blanton’s for $11, Booker’s for $12). There’s also a shot of the day for $3 that’s either whiskey or tequila. Tequila is only acceptable while watching “Pee-wee.”

IRISH WHISKEY BAR: Claddagh Irish Pub

585 S. Front St., Brewery District

claddaghirishpubs.com

Want Irish whiskey? Go to a proper Irish pub (and not one of those Irish-only-in-name strip-mall dives). Claddagh (or Fado at Easton) features an extensive Irish whiskey list that will make even the most fervent Jameson drinker — yes, I’m speaking from personal experience — shout “Slainte” with joy.

Everything from vintage Jamesons and oh-dear-god-that’s-smooth Redbreast bottles are available for a decent price, along with cheap, but quality spirits like Paddy’s or Concannon. The real high-end stuff is readily available as well, but you’ll really get more bang — and taste — for your buck with the less-expensive Irish whiskeys.

There’s also a solid selection of Bushmills for you Protestant drinkers out there. (Pro tip: They usually can’t hold their liquor like the Catholic boys).

SCOTCH BAR: Wings Restaurant

2801 E. Main St., Bexley

wingsofbexley.com

Want to impress that (kind of pretentious a-hole) friend who thinks he knows all about Scotch? Take them to the best hidden-gem Scotch bar in Wing’s Restaurant. Watch as they look bewildered and overjoyed as they peruse the best Scotch list in the Midwest. It’s literally a notebook.

The best way to explore these excellent, and in some cases very rare, Scotches is with a flight. And some advice from owner Ken Yee, who’s the most knowledgeable and friendly Scotch purveyor in Columbus. Yee will give you an in-depth rundown of Islays (peaty), Speysides (clean flavor) and even the stuff you’ve probably never even heard of before.

And the best part is you can sample some excellent Chinese food with these Scotches, which is another something you won’t find anywhere else.

Whiskey Wonderland: Introduction >>