Each summer, my family escapes to Estes Park, Colorado, for a reprieve from the Kansas weather. While the Stanley Hotel was an attraction we had always been familiar with, it was not until recently that Stanley Hotel Whiskey Bar became an attraction of its own.
Built in 1909, The Stanley Hotel is a beautiful sight offering stunning panoramic views of Estes Park. Visitors, whether staying at the hotel or not, are welcome to sit on the veranda, order a drink, and enjoy a direct view of Long’s Peak in the distance.
The Stanley Hotel has also been featured on the silver screen. Stephen King’s “The Shining” was both inspired by the hotel and filmed there. The hotel was also the backdrop for several scenes near the end of a personal favorite of mine, “Dumb and Dumber.” In fact, the whiskey bar where Lloyd declares to his fellow patrons that “we landed on the moon!” is The Stanley Hotel Whiskey Bar.
The Stanley Hotel Whiskey Bar has improved leaps and bounds over the past five years. While it was always beautiful, its stock was not particularly inspiring. However, it now features a staggering collection of bourbon, scotch, and other whiskey. Just take a look at The Stanley Hotel Whiskey Bar menu, and you’ll see what I mean.
Additionally, its bar service and cocktail preparation and selection has become top notch.
During my most recent visit, I spoke to some of the bartenders about how the bar has developed over the past few years. They confirmed that there has been a concerted effort to supply both a wide and fine selection of whiskey, particularly bourbon, in recent years. And, unlike Kansas, Colorado law does not restrict bars and restaurants to purchase their spirits from retailers. As a result, the bar is supplied directly by a distributor, which aides their efforts considerably.
The bar has also ventured into selecting their own single barrel bourbons. I was fortunate enough to try their three Eagle Rare single barrel samples. While they were each a cut above, the one I selected as my favorite was also the one selected by the bar.
Currently, the bar features single barrel picks of Knob Creek, Russell’s Reserve, and Four Roses.
The Knob Creek pick is the same age as the standard single barrel – 9 years old.
Having sampled a few single barrel store/bar picks recently, I was interested to see what this particular one had to offer. The nose was the familiar blend of vanilla, oak, and pepper. But, I could tell this one was going to be spicy. The palate delivered a blast of spice up front, with some dark bitter chocolate underneath and nutty caramel. The finish was long and peppery. This one drinks above its 120-proof and reminded me of some of the barrel proof samples we tried for R&J’s store pick.
Next, I tried the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel.
While the Knob Creek was on the hotter end of the spectrum, this one was certainly on the mellow end. The nose was a delicate combination of rye spice, caramel, and rich chocolate with some orange peel. The palate was a smooth and mellow delivery of baking spice and caramel. On the finish, the oak was more pronounced with some light syrup sweentess lingering with a bit of white pepper.
The Four Roses OESK came next. As you can see from the picture, I was fortunate to get the bottle’s final pour. I’m still working on my Four Roses Private Selection conquest and this one was a great teaser to my upcoming OBSK and OESK comparison.
My grand finale was an unexpected surprise. It is also a reminder of why you should always be nice to your bartender. Between drinks I was asking the bar staff about their favorites among the bar’s collection. One of the bartenders reached back and grabbed this.
The William Heavenhill Small Batch Bottled-in-Bond. This is the 11-year old 3rd edition, which was released in 2014. It was only offered for sale at the Heaven Hill distillery’s gift shop. To be quite honest, I’m not sure how the bar even got a bottle. Then, to further my amazement, the bartender poured me a free sample.
The nose on this was like smelling freshly made creme brulee, mixed with the traditional bourbon notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. The palate was like a rich candy bar with chocolate, nutmeg, and baking spices. The finish carried each of these flavors in a remarkable balance for quite some time.
If you ever find yourself in Estes Park, paying a visit to the Stanley Hotel Whiskey Bar is certainly worth your while.