If you find yourself on one of those steamy summer days in central Virginia there is a world of possibilities for things to do. As many already know there is a booming craft beer industry that has cropped up in the area. All you have to do is head out to Route 151 in Nelson County to go touring many of the local beer and wine options. However, maybe beer or wine aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. Or maybe you have a group of people with you and you’re trying to find a variety of activities that will keep everyone occupied. Just keep driving. Charlottesville is not too far away and their downtown mall, among other things, has something to offer as well.
Any time you talk about Charlottesville, it seems, you’re obligated to bring up Thomas Jefferson. However, for all his good qualities one thing Thomas Jefferson lacked was an appreciation of America’s native spirit. While he kept whiskey around to keep his workers happy he had little good to say about it. To him, “Whiskey claims to itself alone exclusive office of sot-making.” So, as far as we're concerned Thomas Jefferson, founder of UVA, Charlottesville's favorite son, blah, blah, blah.
However, there is one other local hero who did know the value of whiskey. Merriweather Lewis. There was an old adage that many general's of the time kept in high regard.
“Whenever you set off on a march, make sure you've got plenty of beer and wine along and that it's enough to last until you get far enough away from camp so that nobody can desert.” - Napoleon
This maxim was not lost on Lewis and Clark. In true American fashion though it wasn't wine they brought but whiskey. 120 gallons of it to be exact. Likely bourbon, rye and Tennessee whiskeys. They calculated out just how much to give their men each day (four ounces) to get them to the great falls before it ran out. So, remember all adventures great and small are sustained by whiskey.
So, for our little day trip where did we start? Well a trip to The Whiskey Jar on the downtown mall in Charlottesville of course because before we get started it's a good idea to make sure that there's enough alcohol to keep everyone going. We don’t want anyone turning back after all. Planning your day right you could very easily start at the end of the downtown mall satisfy those whiskey needs and then make your way up the street past the various shops and other restaurants to the pavilion and catch a concert. Or you could just spend the day shopping, eating and fit in a little pub crawl.
The whiskey jar has over 125 Rye, Bourbon Scotch, Irish Whiskey's and more to choose from. By the standards set by most bars that's a pretty decent library and for a whiskey bar in a small town a great start. They also have a fair amount of hard to find items that if you’re feeling like branching out could serve you well. Their tasting flights allow you the option to choose from any three on their menu or you can try one of their curated flights instead. We tried their personal favorites flight which included Jefferson's Ocean, Hirsch 20yr and High West American Prairie. All were good bourbon entries. We, also tried their Scotch Making Regions flight which included Glenfiddich 15yr, Ebradour 10yr, and Arbeg 10 yr (a Speyside, Highland and Islay in case you were wondering). It's always fun to bring someone that is not familiar with these as well. You find some interesting perspectives. For instance I found out that the nose on the Arbeg is much like bacon and plastic. An assertion that was not entirely inaccurate as it is a bit smoky but I’m not sure that’s really what the brewer was going for.
Looking at the selection I was quite happy with the bourbon's but probably would have done the build your own flight on the Scotch that's more just about personal taste than anything though. One member of our party did try the Old Forester Signature 100. A bourbon we were told, by one of our waiters, is “for the money the best fucking drink we have.” A recommendation I can say is not a bad one as I am sipping on some Old Forester as I write this. As for the food it was decent, locally sourced barbecue type fair which goes great with the drinks. The wait staff was great. Got that great unsolicited review and we brought a decent size group who they didn't bat an eye at rearranging their outdoor seating area to accommodate. Overall, if you're visiting Charlottesville for the day you really can't do wrong by visiting the Whiskey Jar and sampling some of their options before you start your day. Remember it's what Lewis and Clark would do….maybe. I wonder how much 120 gallons of whiskey would cost today.