It’s no surprise that you’re more likely to find the world’s best whiskey bars in large, bustling cities. They tend to be par for the course in places like New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo. The same goes for restaurants, hotels, and most other forms of diversion and entertainment. However, a hidden gem five-star restaurant or bar can be tucked into an otherwise mundane suburban strip mall. The Stewart, an elegant bar and lounge, debuted this summer in Easton, Maryland and it surely qualifies as a top destination whisky bar.
The Stewart boasts a whisky collection valued at approximately half a million dollars. However, you’ll have to get your fix for bourbon and Japanese whisky elsewhere. The bar places an exclusive emphasis on single malt scotch. The overall size of the collection may seem modest compared to today’s mega-whiskey bars which sport thousands of different bottles. But the 100+ single malt lineup here is studded by rare gems, single casks and exclusive independent bottler offerings.
The Balvenie 40 by the fire / Photo Credit: John Farrell
A quick look through the list will offer tantalizing expressions such as 40-year-old bottlings from The Balvenie and Glenfarclas; Glenmorangie Pride, a 34-year-old distilled in 1978; a 1954 Gordon and MacPhail Glen Grant and a 1950 Gordon & MacPhail Macallan to name but a few. There are also a few startlingly accessible drams hidden among the big fish. Notably, 25-year-old expressions from distilleries such as Benriach, Glen Moray, Glenturret, and Springbank, are all calling for a taste.
CLOSED, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Beyond these, beverage director Thad Hoy has also prioritized sourcing bottles from shuttered distilleries. “We have endeavored to source important distilleries which are now silent,” he says. “Littlemill, Ladyburn and Port Ellen were significant producers in their day and unique in their styles. We are tirelessly seeking out the remaining stocks and are dedicated to having them available to our customers.” The bar’s current Port Ellen is a 33-year-old Gordon & MacPhail offering, as opposed to one of the annual Diageo Special Releases.
The Stewart scotch collection / Photo Credit: John Farrell
The whole point is to help expose guests to rare, and hopefully sensational drams that they’ve never had before, “Allowing guests to experience Scotch whiskies they may never have otherwise had the opportunity to try,” Hoy says. “Most customers come to taste, learn and appreciate. A few are here to experience something rare and noteworthy and nearly every returning customer walks away with a new favorite.”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
The Stewart’s focus is clearly on the better things in life. Beyond the all-star scotch lineup, you’ll find a collection of rare vintage and non-vintage Champagnes, and indulgent snacks to match. So when you need a break from your dram session, you can peruse the list of bubbles. Grab a friend or four and get the 3-liter Krug Grand Cuvée. While you’re at it, why not munch on some Osetra caviar until you’re ready to return to the water of life.
Champagne and bar snacks / Photo Credit: John Farrell
Maryland’s eastern shore is known for its quaint retreats and exclusive properties, but more than that, Hoy believes the bar’s offerings match the culture of the people and the place. “The solid, honest, yet often complex nature of single malt scotch speaks to the determined men, women, and culture found on Maryland’s eastern shore—a culture rooted firmly in tradition, nature, farming, and maritime history,” Hoy says. “Easton has a timeless elegance to it, and our indulgent yet classic approach with The Stewart has proven a natural fit.”
Big city or not, The Stewart, with its stellar single malt lineup is a destination whisky bar to add to your radar.
Editor’s Note: Since The Stewart’s inventory is exclusive to Scotch whisky we have spelled the word whisky without the ‘e’ when describing the establishment and their selection. When referring generally to the category, we used the default American spelling of whiskey.