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Top Shelf

Host: Welcome to opening day at Top Shelf. We don't open for another few minutes, but feel free to grab yourself a seat at the bar while I get set up. You can see I haven't even had a chance to stock our two shelves.

Customer: Thanks. It's good to finally have a nice bar in this neighborhood.

Host: We're happy to be here. If you're interested, I've personally curated this collection and can tell you all about it while you wait.

For instance, this bourbon comes only from barrels aged at the center section of warehouse 'H'.

Customer: Hmm.

Host: Did you know that these two are made by a company named after a mixed drink that included absinthe? They're both part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.

Customer: Nope.

Host: I see the younger version of this in liquor stores all the time, but this version is part of the Antique Collection, and is much harder to find

Customer: Gotcha.

Host: Don't judge a whiskey by its color. This stuff isn't fancy, but it's aged at least four years.

Customer: Hah!

Host: The funny thing about this Kentucky bourbon is that it's shipped over to Germany for bottling.

Customer: Really?

Host: And this one — after a century-long hiatus, this family returned to making whiskey using the original recipes.

Customer: Wow.

Host: This bourbon was reportedly a favorite of Ulysses S Grant. It seems the quality has deteriorated somewhat since his day.

Customer: Right.

Host: For a long time the distiller behind this bottle was known to produce a lot of rot gut whiskey. It's really turned itself around. I think being purchased by a company from the Far East helped.

Customer: Very interesting.

Host: Would you believe me if I told you that a limited number of bottles of this vintage of Willett actually came from the Stitzel Weller mashbill?

Customer: I would.

Host: I actually had a chance to visit the Kentucky land that this whiskey was named after. It's a beautiful spot along a river.

Customer: Sounds lovely.

Host: This one's so popular even billionaires can't find an unopened bottle of it to buy.

Customer: No kidding.

Host: This one is only semi related to the superior 'A.H.' variety.

Customer: Hmm, okay.

Host: Some people think this is Pappy, but it's really just a Van Winkle.

Customer: Didn't realize that.

Host: This is another from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It ages for no less than 15 years.

Customer: That's pretty old.

Host: They release this once a year to celebrate an event in early September.

Customer: Every year, really?

Host: I personally prefer the rye of the same name and age from this distiller.

Customer: The rye's good.

Host: The previous year's release of this bourbon is still one of my favorites — finished off in cognac casks.

Customer: Cognac casks, eh?

Host: I was pretty surprised when I learned that this one here was Harry Truman's favorite bourbon, given the type of clientele who want to drink it.

Customer: Truman can't be wrong.

Host: I had to stock this when I read the reviews: "It tastes like the sweat of a hobo who got drunk on bourbon."

Customer: Doubt I'll try that.

Host: Not one of my favorites, but named after a Kentucky recluse.

Customer: That one looks good, too.

Host: They also make honey, cherry and cinnamon versions of this guy, but I think it's terrible to do that to a bourbon. I stick with this label.

Customer: Yeah, bourbons shouldn't be flavored.

Host: This 80-proof bourbon was a good brand before the current company bought the name.

Customer: Why do new owners ruin things?

Host: Rumor has it that a groove metal band from the early eighties named an album after this bourbon.

Customer: I think I know that album.

Host: Would you believe that this bourbon is made by the only remaining family-owned distillery in Kentucky? You'd think after all these years they'd know how to make better bourbon than this.

Customer: Nothing like alcohol to forge friendship.

Host: This one is good, but I actually prefer the younger 18-year-old variety.

Customer: I hear they're both quite difficult to find.

Host: If you're familiar with the Velvet Glove, this is very similar, just a year older.

Customer: Yeah, that's similar to the iron fist, am I right?

Host: You could say that this is as rare as it gets. Only an act of God could produce something like this.

Customer: What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger I suppose.

Host: This wheated bourbon is the fifth and final bottle in the Antique Collection.

Customer: I might need to order the whole flight of that collection.

Host: This one is referenced on the t-shirts of a floor in the East Campus dormitory at MIT.

Customer: Ah yes, I got a late night tour from him once.

Host: Rumor has it, the rye in this bottle is much older than the label indicates. The age listed on the bottle refers to the youngest of the whiskies inside.

Customer: How misleading — though I suppose it makes the bottle more valuable, right?

Host: The name of this bourbon supposedly comes from a poker hand, in reference to a type of straight. I wouldn't bet on it if you're trying to impress a date, however.

Customer: Thanks for the tip. I wouldn't want to seem like a cheapskate.