November 12, 2013

There are few places I’d rather be on a windy, rainy, cold, overcast October afternoon: The first is on my couch next to the front window, drinking coffee whilst wasting time on the Internet. The second is in a warm brick cellar tasting whiskey with a good friend who’s as knowledgeable as the peat is smokey.

That cellar specifically being that of Cellar & Loft in the River Market district just north of downtown Kansas City (Missouri). Opened in 2010—well, it was originally opened in the Brookside neighborhood in 2004—and owned by former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison, Cellar & Loft has been working on its identity and slowly becoming an up-and-coming hot spot for wine and whiskey.

My aforementioned friend, Dominic Petrucci, is the newly appointed store manager and has been at the helm of buying spirits. This guy knows his stuff. He’s also very generous with his knowledge and his pours. As I walk through the door on this particular day, Dominic greets me with a smile and a firm handshake and say: “Come on. I have something for you.”

We saunter into the actual cellar, complete with original-to-the-building wooden plank floors and brick walls. Dominic disappears into a locked back room. When he returns, he hands me a glass with about two fingers of something delicious, very delicious. This elixir is Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey (Batch #005, Bottle 20397). Crafted with 100% rye from the Pacific Northwest, this Sonoma, California, rye whiskey is hands-down the best I’ve ever tasted (smooth, with notes of vanilla and cinnamon). It’s not a surprise that Whiskey Advocate named Masterson’s 10 the #1 whiskey earlier this year.

Then Dominic hands me a glass of Aberlour A’bunadh single-malt scotch. I’m very green at tasting sipping whiskeys, but this one was simply beautiful. Here’s how the Aberlour website describes it:

“A’bunadh, Gaelic for ‘of the origin’, is matured exclusively in Oloroso ex-sherry butts. It is a natural cask-strength malt whisky produced without the use of modern-day chill filtering methods or the addition of water.”

I’m losing you, aren’t I? Anyway, all you need to know is that it’s a great whiskey. Thinking my tastings were over (as my only intention coming in that day was to say hello and to take photos for this post) he surprised me with one last pour: Laphroaig 10. What I’m trying to say here is that Dominic and the folks at Cellar stress hospitality to the utmost.

The atmosphere is warm and inviting, yet urban and cool. They have wooden lockers for members of their clubs (wine, whiskey, and/or beer) to store their personal caches of provisions whether it be liquor, beer, or cigars. They have giant plasma screens to watch your favorite game (ahem, 9-0 CHIEFS!). And they are currently in the process of finishing their upstairs pizza kitchen where they’ll make simple, traditional pizzas.

The bottom line is this: If you live in Kansas City, get thee to Cellar & Loft. If you’re visiting Kansas City, get thee to Cellar & Loft. And if you don’t have plans to visit Kansas City, you might want to reevaluate.

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