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Originally, when I started writing this piece, I was going to juxtapose Block Butcher Bar‘s relation to LowBrau. How Block, under quite remarkable odds, seemed to effortlessly maintain an air of poise and class, next to one of the busiest bars in Sacramento. It’s no secret that Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis, along with renowned chef, Michael Tuohy, have done a doubly remarkable job with both Block and LowBrau, but where LowBrau feels very much at home in Sacramento – sourcing excellent brews and great local fare – upon entering Block I am transported somewhere else entirely. It feels as if when I leave, I’m going to find myself stepping onto a quiet street in Southeast Portland, or some hip San Francisco neighborhood.

Like LowBrau, Block’s architecture is exceptional, and the food is on point. But the culture; the culture is something I experience at few establishments in Sacramento. And, to that end, I have to give credit to Dave Steinberg, general manager and bar manager of Block and Lowbrau. From his creative drive and excitement for all things distilled, he instills a true sense of intimacy and community to those who come through the doors. This, I believe, is all due to his passion for education. Not simply teaching people about whiskey, or the distillation process, but rather his approach: his focus on teaching people to enjoy the educational journey, rather than trying to hunt for an academic end. Fostering a community of knowledge seekers, rather than breeding whiskey snobs. This is his passion and his mission.

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of covering a whiskey tasting at Block for City Scout with the Bourbon Babes Whiskey Club of Sacramento. This particular tasting, Dave told us, was a first of it’s kind, a beta version, of what he calls the “Block Experience.” Arriving at the tasting we were greeted by a large community table, lined with six different samples of whiskey per person, paper and pen for note-taking, and a plethora of house-cured meats, cheeses, and olives. Dave explained that this was not to be looked at as an overly formal event. Though we took our time to focus on each new whiskey presented – nosing and tasting each one with care – we made sure that the main goal was to enjoy each others company. Nothing more, nothing less. Here’s what we sampled:

  1. Basil Hayen’s 8 Year Bourbon:

 Nose: Crisp and clean. Mint, loose leaf black tea, dried citrus, brief vanilla. Could pass for a rye.

Palate: Light and tounge with honey vanilla, mint, candied lemon peel, and spice throughout.

Finish: Sharp, dry finish, but not unexpected from a lighter bodied whiskey of such kind. Sly hint of rye and mint remain.

  1. W.L. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon:

 Nose: Honey sweetness, vanilla, light spice.

Palate: More of that honey, vanilla and Werther’s candy.

Finish: Light spice oak hits you for a quick finish.

  1. Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon:

 Nose: A flood of caramel, spiced fruit, and oak char.

Palate: Burned sugar, apple, cinnamon, spice come on strong. Char, oak, and maple syrup lay a foundation throughout.

Finish: Fairly long, intense, dry spice.

  1. Willett Straight Rye:

 Nose: New make, vanilla, pine, orange bitters.

Palate: Light mint, honey, and bright citrus.

Finish: Floral/herbal notes. Green fresh fruit.

  1. Corti Brothers 7 Year:

 Nose: Brown sugar, molasses, spice.

Palate: Port, dried herbs, very musty, spice.

Finish: Earthy finish with more oak and port and must.

  1. Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon:

 Nose: Toffee, dark roasted coffee, raisins, corn mash. Wood and spice.

Palate: Cocoa, dried fig, toffee, vanilla, roasted nuts. Huge oak.

Finish: For being such high proof it’s moderately long. Warm spice, and charred oak.

  1. Lock, Stock, and Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey:

 Nose: Fruit, honey, caramel mint, and spice.

Palate: At barrel-proof and a pure rye mashbill you’d expect this to be fairly aggressive, yet it is quite mellow in comparison. Not that it isn’t assertive: it provides loads of caramel, winter spice, vanilla and oak to boot.

Finish: Sweet, elegant, subtle rye, finish.


Photos | Wesley Scoville