A Bourbon-loving Louisvillian Visits NYC's Brandy Library

Choosing from the wall to wall collection of fine whiskeys

Photo by Maggie Kimberl

Photo by Maggie Kimberl

There are few whiskey bars with international renown. One place I have been repeatedly asked my thoughts on is New York City’s Brandy Library, and I finally made it there recently. I knew that this was a place with a massive distilled spirits collection, and that it was host to the first ever  NY International Spirits Competition in 2011, but I was unprepared for the walls and walls of glowing copper spirits. It’s not just a huge collection of brandy and whiskey, it’s a sensory experience.

Real Estate in New York can be pretty pricey, and I noticed several times throughout my stay how adaptive people seem to be to work around space limitations. The Brandy Library did an excellent job of fitting what I can only guess is thousands of bottles into a tiny space by lining every wall with them. The hefty leatherbound menu goes on for many pages, and you can find everything from Copper & Kings American Brandy to Maxime Trijol Cognac to rare Japanese whisky, special bottlings of Laphroaig Scotch, a rye Manhattan and of course, those unicorn bourbons and other malts from around the world. 

The bottle-lined walls glimmer under the lights and copper accents and charred barrel staves decorate the space. The chandeliers over the bar look like copper worms from the type of rudimentary still you might see at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery, cooling the vapors back into liquid inside of a barrel.

Photo by Maggie Kimberl

Photo by Maggie Kimberl

The servers, including bar manager Flavien Desoblin, are exceptionally knowledgeable about the spirits they are serving and eager to help navigate the menu, and it seems particularly noteworthy that they were not out of anything that we ordered. There’s also great food and high end bar snacks - especially those divine gougères (cheese puffs). 

As with most places in New York, there is no smoking indoors, but the Brandy Library managed to fit in a beautiful patio area outside the front door where smoking is permitted. There was a large group out there celebrating a birthday when we were there, and I can see this as a very worthy special occasion venue. 

But sometimes the most special occasion is making it through another day of life, and Brandy Library is also a great place to celebrate those small victories. There are comfortable chairs arranged for optimal conversation. One thing I learned from Colin Spoelman at Kings County Distillery is that bars such as this one are where New Yorkers meet to socialize because oftentimes apartments lack space for entertaining.

Every detail ties together the love of distilled spirits. Coasters, napkins, hand towels in the restroom, and even the gentlemen’s neckties are emblazoned with the outline of pot stills. This is not the kind of place where you will see a haphazard collection of quasi-branded items thrown together in a lazy attempt to show off that it's a whiskey bar. Everything at The Brandy Library - from the bottles on the menu to the decor - is carefully chosen.

The Brandy Library is open Sunday to Wednesday from 5pm and Thursday to Saturday from 4pm. It is located at 25 N. Moore St., New York, NY 10013.