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Portland, Oregon, certainly has a beguiling, quirky side. But once you climb the unassuming staircase that leads to the Multnomah Whiskey Library and step beyond its frosted-glass door, you’ll find nothing but unadulterated elegance.
Dark paneling, exposed brick and oil-painting portraits give the high-ceilinged space (located in the Pearl District) a posh feel reminiscent of both a university library and a vintage old-boys’ club. Proprietor Alan Davis, known for successfully revamping southeast Portland’s circa-1974 bar Produce Row Café, opened the carefully curated thousand-bottle-strong shrine to whiskey last year after experiencing a jolt of inspiration at New York’s Brandy Library (25 N. Moore St.; 212-226-5545; brandylibrary.com).
Apron-donning bartenders (ask for Tommy Klus, the knowledgeable bar manager and head librarian) use sliding brass ladders to reach the high shelves. The impressive selections—ranging from a sherry-aged GlenDronach 15-year-old Scotch to a reimagined Irish mash bill from Oregon distillery Ransom—are rolled out to patrons on custom bar carts. A communal table was salvaged from a local library and topped with green reading lamps; cocktails like an impeccable Bobby Burns are a specialty. (Along with the whiskeys, there are 500 other spirits of all types.)
Crowds would impede the affable and conscientious service for which the bar is known, so there is room for just 65 guests at a time. Sidestep the typical three-hour waits by purchasing an annual membership fee ($500) that ensures elusive reservations, or go a step further and secure a private spirits locker ($1,250). Either way, with such an exhaustive collection to pore over, you’ll be in no hurry to abandon your fireside perch. 1124 SW Alder St.; 503-954-1381; mwlpdx.com.