For years (if not for decades), The French Laundry in Yountville, California has been regarded as America’s best restaurant. It is also universally viewed as one of the toughest reservations to get, as well as one of the most expensive restaurant meals in the country---not the most expensive, since that accolade is usually given to Chef Thomas Keller’s other restaurant, Per Se, in Manhattan.
The menu is a multi-course tasting extravaganza that comes in at $270 per person, service included. The 15 or so courses take roughly 5-6 hours to consume, virtually insuring the consumption of several bottles of wine. The restaurant’s wine list is extensive and elaborate, but not cheap either; figure $800-1000 per couple before you’re through.
Now The French Laundry has come up with a new profit center: a spirits list. Without much fanfare, the restaurant acquired its liquor license back in September, and head sommelier Dennis Kelly quietly went about sourcing a selection of the finest and rarest distilled spirits on the planet.
The results are predictably mind-boggling. The list runs to 14 pages, and reads like the document you would want presented to you immediately after winning the lottery. Fan of Scotch? Indulge in a dram of 1939 Macallan for $1,850, or a bit of 57 year-old in Lalique III for $1,950. Prefer Cognac? Hennessy “Queen’s Silver Jubilee”---100 years old, bottled in 1977---will set you back $1,450. If you’re a devotee of Kentucky Bourbon, don’t fret: 1911 Jim Beam is offered for $1,500, and Old Fitzgerald 1950 costs $1,750 per shot.
The list goes on and on, and there’s something for everyone. There’s a 1952 rum from Martinique at $350, an 1893 Bas-Armagnac for $595, and a rare 1940 Green Chartreuse for $950. Cheapskates needn’t worry, either: They can indulge in 2011 Grand Marnier Quintessence for $125, or sip a 1997 Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes for $38. Whatever your pleasure, you’re allowed to enjoy your after-dinner delight in the garden of The French Laundry, accompanied by a fine cigar.
Did someone say cigars? The humidor contains selections from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Sumatra, Nicaragua and Honduras. For those newly-minted lottery winners, though, nothing satisfies like a pre-embargo Cuban. Nine stogie possibilities are offered in total, from a 1932 Peter Schuyler ($165) to an 1868 West End Cheroot ($595). Simply select your favorite beverage, light one up, and enjoy. Life is good.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com