What To Expect From NYC’s Newest Whiskey Bar
By Kurt Maitland
The minds that brought you the Brandy Library have branched out from their Soho home to fire up a new location on the Lower East Side called Copper & Oak, and more than just the location has changed.
Copper & Oak is less formal than the Brandy Library—jazz has been replaced by a playlist of 80’s music—a style that reflects the location. The Lower East Side is cheaper than Soho, no cocktails are on the menu, and a French take on a hot dog is a highlight of the current food offerings. The new bar is considerably smaller than its big brother, space is at a premium, and it is set up for sidling up to the bar and picking your drink from the Kindles that hold the drink menus. Instead of the couches that are plentiful at the Brandy Library, only few stools are mounted on the right side of the bar.
Even so, Copper & Oak is far from a stripped down version of its sibling. It is a beautiful bar with charms all its own. It gleams with copper and has walls and shelves made of the wood of used bourbon barrels. Even the bathroom sink is made of parts of an old still. Its stylish, but not stiffly upscale, and that might be more appropriate because Copper & Oak is strongly focused on is the appreciation of whiskey. Yes, it does have brandy and cognac, its whiskey offerings are stellar and a must-experience for the whiskey lover.
There are entire shelves of bourbon and scotch to be found here, with a spotlight on Japanese whisky and grain whiskies. I’ve been told there are 80 different Japanese whiskys on the shelves, making it one of the deepest selections of its type on the US East Coast. As for the grain whiskies, they are something that owner Flavien Desoblin feels are often underrated and under-appreciated by many whiskey fans and deserved to be showcased. So odds are your favorite dram can be found and you can still delve into excellent yet less familiar expressions of whiskey.
For example, for their grand opening I had a pleasure of tasting a 50 yr old Clan Denny (from the North Britain distillery) followed by a Yamazaki Sherry Cask release (currently not released in the US). I followed it up with one of the older Parker’s Heritage expressions and a Bunnahabhain 12. Obviously Copper & Oak’s smaller footprint does not inhibit a quality whiskey journey, even though that journey starts in a place one might least expect it.