If you’re serious enough about whiskey to stalk bottle exchange forums for rarities and faithfully chronicle everything you drink in a whiskey bible, there’s a new bar you should check out. At the end of summer, Tom Bergin’s will debut the Vestry, its new members-only place of whiskey worship up in its attic. The space, formerly the bar’s office, has been in the works for a long while, even since before this most recent change in ownership in 2013.
But owner Derek Schreck and managing partner Jordan Delp have finally brought the project home, creating a private club that’s completely separate from the Tom Bergin’s Angelenos have known and loved for nearly 80 years. Up here you won’t find a single Irish whiskey or shamrock.
“This is a completely different bar,” says Delp. “There’s nothing Irish up here at all. Not even whiskey. Everything is American, North American. There’s one bottle of Scotch and some Canadian. [We want to] differentiate the space that’s been there for 78 years, and now [do] something new.”
Unlike Seven Grand, Blind Donkey, The Pikey and other whiskey-serious bars, The Vestry will be only dedicated to North American whiskey. “Bourbon is one of the single entities that has never received a government bailout and has been hamstrung by the government in most of its existence and yet continues to succeed. We really wanted to celebrate that. We thought this was such a great space to do it in,” says Delp.
And they’re not just showcasing any American whiskey, but rather the rarest stuff. This will be where one checks off their whiskey bucket list because everything on these shelves is already extinct. Pappy? Pfft! Not here since that’s still around.
But that beautifully packaged bottle of Michter’s Pre-Revolutionary War Celebration Style in the whiskey room is only bottle 63 of 273, and only one of 10 in the United States. Currently the plan is to leave it untouched until someone wants to purchase the whole bottle to enjoy in the Vestry. But if after several months there are still no takers, the guys said they’ll consider selling single drams of it. When the bottle is emptied, there’s talk of having a memorial and burial for the box in the parking lot.
Delp says from what they currently have in stock he’d also mourn the loss of The Old Hickory, the Bonded Beam, the Old Forester, and the Black Maple Hills.
Currently there are 12 pages of whiskey grouped by state, instead of style, in the growing whiskey bible, which is complete with tasting notes. Naturally trying to taste through all the states will be a pricey endeavor. “There are stuff we can sell that we can make a mortgage payment with,” says Delp. They will always keep one full bottle of every whiskey in case someone wants to buy a bottle, however. But supplementary bottles will also be available for those who just want an ounce or 2-ounce taste.
Inspired by the hidden bars of the Prohibition, the Vestry is actually adorned with vintage pieces from those long-ago times, like 18th-century church pews, beer taps from 1919, and several historical spirit memorabilia like an original framed Pabst Blue Ribbon and liquor prescriptions “for medicinal purposes.”
It certainly feels like a special place to the whiskey lover. “The people who come up here and look in that whiskey cabinet would never come up here in jeans and a T-shirt,” says Delp. The $1,000 annual membership fee will easily weed out the casual imbibers. Here’s what membership gets you: line-skipping privileges when showing up without a reservation, venue rentals, access to VIP events with master distillers, first dibs on the rotating liquor lockers and a tailored seersucker members jacket.
If you want to sign up for a membership, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. They won’t limit how many members they accept but will only approve a certain number every month since the space will only allow for 45 people at a time and has limited hours Wednesday through Saturday.