Lifestyle

Sure, You've Got a Wine Cellar. What About a Whiskey Lounge, or a Tequila-Tasting Room?


This week, The Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section is rolling out stories from our special food and wine issue. Check out stories like this one on chef Gavin Kaysen’s not-so-professional home kitchen, restaurateur Daniel Alonso’s Chicago house and more.

Raja Amar’s 23-acre estate in Stony Point, N.Y., has plenty of places to enjoy a cocktail. Visitors can choose a bottle from his glass-enclosed custom wine cellar, which holds about $2 million worth of wine from Opus One, Screaming Eagle and other pricey wineries. They can sample it at a table in the wine-tasting room just outside. They can pour a Macallan 25 at the bar and sip it in the whiskey-and-cigar lounge, a cherry wood-paneled room with two commercial-grade smoke eaters.

A 56-year-old entrepreneur in the telecommunications industry, Mr. Amar built these amenities to house his collection of rare wines, whiskeys, cognacs, bourbons and tequilas, spending about $250,000 to create the wine cellar and wine room and roughly $1.2 million on the whiskey lounge.

His wife, Manju Amar, loves red wine and two of their sons drink whiskey, but Mr. Amar sticks to bottled water.

Though he doesn’t smoke and rarely drinks, Raja Amar built a whiskey-and-cigar lounge in his home, along with a wine cellar, wine-tasting room and bar. Louise Palmberg for The Wall Street Journal (3)

“I don’t drink or smoke,” Mr. Amar says. For him, the thrill lies in amassing rare bottles, and only rarely does he taste their contents. “I like to collect—that’s what I enjoy doing.”

Mr. Amar is one of many high-end homeowners across the country who have multiple rooms in their homes devoted to alcohol. From whiskey lounges and tequila-tasting rooms to large and elaborate bars, these amenities are a far cry from the no-frills basement wine cellars of yesteryear. With a wine room now considered the bare minimum for a luxury home, many properties have two, three or even four tricked-out spaces for imbibing.

“Most of those spectacular modern mansions have more than a wine room at this point,” said Aaron Kirman of AKG | Christie’s International Real Estate, who is listing a $22.995 million house in Bel-Air with separate champagne and tequila bars in addition to the wine room. “If you’re building a house of scale and size, there will be multiple areas for different alcohols.”

One reason for the trend is that interest in spirits such as tequila and whiskey, which was already growing before Covid, accelerated during the pandemic as people had more time to collect and sample new bottles, said Marshall Tilden of Wine Enthusiast Companies, which produces wine and spirits-related products as well as publishing Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Enthusiasts say beverage-focused amenities in homes often have less to do with drinking and more to do with relationships.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Do you have a room dedicated to your alcohol collection? Tell us about it in the comments below.

“All of my clients seem to want a bar,” said Denver interior designer Gina D’Amore Bauerle, who has designed two roughly $100,000 speakeasy-type rooms in homes since the pandemic, along with various smaller home bars. While she joked that “the pandemic drove people to drink,” she said the reality is that after experiencing months of lockdown, her clients are eager to entertain.

Read More   These are the best winter holiday spots where the pound will go furthest

“Everyone realized that what matters most are your relationships with family and friends,” Ms. Bauerle said. “You want more spaces in your home to have those people over more often. That’s the shift in priorities that I’ve seen.”

Mr. Kirman’s Bel-Air listing, which hit the market in April 2022, is a boxy, ultramodern spec house with nine bedrooms. Near the entrance stands the champagne bar, where custom-built wooden shelves are filled with $300 bottles of Armand de Brignac. Just behind the bar is an expansive room for storing wine and champagne. Downstairs in the tequila bar, bottles of Don Julio 1942 are artfully displayed alongside shot glasses on light-up shelves that make the spirits seem to glow.

Top: A Bel-Air home for sale with separate champagne and tequila bars in addition to the wine room. Bottom: In Los Angeles, a spec house asking $139 million has a vodka-tasting room kept at subzero temperatures and equipped with faux-fur stoles. Clockwise from Top Left: Joe Bryant (2); One Shot Productions; GR Studio

Also in early 2022, another Bel-Air spec house hit the market for $139 million, this one with a vodka-tasting room kept at subzero temperatures and equipped with faux-fur stoles to keep visitors warm. The walls are made of hand-carved acrylic, said Jon Grauman, one of the agents who had the listing at the time, “so it literally feels like you’re inside an igloo.” Adjacent to the vodka room is a nightclub, and the house also has a dine-in wine room with a custom Murano glass art installation.

Read More   Met Gala 2020 postponed 'indefinitely' due to coronavirus

For developers, these amenities assist in marketing as well as filling massive square footage. “When you have this much space, you need destinations,” Mr. Kirman said, while giving a tour of a roughly 19,500-square-foot Beverly Hills home with two bars, a wine cellar and a wine-tasting room. The asking price? $35 million.

The trend is by no means limited to spec houses. On a recent Monday afternoon, Julie Macklowe sat in a black leather chair in the “whiskey library” in her spacious Fifth Avenue apartment, reeling off the names of rare scotches and whiskeys. “The Springbank 1969, I have three of them,” said the petite blonde. “A Glen Grant 1958. I just finished off the ’48.”

Julie Macklowe



Photo:

McKenzie Compton

Behind her, rows of whiskeys are displayed in pink-and-red, glass-fronted cabinets, like so many gems in a jewelry box. Spanning an entire wall of the room, the cabinets were designed by Selldorf Architects to showcase Ms. Macklowe’s whiskey collection, which numbers in the thousands of bottles. The room’s other walls are also covered in custom-made cabinets full of whiskey.

Ms. Macklowe and her husband, real-estate developer Billy Macklowe, pieced together their sprawling three-story apartment for a total of roughly $16.5 million over the past 18 years, then gut-renovated it. Ms. Macklowe, 45, had collected whiskeys for decades, she said, and wanted a place to display them in the apartment, which also has a bar and a champagne room. The couple spent about $500,000 creating the whiskey library on the 19th floor of the building. 

A portion of Ms. Macklowe’s whiskey collection is stored in pink-and-red, glass-fronted cabinets. McKenzie Compton (3)

“I had a lot of the collection, and then I just felt like I never got to see it,” Ms. Macklowe said. “I wanted to put my most prized bottles out.” While unpacking her whiskeys after the renovation, she says, she was inspired to create her own American single malt, The Macklowe.

David Adelman has been collecting wine for about 20 years and has more than 5,000 bottles in his basement wine cellar outside Philadelphia. “To me it’s a form of art, trying to appreciate different wines and where they came from,” said Mr. Adelman, 50, who is CEO of the student housing company Campus Apartments.

Then about 10 years ago, he developed an interest in tequila, which he hadn’t drunk since college. “Tequila then versus tequila now is a very different experience,” said Mr. Adelman. “The most expensive bottle of tequila I had in college was probably $8. Premium tequilas now can run from $100 up to $1,000 or more.”

David Adelman in the drinking room he created. A wall is decorated with wooden boxes from well-known wineries, interspersed with notes from friends.



Photo:

Kyle Kielinski for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Adelman’s tequila room, where about 100 ornate bottles are displayed.



Photo:

Kyle Kielinski for The Wall Street Journal

Tequila boxes started piling up on the floor of the basement. When friends came over, “they were like ‘Dave, I can’t believe you’re pulling tequilas out of boxes.’ ” So he used reclaimed wood from an old barn in Lancaster, Pa., to create a tequila room near his wine cellar. Now, the mirrored space has shelves containing about 100 ornate bottles, such as a Clase Azul Ultra Anejo worth about $7,000.

Between the wine cellar and the tequila room, he created a “drinking room” decorated with wooden boxes from well-known wineries such as Screaming Eagle and Quintessa. Those boxes are interspersed with boxes bearing notes from friends, specially created for him by his wife. Now, “it feels like a little bit of a speakeasy downstairs,” Mr. Adelman said. The total cost of creating the wine cellar, tequila room and drinking room was in the six figures, he said. The house, an 1890s Tudor, also has a bar upstairs.

One reason for tequila’s growing popularity is its visually appealing bottles, which come in a variety of shapes and colors. That was part of the allure for Dan and Shannon Stratton, who built a tequila-tasting room in their home in Punta Mita, Mexico. “That is one of my favorite parts about tequila—I love the bottles,” said Ms. Stratton. “They’re literally pieces of art.”

Dan and Shannon Stratton at their home in Punta Mita, Mexico.



Photo:

Evgenia Kostiaeva for the Wall Street Journal

The Strattons, who run a financial services company based in South Carolina, have a variety of bottles on display in the tequila room, where a long wooden table is used for tastings, playing games and meals. With a groin-vaulted brick ceiling for an Old Mexico aesthetic, the space has elaborately patterned woodwork hand-carved by local artisans, they said. Stained-glass windows in the doors were also made locally. One section of the room, behind glass, is climate controlled and used to store wine.

For larger groups of people, tequila can also be sampled at the home’s custom-made, 12-foot-long wooden bar. Ms. Stratton said the couple, along with their adult children, frequently entertain friends there.

The Strattons said they wanted to create the tequila room as an homage to Mexico, but tequila isn’t actually their favorite drink: for Ms. Stratton that is Veuve Clicquot, and for Mr. Stratton it is Johnnie Walker Black. In a nod to these beverages, they created his-and-hers powder rooms: one with a Veuve theme and one with the Johnnie Walker-influenced aesthetic. The Strattons spent about $14 million to buy the oceanfront land and build the house, which was completed in early 2021, they said.

Entertaining at a home bar is more interactive than “sitting around,” said Kathy Burns, 60, managing partner of the hotel advisory firm Sea Pine Partners. “It just brings a different energy.”

She and her husband, Michael Greeley, 59, renovated her family’s circa-1880s home in Kennebunk, Maine, creating what they call The Blue Bar. They are in the process of building another bar on the other side of the house, this one facing the sunset. The couple likes using the bar to create special cocktails for their guests, such as the Smoke and Choke, made with mescal and an artichoke liqueur. “You feel like you’re in a space that’s made for having fun,” she said.

The Strattons created Johnnie Walker Black and Veuve Cliquot-themed bathrooms in a nod to their favorite drinks. Evgenia Kostiaeva for the Wall Street Journal (4)

While nearby Kennebunkport has some great bars and restaurants, she said, they often prefer to entertain overnight guests at home so no one has to drive.

Mr. Amar’s wine cellar, created for him by Wine Enthusiast, can store about 1,000 bottles. The temperature-controlled space is enclosed in ¾-inch thick glass sourced from Canada, he said. Outside the cellar, the wine-tasting room has hardwood floors, a wet bar, a cigar humidor and a table with four chairs. Cubby holes hold Mr. Amar’s rare tequilas and cognacs such as Black Pearl, which is worth about $120,000 right now, he said.

Next to the wine room is the bar, and to the right of the bar is the whiskey-and-cigar lounge.

Mr. Amar’s wine cellar and wine-tasting room.



Photo:

Louise Palmberg for The Wall Street Journal

Some of Mr. Amar’s roughly 400 bottles of whiskey—worth what he estimates is about $1 million—are stored in wine room cubbies, or in the bar. But the overflow is located in a temperature-controlled cedar closet of his wife’s. “She’s not happy about it,” he said with a laugh.

Part of Mr. Amar’s motivation in creating these spaces was to store his collection properly, so it isn’t damaged by heat and humidity. But displaying the collection also enhances his enjoyment of it. “I love to see the bottles,” he said. 

After years of being a collector, Mr. Adelman recently became an investor in spirits, buying the brands American Harvest Vodka and Beach Whiskey.

While he has a few of his own bottles on display in the tequila room, “I’ve not yet started collecting vodka or whiskeys,” he said. “I don’t have space to build any other rooms.”

Write to Candace Taylor at candace.taylor@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



READ SOURCE

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.