When The Bourbon Review offered up its list of America’s Best Bourbon Bars in 2014, it wrote about The Century Bar in Dayton, “In what could be the most underrated Bourbon bar in the country, the Century Bar takes you back to 1862 with its 150-year-old back bar … It’s the sort of place every Bourbon drinker should visit at least once in his or her life.”
No surprise then that it made the list this year with another glowing recommendation by the industry publication.
These are the kind of accolades that the bar, led by co-owner Joseph Head, is becoming known for thanks to the staff’s knowledge, the selection and the overall customer experience. Earlier this year Men’s Journal listed The Century Bar as one of the top 10 bourbon bars in America and late last year it appeared on a similar list put together by Travel and Leisure.
Beer and wine pairings at fine-dining establishments are common place and expected, but more and more restaurants across the country are embracing whiskey and bourbon as something to work with when it comes to marrying flavor profiles.
But what to order?
You can always try your luck trying something while you are out to eat, but with more than 319 whiskeys and 115 bourbons, The Century is the place to order a bourbon and get an education at the same time. The bar prides itself on the selection of whiskeys it carries from all over the world including rarer bourbons like Wild Turkey Diamond, Blood Oath and Orphan Barrel. A two-ounce pour starts at $6 and goes all the way up to $150.
With over 2,000 members currently in The Century’s bourbon club, it’s clear there’s a lot of local interest in navigating a whiskey list. With more bourbon barrels aging in Kentucky than the number of residents, it’s also clear that a lot of people across the country feel the same way.
“I started drinking bourbon in 1987. No romantic story about my grandpa’s lap,” Head said. “I grew up a Hank Williams Jr. fan, he sang about Jim Beam, so when I got big enough to want to drink I naturally reached for Jim Beam and never looked back.”
If you are interested, you have to learn somehow. My recommendation is to go see Joe.
WANT TO GO?
What: The Century Bar
Where: 10 S. Jefferson St., Dayton
More information: (937) 223-3382 or www.centurybourbon.com
Hours of Operation: 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday through Friday; 6 p.m-2:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
What is bourbon? The most popular type of whiskey in the U.S., by law bourbon must be at least 51 percent corn and aged in a new charred white oak barrel for a minimum of two years. It must go into the barrel at at least 125 proof and must not reach more than 160 proof during the maturation process. Most bourbons are then tempered down to a lower proof. So all bourbon has at least 51 percent corn. After corn you have flavoring grains — rye and wheat. Rye is the spicy bite you find and wheat lets the corn and barrel flavors show through producing a softer, more mellow bourbon. The most important thing to remember? All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskeys are bourbon. Wrap your head round that!
Vibe: From the bourbon barrel tables to the striking and dramatic cherry and stained glass back bar built in 1862, the feel of the place matches the cocktails being served up — they are both timeless and unique. The main bar seats 50 people and the back tasting room can accommodate another 20.
Novice bourbon drinkers should try: Basil Hayden, Jim Beam Black, George T. Stagg, Blanton’s or one of Joe Head’s favorites — Ridgemont 1792.
Best value bourbon? “Old Grand-Dad Bonded. It’s a Swiss army knife. Very versatile,” Head said.Be sure to try: The Century cocktail made with Old Forester Signature, fresh lime juice and house syrup.
Please note: The Century does not have a food menu, but it’s the perfect spot to hit before or after dinner if you are downtown and the mood hits.