It’s a chilly Wednesday night on the east side of Asheville, and snow still lingers on the lawns. But despite the cold, there are still a couple dozen folks bundled and huddled around the fire pits beneath the large stone columns at Filo, the old American Legion Post building-turned-bakery, coffee shop and now — with the opening of Post 70 Indulgence Bar — cocktail lounge. A haze of smoke dances in the patio lights as guests puff on cigars and sip strong spirits at the bar’s third Sip & Smoke event.
“For the most part, they have all been whiskey-oriented so far,” says Courtney Nelson of the Sip & Smoke series. Nelson began holding down the bar at Post 70 in August after leaving The Imperial Life downtown. “In February, I’d really like to do one about gin, because I always think about gin in the wintertime,” she adds.
Since September, Nelson and the bar’s general manager, Emilio Papanastasiou, have been hosting the Sip & Smoke gatherings on the last Wednesday of each month. For $25, guests get a cigar provided by B&B Tobacconists, four pours of the featured spirits, and a brief explanation of what they are sipping from brand ambassadors of the represented liquor. Tonight it’s the offerings of Scotland’s Bruichladdich hosted by Remy Cointreau’s Larken Egleston.
As patrons begin to arrive, Nelson greets them with a pour of the distillery’s gin, The Botanist, and they are encouraged to dress it up as they see fit at the garnish bar. A long counter of garnishes spreads along the wall: bowls of lemon and lime slices, rosemary stems, basil, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and oranges sit alongside bottles of Fever Tree tonic water and club soda for guests to build their own cocktail. As patrons finish their last sips of gin and begin bundling up for the cold, Egleston ushers them out to the patio for cigars and Scotch whisky.
Founded in the late 1800s, Bruichladdich has a heritage of being an unconventional distillery, seemingly ignoring or downright rebelling against the usual tropes and traditions of scotch. Our first taste is of the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, a single-malt laddie that is, in contrast to most Islay scotches, unpeated and made entirely of barley grown in Scotland.
Next comes the Port Charlotte. Heavily peated at 40 ppm of phenol, the single malt is still surprisingly mellow, with hints of vanilla, toffee, smoke and pepper. The final offering is the distillery’s Octomore. Released in 2008, it is billed as the most heavily peated scotch in the world and clocking in at an astounding 169 ppm, which is more than 60 ppm higher than the runner-up, Ardbeg’s Supernova. But you wouldn’t know it. Compared with the pungent aromas of Laphroaig, Octomore is exceptionally elegant and refined.
For the $25 ticket price, Post 70’s Sip & Smoke is quite the steal, particularly considering that this event’s offerings ranged in price from $58 to $173 per bottle.
Nelson hopes February’s Sip & Smoke host will feature spirits from Charleston’s Virgil Kaine, and she is still in the process of planning the brands for the rest of the winter. “I think [the series] is something we’re going to stick with year-round,” she says.
If straight liquor and cigar smoke are not exactly your thing, you might check out Post 70’s regular Tuesday night (weather permitting) oyster roast. Fresh oysters are steamed on the grill before being shoveled onto large boards where guests are left to shuck and suck down as much as many as they can pack away.
“We also hope to start doing a wine, cheese and chocolate pairing on Monday nights as a kind of ladies night in the next month or so,” says Nelson.
Filo and Post 70 Indulgence Bar are at 1155 Tunnel Road. Filo opens at 7 a.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday, with Post 70 taking over and rolling out its menu from 5 p.m.-midnight Monday-Saturday.