What makes a great whiskey bar?

Windsor Block banks on becoming one in Rapid City
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 3:06 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - What makes an establishment a great whiskey bar? It is a simple question, but the answer can be as complicated as the hundreds of spirts on the wall of a bar.

“What makes a whiskey bar? I’d say the first one on that would be the selection,” Tim Smith explained.

Smith and Justin Henrichsen, co-owners of the recently opened Windsor Block whiskey bar, have just that, a catalog so deep ...

“We have so many bottles right now that I don’t think we have an exact bottle count,” Smith said. “We do know we can safely have about a thousand bottles on our shelves, with the possibility of adding even more than that.”

The bar has between 600 and 700 in its catalog; and they are still cataloging.

“Windsor is definitely going to specialize in the whiskeys and yes, the amount of choices can be overwhelming,” Smith said.

Even for the staff. Staff knowledge is another key to a great whiskey bar.

“None of us are going to pretend like we know everything,” admitted Smith, “but we’re certainly going to do our job to make our customers feel as comfortable as possible and help them to develop their palate as well as our continuation of our staff’s palate.”

With Windsor Block just opening on the 600 block of Rapid City’s Saint Joseph Street, it is anyone’s guess as to the demographics of its patrons. People associate whiskeys with older generations, but younger crowds are discovering spirits and classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.

“We are going to have a lot of the 20-year crowd, 30-year crowd, but at the end of the day my experience is they’re at all ages and economic groups,” Smith said.

The atmosphere, according to Smith is also important but not as much as the first two elements of a great whiskey bar. At Windsor Block, the draw for all generations is, without a doubt, the wall of whiskey.

“I think the centerpiece of course to our bar, and the foundation is this wall of whiskey that is brimming full of choices. I think that is what’s going to separate us from everyone else’” Smith claimed.

But don’t expect a whiskey war to break out anytime soon. Henrichsen doesn’t see Windsor Block as competition to other downtown establishments, rather a complement.

“We’re focusing on bourbon and cocktails. You got the Tinder Box; Chris does a great job over there. Great selection but he’s focusing on cigars as his key business. And you got Vertex that’s focusing on a gorgeous view, one of the best in Rapid,” Henrichsen explained.

“We’re just going to focus on trying to have the best selection in town of everything we can. We’re a liquor store you can sample at,” Henrichsen said.