When New Jersey’s only Master of Wine Christopher Cree opened Cree Wine Company at the former Perryville Inn in Union Township in November, he knew wine connoisseurs would flock to the wine bar.
He didn’t anticipate the whiskey connoisseurs.
As Cree learned, if you build it, they will come. And with an ever-changing selection of 60 to 70 international whiskeys available every day at the bar for tastings, they have.
“We tend to focus on rarer, small-production, high-quality whiskey brands,” said Cree. “Some of them are new to the market and some of them are very limited, so it's really an eclectic collection of hand-selected whiskeys that we have tasted. We tend not to worry about the big, well-known brands. We are more about small artisan distilleries around the world.”
Some current brands in that selection include Michel Couvreur, which makes scotches aged in casks sourced from various countries, all inside a cave in Burgundy, France; Teitessa, a Japanese whiskey aged for 25 years that is made primarily from rice and brought to bottle strength using snowmelt water from Mount Fuji; and Killowen, which is Irish whiskey aged for 10 years that is finished in an ex-Txakolina wine cask with virgin acacia heads.
That selection, which ranges from $35 to $300 per bottle, grew its own fan club in March: the Cree Whiskey Collective. The group meets at the bar once a month. For $45, members taste four 1-ounce whiskey pours paired with charcuterie based on a set theme.
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Although the no-commitment meetings are open to the public, those who join the club as members – it’s free to join – get 10% off if they also buy a bottle of one of the whiskeys they tasted. The group has 25 members. Visitors can register for events at creewine.com/events/. To join the club, email general manager and spirits director Tom Anderer at email@example.com to be added to the reservation list each month.
“It’s a great way for people – from beginners to collectors — to discover and expose themselves to newer whiskeys because the world of whiskey is so vast,” said Anderer. “As long as we can fit people in the room, we want people to join us.”
Past meetings have focused on bourbon hidden gems, Anderer's favorite single-malt scotches, and Japanese whiskeys. The next meeting on July 21 focuses on rye whiskey.
In the future, the collective hopes to purchase its own single barrels from various distilleries, allowing members to create their own whiskey blends.
Cree is also looking for more opportunities to pair whiskey and wine bar food together, such as by creating pairings like a bourbon reduction sauce atop duck breast alongside a bourbon, or desserts paired with whiskeys.
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“Our clientele is very foodie and interested in new and different things,” Cree said. “We afford them the ability to taste so many things ... so you really get to explore. This seems to fill a curiosity that so many of our clients have about food, wine and spirits.”
Go: 167 Perryville Road, Hampton; 908-200-7772, creewine.com/events/.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: New whiskey club at Cree Wine Company in Hunterdon NJ