I just visited Decatur Package Store for the first time today, and now I’m sad. It wasn’t the somewhat dingy exterior that led to these feelings, nor was it the mark my purchase made on my bank account. I’m sad because it took me so long to step foot in this whiskey wonderstore.
I first heard about Decatur Package Store years ago, from friends who said it was a good spot for wine, whiskey and cocktail geeks (beer geeks, too). For whatever reason, the visit I planned to make never happened. It’s most because Decatur is always a bit out of my way – the store is on Clairemont Avenue just south of North Decatur Road – plus the fact that I’ve found myself far too often at H&F Bottle Shop as my liquor store of choice. But today I finally had my definitive reason to hit Decatur Package Store, as I was going to interview proprietor Herb Chereck for a Creative Loafing feature (coming soon – I’ll add a link once it’s published).
Herb runs the place, and he runs it well. He has the kind of friendly, knowledgable demeanor that’s well-suited to the range of folks that might walk through the door – some looking for a cheap bottle of whatever’ll do the trick, some looking for a hard to find Italian bitter. He can talk you through any section of the store and make it a compelling journey, like a tour guide illuminating the intricate history and character of a city block by block.
The block I found most interesting, among many, was the American whiskey section. Decatur Package Store has gone heavy on single barrel selections – whiskeys Herb and team have chosen specifically from samples they’ve tasted from various distilleries. There was a young rye from Georgia’s own 13th Colony, an Elijah Craig, an Eagle Rare, a Ridgemont 1792, a Henry McKenna, and the one I couldn’t walk out the store without… a 12 year old Four Roses OESV at barrel strength (for those who have been hopelessly looking for this year’s Limited Edition Four Roses Single Barrel, this is a darn good – and available, for now – alternative, though it a different recipe than the national release).
We chatted a bit about the beauty of single barrel offerings – most importantly the fact that it’s been tasted by the store’s proprietor and chosen for its specific character, vs. the standard batched whiskeys that typically fill the shelves (or the standard single barrel offers from distilleries that weren’t selected especially by the store, so may be more of an unknown). When the price is similar for a “private selection” single barrel vs. the standard product, what’s to lose? Well, having the person who chose that barrel there in person to provide notes and thoughts on the whiskey is key, and figuring out if your personal tastes match up well with theirs is important as well. All the more reason to find a store you like (like this one) and make it your regular stop.
On my walk around the store, I couldn’t resist picking up a half bottle of Carpano Antico, another half bottle of Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and an Italian aperitif called Casoni 1814 (similar to Campari or Aperol) that I haven’t tried before. There were many more tempting items, but I let Herb know that I’d be back another time for more. I’m expecting to get to know Decatur Package Store a lot better. Which makes me happy.
View a map and guide to Atlanta’s best liquor stores (including Decatur Package Store), cocktail bars, and more at the Thirsty Guide to Atlanta.
P.S. As for the Four Roses Single Barrel mentioned above, no tasting notes to share yet, but I really like what David Driscoll at K&L had to say about their similar single barrel selection:
“This barrel, aged 10 years and 6 months at the distillery, is from formula OESV, and it’s the most utilitarian whiskey we’ve yet selected from Four Roses. It’s not the richest, the spiciest, the most esoteric or the sweetest, but I believe it to be the most balanced and delicious. At 59% ABV, you’d expect it to be a monster, but it’s quite restrained, almost brooding in its profile. You expect it to explode at any moment. It never does; it remains in check and keeps its distance. The fruit is there, lush and soft, but it stays in the background. The richness is there, but it’s not obvious. The spice is robust, with hints of cherry and banana struggling to the fore, but still there’s some reluctant force holding it back. The result is dangerously drinkable Bourbon, one that takes three or four sips just to get a grasp of, and then it hits you. There’s no denying that it’s good, even great–but there will be fierce attempts to penetrate its core and understand what its all about. This Bourbon will not cave, however. It just wants to be drunk, not contemplated. It seeks to be enjoyed, not studied. It demands to be appreciated, but it will not beg for your attention. Who knew a Bourbon could be so anthropomorphic?”