By Jim Boyce | Straight Spirit officially opened in Central Park yesterday and, as promised, stocks a smart selection at no-brainer prices and serves as a superb spot for those who like to browse and put their paws on products. The project is backed by an eclectic team that includes Wilfred Kwok of Glen Bar, Ah Jian of The Bar and Glenn Schuitman of Pop-Up Beijing, all on hand to fill a steady stream of guests with alcohol. First things first, let’s knock out bullet-style details about all that booze
- There are some 200 labels, with whiskey a heavy focus. Expect options up to 30 years old from sources like Scotland, Japan, India and the United States. Kwok ultimately wants 300 to 400 labels, including more vintage and auction bottles.
- Prices are low. Kwok says he checks, and sometimes beats, online retailers. The hope is to attract both single-bottle buyers and those seeking bulk purchases.
- Bottles carry two prices. For example, Balvenie DoubleWood 12 is listed at 元376 and 元578. The 元376 is the takeaway price for Straight Spirit members. The 元578 is for nonmembers or for drinking in-house. (The same bottle retails for 元625 at nearby Pudao, from 元329 to 元399 on Tmall, and 元395 on Shanghai 9.)
- Membership is free before Chinese New Year: visit the shop and fill in the form. After that, new members must make a 元5,000 deposit that can be used to buy booze at those lower prices.
- Most whiskey is available as 100 ml pours. Planning a home tasting of four single malts? Get four 1oo ml mini-bottles, each one-sixth the price of a regular bottle.
- Five whiskeys are available by glass. Right now, they range from Dalwhinnie 12 at 元29 to Dalmore 18 at 元96.
- There are several dozen other spirits, including gins, rums, tequilas and vodkas. More on these soon.
- There are two dozen wines, including Kistler (Sonoma, United States), Vasse Felix (Margaret River, Australia), Spy Valley (Marlborough, New Zealand) and Zuccardi (Mendoza, Argentina). It was nice to see local brands Legacy Peak and Kanaan from Ningxia.
- And there are four wines by glass, including Legacy Peak Chardonnay at 元83 and Zuccardi Malbec at 元65.
- Straight Spirit is sticking to barrel-aged options, with Negronis, Manhattans and Sazeracs available for rmb46 each. These are served from mini-barrels that are toasted in China.
- Glasses and ice are available for those drinking in-house.
As for the space, Straight Spirit is modestly sized, about three by fifteen meters, with a metal table for eight to ten customers, several smaller tables, moss green walls and antique-style shelving. It’s compact and functional and, I imagine, will often be renao.
Expect regular tastings—one of those Indian whiskeys would surely be welcome. And outdoor seating—for about 30 people once Spring arrives. There are also a few food items—if memory serves, smoked beans were rmb28 and braised pork rice was rmb48.
Straight Spirit should be a booze boon for Central Park, where drinking options are limited, and attract hardcore whiskey lovers from around the city. The initial hours are 11 AM to 11 PM daily, and will extend to 2 AM after Chinese New Year.
Straight Spirit (beside Hummingbird Spa) / 直人烈酒商店, Building 26, Room 103A, Central Park / 北京市朝阳区朝阳门外大街6号新城国际26号楼103A底商.