NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A $38,000 bottle of Balvenie 50 single-malt scotch, one of only 131 in existence, will soon be on its way to the Hub City from Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.
The owners of Stage Left, a downtown restaurant on Livingston Avenue, are planning to open it as part of a swanky celebration on January 10.
The scotch comes from one of two European oak casks filled in 1963, and is one of just 15 bottles that are coming to America.
The bottle's pricetag is just a little less than the average household annual income in New Brunswick, currently $39,284.
So how can Francis Schott and Mark Pascal, owners of Stage Left restaurant, afford such a luxury?
They plan to sell reservations for 17 people to drink a portion of the rare, 24-ounce bottle.
Three customers are already signed up, according to NJ.com, and the owners say that anyone else interested in the opportunity has until December 19 to contact them. Each ounce will cost prospective customers a whopping $1,800.
Just two blocks away, Tumulty's Pub charges just $5 for the same amount of whisky on any given night.
But on the night of the Balvenie tasting, a Stage Left patron can pay $2,015 for a dinner and an ounce. A seat at the dinner, without the whisky, will cost $299.
Of the other 130 bottles of Balvenie 50, many will be sold to collectors hoping to re-sell the whisky at a higher value, making Schott and Pascal’s dream of drinking the elixir even more of a rarity.
But that’s not the only thing that will make this event special.
Stage Left says that the distillery was so enthused with the idea that one of their bottles would actually be drunk that “they asked if they could fly over Master Distiller David Stewart for the opening of the bottle.”
The owners’ response? “Of course!”
Balvenie Distillery was founded in 1892 by William Grant, who built it from an 18th-century mansion.
The current distillers proclaim that Balvenie 50 is “velvety sweet with a beautifully balanced combination of sweet citrus notes and gentle hints of honey, spice and oak.”
Master Distiller David Stewart was present at Balvenie when the scotch was poured into its oak cask. Stewart and the drink matured together over the past half-century.
The distillery has been making a name for itself in the past 6 years: It won the 2008 World Whiskies Award for its 17-year-old Sherry Oak, and again in 2013 for its 30-year-old Single Malt.
Balvenie Distillery has also won such awards as the International Spirits Challenge in 2008 and 2009, and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2008.
Stage Left restaurant has hosted tastings of rare spirits, part of their Spirit Project, every night for five years, but the owners predict that this scotch will be the “finest bottle of spirit ever drunk in New Brunswick.”
Other highlights of the Spirit Project have been expensive cognacs, brandies, and rums, all sold to patrons for no more than what it cost Stage Left to purchase.
The restaurant also offers Dinner-Theatre packages in conjunction with the State Theatre, and it hosts Wine Dinner Club, which offers discounts on wine at Stage Left and its sister restaurant, Catherine Lombardi.
Stage Left co-owner Schott made news this summer when he helped to foster a connection between New Brunswick and Belfast, Ireland, a connection that brought the Belfast Community Choir to sing at Kirkpatrick Chapel in May.
Of his restaurant’s acquisition of a Balvenie 50 bottle, Schott’s partner Pascal said, “It’s a big honor.”
He also mentioned their plans for the bottle prior to opening it: “I will guard this bottle; I guarantee it. We are seriously contemplating building our own vault.”