What do you do when you’ve become one of the most popular libation destinations in the Pacific Northwest? Build a satellite bar, that’s what. For those who’ve tried to get a table at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, you may have found it difficult over the last two years since it has opened. I’ve been in there a few times as a photographer, but never as a patron, much to my chagrin. While the apparent exclusivity seems a bit off putting, what is really going on is a bar that has chosen to seat fewer people in order to provide a far better experience, assuming you can get in to experience said experience. Still doesn’t help those of us incapable of waiting for an hour or more to have a drink and bite to eat, that is until now. The Green Room offers a pared down selection from the library, with some signature design holdovers, all while providing an entirely unique space in its own right. The Green Room gives us a palate whetting for what we are in for, but may just end up being a destination in and of itself. C’mon in for more shots…
The Green Room at the Multnomah Whiskey Library was designed, like the library, by the ELK Collective, the design group I am lucky to work with and shoot for. Adorned with a quite literal, envelopment of viridescent hues, the room itself feels like it has been here for years. From the depth given through the emerald subway tiles and metal ceiling cover, to warmth from the glow of incandescent bulbs and library lamps, or age provided by the worked brass and wooden wainscoting, this does not feel like a brand new, build from the studs out, bar. Much like it’s older parent bar, it feels as if its roots are, and have been firmly planted for generations.
One thing that I find so refreshing about the Multnomah Whiskey Library and the Green Room is that the owner, Alan Davis has opted for such uniqueness and allowed the design team at the ELK Collective not just a freedom in collaborative design, but the support to showcase original art. In the Library, there are near 20 original works of commissioned art, portraits of some of the more famous names in whisk(e)y history. In the Green Room, the team at ELK searched out and hired relief artist Randy Detjen from Wisconsin, to build a piece of art into the wall, showcasing a scene of serenity and simpler times, evoking a calming call to historical appreciation, an aim to recognize the work and tradition that goes into a craft such as distillation. The slow game, as it were. When you order a drink, not only are you subject to the craft of the bartender making that drink for you, but the years that have gone into creating the spirits as well.
Whiskey has become a bit en vogue of late. It’s always been well appreciated, but never have I noticed so many bars focused so totally on whiskey specifically, outside of Scotland. I’m sure it’s not just Portland, but this town has seemingly changed overnight to include many whiskey driven bars. The good? There’s a lot more whiskey around. The bad? This demand has created shortages of bourbons, ryes and whiskeys that have seemed to drive up the price everywhere, even though there is more whiskey being produced now than ever before. Simple economics, surely, but still a little unfortunate for those who’ve yet to be able to taste a 25 year Pappy, or hard to find stateside drams of whisky from Scotland or Japan, whiskey from Ireland or those sought after bourbons from the southern US. What may have been found for a reasonable sum a few years ago, has now ballooned to upward of hundreds of dollars a shot, in select cases. Of course, that isn’t all, nor even some of the best choices (in my opinion), but for those hunters of rare and difficult to track down whiskies, you’ve been joined by a much larger group combing the landscape, and will have to be willing to pay a bit more for them now than ever before. Or you could always have a drink derived from another spirit, which the Green Room also has plenty of.
If you’re going to indulge, what better way to do it though, then submerged in an environment tailor fit for such an experience, I ask you. Leather arm chairs and warm woods seem to set the perfect scene. We in the states may not have the pure history, nor common culture attached to certain things as is the case elsewhere in our world, and in this we must work a little harder to seek out what some may consider an authentic environment or experience. To that, I see a possibility where with a clean slate, we can start to create a new history, a new common, cultural experience. We can choose that story to read along the lines of strip malls and chain restaurants, or we can choose to sway toward a movement seemingly lost in recent history where an individual, group or family realizes a vision. A vision that better lends itself to allow us to further our own personal stories uniquely, our own growth organically and I think that places like the Multnomah Whiskey Library and the Green Room provide a backdrop for those seeds to be sown.
Stop by, belly up and allow time to slow down for a period. Soak it in, appreciate the craftsmanship around you and let that sweet (and sometimes peaty) tide take you away.
The ELK Collective can be found HERE. Stay tuned for a couple other projects that have just finished as well.
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