£10 Bar Tucked Away in the Montage Hotel Will Take Your Whiskey Tastebuds to a New Level
Written By: Eric Stratford Where to Find Your Next Hidden Speakeasy in Beverly Hills
Photographed By: Stephen Panosian
The Expert: Cash Black
Credentials: Bartender at the £10 Bar at the Montage Hotel
Fun Fact: Growing up, Black wanted to be a cowboy.
Beverly Hills is known for its ostentatious display. It’s a town all about being seen, so it might be surprising to find out the Los Angeles bar with the most exclusive top shelf is one you’ve probably never heard of. The bar has no signs. It doesn’t advertise. It doesn’t have artist-inspired frontage with drought-defying water features. The average nightly crowd? Twenty-two people. On the second floor of the definitely visible Montage Hotel, £10 Bar can only be reached by being escorted through the first-floor kitchen and up the back stairs. Once inside, you’ll find yourself in an absurdly well-appointed bar with a patio overlooking the garden courtyard outside.
The whisky selection is deep rather than wide, focusing on the Macallan and its sister distillery, Highland Park. While the bar’s forte is definitely exclusive and top-shelf scotch, £10 Bar does have a selection of rare and hard-to-get bottles. You can also purchase £10 Bar’s own brand of cigars and smoke them on the outdoor patio.
Decorated by Nina Petronzio, £10 Bar features handcrafted furnishings from the Plush Home furniture collection. The small indoor seating area has the atmosphere of a small bistro while the patio makes you feel like you’re visiting friends for a drink and cigar. Bartender Cash Black welcomes you with a ready smile and a bubbling enthusiasm for scotch and the perfectly crafted cocktail.
Q: You have quite a uniquely close relationship with the Macallan. Can you describe what that means?
Cash Black: We are one of the first to know anything new coming out of the Macallan. We are the official outpost of the Macallan. They call us “the treehouse.” Looking out over the tops of the trees in the garden, it seems appropriate. When I started here, they handed me a leather-bound Macallan manual—it felt like the secret ninja tablets were being passed down!
Q: You have some extremely rare and expensive whiskies. What’s the top of the top-shelf?
CB: That would be the Macallan 62-year. It goes for $3, 360 per dram.
Q: And the question everyone wants to know, do you get to sample it?
CB: I always tell people that even if I smelled it, it would throw off my inventory!
Q: It’s probably silly asking for highlights, but do any specific bottles stand out among these standouts?
CB: We have The Marriage, a limited edition of 1, 000 bottles celebrating the Royal Marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. We’re having it appraised for its current value. We also have the No. 6, and we’re one of only two places in the country you can try this. It’s known as being the most intensely Macallan in flavor.
Q: Aside from the exclusive scotch selection, what makes your bar special?
CB: It’s a bar, yes, but it’s also an oasis. It becomes your bar. The beautiful thing is the personal relationships we form here. The main thing is this is a place where you meet your closest friends for a glass of exquisite scotch. Here, I also have the luxury of time—time to make the perfect cocktail to meet your needs.
Q: You talk about developing personal relationships. How does that work being a hotel bar?
CB: Only about 10 percent of our patrons are Montage guests. Around 80 percent are actually locals. Someone will come in and ask me for the drink I made them last week, or last year. It’s like going further and further down the rabbit hole!
Q: How does being a hotel bar effect you?
CB: I have a whole hotel at my disposal. When I’m trying to mix the perfect cocktail to meet someone’s needs, I can walk down to the kitchen and ask, “What’s fresh?”
Q: A lot of people don’t mix scotch, or have it over ice. What’s your feeling on this?
CB: You can mix vodka with anything. Scotch, in its profile, is difficult to work with. You have to be careful. A good drink is like a good relationship: It takes time and personal care. I try to let the scotch speak for itself. Scotch is always changing, and you have to change with it. The Macallan 17 Fine Oak is known as “the perfect dram to have over ice on a hot summer day.”
Q: What’s your approach to serving drinks?
CB: “How do you like your scotch?” The answer to that helps me determine what kind of experience you want. But the greatest thing I’ve learned isn’t how to make 300 drinks, it’s the power of a person who is genuinely interested in you for five minutes.
Q: How did you start at £10 Bar?
CB: I started in Las Vegas, but I moved to LA after bartending at a bar in Montana. I worked a couple places before coming to the Montage. I started in valet! I’d never parked cars professionally before. I’d parked my car, of course, but never a Ferrari. It’s different. I moved to serving in the daytime tea room, which serves more than tea. When they needed a bartender in £10, they liked what they saw in the way I treated the customers. It reminds me of what one of my bosses used to say about me: “There’s something wrong with that boy. That kid is always too happy.”
Q: We’ve talked a lot about the Macallan. What else is on the shelf?
CB: We carry a good selection from their sister distillery, Highland Park. Their Dark Origins is one of my personal favorites. We also have some Bourbon and Whistle Pig Rye. We get Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon any chance we get, but it disappears as soon as we get it.
Q: I’ve heard rumors you had a $64, 000 shot. Can I see it?
CB: Unfortunately, we just sold that. It was the last drop of the Macallan 64-year left in the world. The purchase price will be donated to a charity of the patron’s choosing.
Q: When someone doesn’t know what they want, what do you suggest?
CB: The Macallan 25 Sherry Cask is a perfect place to start. It’s been called “the distinguished dram for the respectable gentleman.” That usually sells it!
Q: You even have a chilling menu! What’s on it?
CB: We offer four options for chilling your drink. We have an ice sphere made from Highland spring water, the very water they use to make the Macallan. We have a logo sphere, that’s an ice sphere with the “£” logo etched by laser into the center of the sphere. Then there’s the Kold-Draft ice cube that’s pretty popular in a lot of places. It freezes from the inside out to get rid of impurities and is very slow-melting. The final option isn’t ice, but a frozen soapstone. It chills with no dilution.
Q: £10 sounds exclusive. Who do you have to be to get in?
CB: Anybody can get in. You just have to call 310.906.7218 to make reservations. There is a $50 minimum order per person and the dress code is business casual.
Whisky or Whiskey?: You’ll see whiskey spelled in different ways, and it all has to do with where it’s made. Whiskey is from the United States and Ireland. Whisky is basically everywhere else, although some U.S. brands use the whisky spelling; most notably Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Forever Young: Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t age after it’s been bottled. The 12-year-old bottle of whiskey you’ve been saving for 10 years is still a 12-year-old whiskey.
Flavor Savor: The best way to enjoy a glass of whiskey is to take a small sip first and swirl it around in your mouth. This acclimatizes your taste buds to the high alcohol content and allows you to fully enjoy all the flavors on your next sip.
Age Limit: £10 Bar has Macallans aged all the way up to 62 years, but by law no Scotch whisky can be aged less than 3 years. If a whisky doesn’t have an age stated on the bottle, it is called an NAS, or No Age Statement, whisky.
Top Tier: The most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold was a $628, 205 six-liter bottle of Macallan M Decanter-Constantine sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in 2014.
Native Knowledge: Many cocktails are off-menu. Ask Cash for his specialty Jimmy Mac based off the Macallan 18.
£10 Bar at the Montage Hotel
225 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.906.7218 | www.montagehotels.com/beverlyhills/dining/10-pound
T O P /// Shelf. Hidden Montage Bar Serves Exclusive, Rare Whisky