Rock Hill Farms!!! I am in a restaurant/bar and they have Rock Hill Farms!
Maybe not unusual for Kentucky. Very unusual for any place in my home state of Virginia. I am in neither. I am in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba.
Rock Hill Farms and Willet Pot Still at the Sidebar Bistro.
My wife and I like to travel and have visited Aruba every October since our honeymoon in 2001. When we travel we like to try different and unusual restaurants and bars, especially bourbon bars. Tasting bourbon is not just about sitting in your house and having a pour, although that is enjoyable too. The environment of a great bar can make the experience exceptional. Moreover, the bourbon, cocktail or whatever spirit you desire can taste that much better. Just prior to this trip in 2015, I discovered that a new bourbon bar had opened in Aruba and because of my love of bourbon, it was a must visit.
So here we are on our first visit to Sidebar Bistro. I’m drinking Rock Hill Farms and my wife is having Willet Pot Still, her favorite. Amazing when you consider that before 2014, the best bourbon in Aruba I had seen was either Maker’s Mark or Knob Creek, and even those were hit or miss. The Sidebar Bistro has 67 bourbons and ryes. According to the sign in front, the biggest bourbon selection in Aruba. No doubt, by far!!
Outside of Louisville and a few other places, I have not seen a better bourbon selection. Certainly not in Virginia.
Sidebar Bistro opened in December 2014. They have great burgers, craft beer from Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville (something else unusual for Aruba), barrel-aged cocktails and a nice collection of bourbons and ryes; Blanton’s, Jefferson’s Reserve, Michters, several types of bourbon and rye from Smooth Ambler, Johnny Drum and even a bottle of 7-year-old Willet Rye. There are three types of Very Old Barton, which may be the best bourbon for the price. Overall, a very nice selection.
Fortunately, during our first visit (we were there three times during our trip) we had the opportunity to speak to the manager–Kim. I was marveling at the great collection of American whiskey when she told us that one of the part owners was also an owner of Sidebar in Louisville. At that point, I remembered that we had been in the Louisville Sidebar a couple weeks after it opened in 2013. Kim told us that the Sidebar Bistro was somewhat modeled after the Louisville Sidebar. You can see some similarities in the logo.
After doing some research upon our return to the States, I found that Jason Brauner, owner of Bourbons Bistro in Louisville and “consultant” for Sidebar, has done several bourbon tastings at Sidebar Bistro. A possible connection? Sidebar Bistro? Great bourbon selection; Kentucky craft beer. It could be a match.
My only negative comment and a minor one at that would be that the working crew could be a little more knowledgeable about what they have there. When my wife ordered her Willet Pot Still, she had to point it out on the shelf. When we came back with friends, I asked a question about the Willet Ryes they had but no one could answer it, not even the night bartender. Luckily one of the wait staff took the bottle down for me and let me look at it, which was extremely helpful. Just a bit more training could go a long way.
Overall, however, this is a diamond in the rough. A bourbon bar where you would least expect it. We had a great time on all our visits. The food was exceptional, bourbon selection was fabulous, the atmosphere was great. I am still amazed that a bourbon bar like this exists in Aruba. I wish there was one this good near our house here in Leesburg, VA.
We can’t wait to go back. Check it out when you are in Aruba.