Delta bar pours Canadian whisky

TORONTO — Delta Toronto’s Char No. 5 lobby bar is making Canadian whisky the star of the show.

By Don Douloff

TORONTO — Delta Toronto’s
Char No. 5 lobby bar is making Canadian whisky the star of the show.

A number of factors
drove the decision to focus solely on Canadian whisky including the need for
Char No. 5 to differentiate itself from SOCO Kitchen + Bar, also in Delta Toronto’s
lobby. To that end, the team jettisoned the hotel’s original design plans
that called for the space to serve grab-and-go food (but would have duplicated SOCO’s
offerings), said Jean-Luc Barone,
managing director at Delta Toronto and executive director of food and beverage at
Delta Hotels & Resorts.

In discussions
with suppliers, the Delta
team discovered that “whisky as a whole and Canadian whisky, in particular,
have been on the rise for the last three to four years,” said Barone.

The team decided “there’s a Canadian whisky story that needs to be
told,” he said. Practical considerations — namely, the 1,500-square-foot bar’s limited
shelf space — also helped drive the decision to focus on a niche spirit.

Opened about 10 days
after Delta Toronto launched in late November, Char No. 5 features 70 to 100 whisky
labels produced across the country and ranging across the price spectrum. About
one quarter is in the $30 to $40 (per ounce) range and 20 to 30 per cent are priced
$10 to $15, with the remainder in the mid-$20’s.

Also featured are
Glen Breton Rare, from Cape Breton, NS, and Stalk & Barrel, from Concord, Ont.,
the only two single malts produced in Canada, according to Barone.

The bar also
offers about a dozen whisky-based cocktails that are “resonating with female
customers,” said Barone.

Two Canadian wines
(one red and one white) and one Ontario craft beer, in bottles, round out the
drink selection at Char No. 5, whose name refers to the optimal char burned onto
whisky-aging barrels by a flame-wielding cooper.

Augmenting the drink
list is a snack-themed menu created by hotel executive chef Dan Craig. Chosen
to partner with whisky, the menu includes charcuterie, cheeses and more substantial
snacks such as popcorn sweetbreads and whisky-glazed pork ribs. Average check
is $25 per person.

“We’re not
finding Canadian whiskys are a hard sell,” said Barone about a month after launch,
a fact he attributed to the bartenders and servers enthusiastically directing customers
to Canadian brands that match the taste of their preferred spirits.

Char No. 5, in
its early days, has been attracting “a good-sized crowd” comprised more of “whisky
newbies than aficionados,” said Barone.