Mercury bar downtown

The bar at Mercury.

A bottle of whiskey so special that it traveled to Nebraska under lock and key is the star of a tasting Wednesday night at downtown’s Mercury.

The bar is bringing the bottle, of The Balvenie 40 Year Single Malt, which retails for $5,000, to Nebraska for the first time.

Mercury co-owner Clark Ross said the bar has worked hard to curate its selection of spirits but wanted to bring more rare spirits in for its customers to experience. This particular bottle can retail for $1,000 a pour, so it’s something that most drinkers wouldn’t likely get to try on their own.

“Single malt scotch is the most complex spirit there is,” he said. “It’s steeped with a ton of tradition.”

Wednesday night, Balvenie ambassador Jonathan Wingo will be in Omaha to lead the tasting, which will begin with a special 12-year scotch cocktail from Mercury, to be followed by a tasting of Balvenie 12-year, 15-year, 17-year, 21-year and finally the 40-year scotch.

Wingo said he’ll show a short film detailing the history of the distillery, which is in Dufftown, Scotland, and is still family owned. Tasters will get a sense of the location where the whiskey is made and the time that goes into it.

This bottle is particularly expensive because of its age, Ross said, and also the time and attention given to it by The Balvenie’s malt master, who has constantly monitored this barrel to make sure, over the years, that it becomes more complex and mellow.

“That’s where technique really shines through,” he said.

Wingo said that not only is this tasting a rarity in Nebraska, it’s also rare throughout the country.

“To taste a 40-year-old in and of itself is a very interesting experience, and its very rare to find in any whiskey, much less something that we can drink in Nebraska and in Omaha.”

Typically, he said, bottles like this one get scooped up by larger markets, such as New York and Chicago. If a bar in a smaller market like Omaha wants one, the owners have to make a convincing case.

“That’s when it gets fun for us,” Wingo said.

Ross said he first contacted Balvenie’s importer to see about getting a rare bottle and, once he got wind of the 40-year, expressed interest. When Wingo, who had been to Omaha and Mercury before, heard about the request, he got excited.

“It shows their muscle and how much they are willing to tackle,” he said. “They are playing the whole game. It’s a journey for them, and they really are going to want to showcase it.”

Ross said he doesn’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the tasting a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This is never going to happen again,” he said.

Even so, Ross said the event is the first of more experiences like this one for Mercury; later this year the bar plans an event with a 40-year-old rum.

“Why have a really cool bar,” he said, “when you can’t do really cool stuff?”

Mercury is at 329 S. 16th St. The tasting takes place Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited, and a few tickets, at $140 per taster including fees, remain. The ticket price includes the cocktail, snacks and the tasting. For more information, or to get a seat, visit

Reporter - Food and dining

Sarah Baker Hansen writes restaurant reviews and food stories for the World-Herald. She also writes the quarterly "Food Prowl" series, where teams of tasters go around Omaha to find favorite foods in a number of categories. Phone: 402-444-1069

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