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Issue 51 - From Bardstown to Brooklyn

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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From Bardstown to Brooklyn

Charles Cowdrey reports on a one-woman crusadeto bring Kentucky's finest in to the Big Apple

LeNell has changed the way people drink in this part of Brooklyn,” says Alex Haskell, manager of MiniBar, a cosy drinking establishment as diminutive as its name implies.

‘LeNell' is Tonya LeNell Smothers, proprietor of LeNell's, a wine and spirits boutique where the emphasis is on hard-tofind wines from small producers and American whiskey.

“I wanted to feature American whiskey,” says Smothers, a petite young woman whose inflections honour her Alabama roots.

“Nobody was spending much time with it in New York and it was an excuse to get my hands on a lot of new things to drink.” LeNell's, located in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, is an idiosyncratic store designed to be cosy and unintimidating. Instead of the usual arrays of bland shelves and stacked cases, merchandise is displayed in antique bookcases and armoires. As you would expect in a ‘boutique' the focus is on personal service. Customers come to LeNell's for recommendations and they usually buy what she suggests.

The Red Hook neighbourhood where LeNell's is located, at 416 Van Brunt Street, is one of the oldest sections of Brooklyn, the New York City borough at the tip of Long Island across the East River from Manhattan.

The Dutch were here first and named the place Roode Hoek in 1636. By the 1850s it was one of the busiest ports in the country. Long a bare-knuckled neighbourhood of docks, dockworkers and dockworker bars (think Brando in On the Waterfront), it gave us Al Capone and gave him the wo...

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