I’ve smoked six cigars in the past 28 years and after the first four, I swore I would never do it again. That is, until I ended up at a VIP/media preview of The Vintage Whiskey & Cigar Bar in South End, where I figured I would indulge in another stogie just for the experience of it all. Maybe it’s because I am extremely sophisticated as a 28-year-old, or maybe it’s because The Vintage’s house blend — by cigar curator Giannis Koutsoupias — is of some extraordinary cultivation, but at the point when I should have left, I ordered another.
The Vintage is located on East Worthington Avenue behind the Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins and has an inviting yet bougie neighborhood feel when you walk up to it for the first time. The 1,000-square-foot stone patio leads to a set of garage doors that will remain open in the spring and summer months.
At just 3,200 square feet, the indoor space isn’t sprawling by any means, with a small front-bar area off to the right and a custom-built walk-in cigar humidor off to the left. But once you are sitting down the feel of the space lets the smallness of it sink away. A hallway leads you to the private lounge that can be accessed with either an Ambassador or Consulate membership. There is even a private conference room with a TV that can be rented for gatherings, meetings and fantasy football drafts.
Local mixologist Rob Florio runs the bar program, offering more than 120 varieties of whiskey, with plans to expand further over time. The bar program also includes a full espresso bar in collaboration with west-Charlotte roaster Enderly Coffee. Cocktails at The Vintage range from $13 to $18 and are crafted with house-made teas and syrups as well as ingredients from the kitchen.
Koutsoupias, who is the director of membership, also serves as the in-house cigar sommelier. The Vintage house blend cigar is a proprietary blend of aged Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian and Peruvian tobacco — cured, fermented and hand-rolled in the Dominican Republic. The custom walk-in humidor offers 1,000 varieties of cigars available for purchase.
The inside of the space is surprisingly not smoky at all due to their custom-engineered HVAC system. It is a fully automated and integrated system using commercial-grade products from Trane and Greenheck. It has been specifically engineered for the abatement of smoke and particulates and can exchange air in the room up to 60 times per hour.
The system itself accounted for half of the build-out budget of the entire space. There is currently no other system like it in the state of North Carolina. The level of ventilation and frequency of circulation is similar to an air-exchange system that one would find in a modern hospital.
“We are creating an experience at The Vintage unlike anything available in the city,” wrote Daniel Weiss, president of Menagerie Hospitality Group, in a statement. “Our guests can enjoy a craft espresso and cigar duo during work hours and transition into the evening with an innovative cocktail or pint of local beer from our full bar. Through entertaining and educational pairing events, we will unite the spirits and cigar communities over shared interests. We are excited to provide a sophisticated location in which to do business, exchange ideas and enjoy.”
The Charlotte-based Menagerie Hospitality Group also owns The Wine Loft in South End. Weiss has an extensive background in software development and business, and hospitality to him means “welcoming all people as new friends to offer them authentic, custom and thoughtful service.”
Together with Florio, general manager Ben Torres, formerly of Sophia’s Lunge and Crave Dessert Bar, plans to create high-quality spirit and cocktail lists as well as manage lively and enjoyable membership experiences. A general membership runs at $20 a year, but other memberships can run as high as $1,500 a year and include a private locker and access to the private lounge mentioned above.
The Vintage Whiskey & Cigar Bar is currently open at half capacity under COVID restrictions from 11 a.m. through 10 p.m. daily with limited parking, so put your walking shoes on.
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