Published by St. James's Gate Brewery, maker of Guinness Irish stouts, the Guinness Book of World Records was conceived as a reference book for people debating facts in a pub. In other words, to settle bar bets. For example: which bar offers the most varieties of whiskey commercially available in the world?
420 3rd Avenue, Downtown San Diego
As of January 15, the answer to that question is a San Diego bar and restaurant, The Whiskey House (420 Third Ave., Gaslamp Quarter).
When Whiskey House opened four years ago this month, there were fewer than 200 bottles of whiskey in its inventory. But co-owner Alex Minaev tells me the official count came to 2467 distinct bottles, a tally painstakingly verified by a Guinness judge, who examined each bottle, before an independent witness, per Guinness rules.
Minaev and business partner Ryan King got the idea to vie for the world record in a September Forbes Magazine article titled, “These 6 Bars Serve More Whiskies Than The Guinness World Record Holder.” That story ultimately named eight whiskey bars boasting a larger collection than the world record holder, the Hotel Skansen in Farjestaden, Sweden, which possesses a paltry 1,179 bottles.
“I personally know several bars that have more whiskey than that,” says Minaev, adding, “I knew we had way, way more.”
But the other bars haven’t gone through the hassle and expense of acquiring Guinness recognition, which includes an application fee as well as airfare and lodging for the Guinness judge. Whiskey House decided to go for it, if only for the marketing value and bragging rights.
Including beer and other types of liquor, The Whiskey House bottle list fills 61 pages of an 11x17-inch book. By Minaev’s estimate, 90 percent is whiskey, ranging from Wild Turkey to Japanese Scotch. “We don’t discriminate,” he says with a laugh, “We even have fireball for seven dollars.”
Not every whiskey bottle was Guinness approved, but that had more to do with another stipulation in the rule book. “Each bottle has to be on the shelf six months or more,” says Minaev. Thanks to an updated inventory he sent to web developers last July, Minaev could show documentation that proved the bottles behind his bar had been there long enough. However, roughly 400 bottles the bar has acquired since were not included in the world record count. “In reality we have 2800-plus.”
Forbes notes The Artisan Restaurant of Wishaw, Scotland claims more than 3000 bottles, so The Whiskey House may not in actuality have the largest collection on the planet. But it does have official Guinness certificate behind the bar, ready to settle any bets about it.