Whisky Educator & Journalist | Whisky Tastings by Ray Pearson
Hotel Review: Bracing breezes off Lake Michigan and the blazing, autumn-tinged Wisconsin countryside made for a perfect top down drive. The bucolic morning was a harbinger of the energetic and luxurious stay awaiting me for a get away at The American Club Resort in Kohler, about 60 miles north of Milwaukee.
The town of Kohler is perhaps the penultimate example of a “company town”. The magnificent American Club building itself was built in 1918 as a dorm for Kohler (the plumbing fixture company) employees. From its opening, the building provided the novelty of hot running water anytime of day, and was described in newspapers of the time as having “the best lavatories, toilets and bathtubs that can be found anywhere in the country.” The building was reconfigured about 30 years ago as the anchor of a campus of luxury destinations, known as The American Club Resort, each flush in the Kohler tradition of offering guests the latest in bathroom technology and design.
After checking in, my first stop was the Shops at Woodlake Kohler. This casually laid out and architecturally welcoming collection of specialty shops and restaurants, affords views of the lake, gardens and green space. Handmade Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates are made at the Craverie Chocolatier Café. These “little works of edible art” were selected as one of the items on Oprah Winfrey’s List of Favorite Things. Visitors can watch a small staff of “chocolateers” create and decorate these masterpieces behind a glassed-in area at the front of the café.
The lunch menu at Cucina, one of nine restaurants within the campus, was eye-popping in its variety and originality. Selections could be made from a Lean Serving selection (less than 250 calories and low sodium), the Barra di Greggio (raw bar), featuring fresh seafood from around the country, a selection of wood fire grill entrees, and from a more traditional menu. The borlotti bean cream soup was delectable, followed by a Panini al Tacchino sandwich, served on a pretzel roll. Roasted turkey breast, avocado, crisp prosciutto, onion, tomato, Provolone, arugula and signature spread married beautifully and were as tasteful as the décor and ambiance of the stunning restaurant.
Late afternoon sun gave way to ominous weather brewing over Lake Michigan. A dull gray veil fell over the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits Golf Clubs, both part of the American Club Resort. Renowned golf course architect Pete Dye designed the two courses and, with a tip of a golf hat, is honored on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits. In the prime spot in front of the clubhouse, the hole is named “Dye-abolical”. The worsening weather made prospects of a single malt Scotch and dinner at the clubhouse quite palpable. A sherry-aged Aberlour A’bunadh Scotch seemed the perfect dram for the surroundings. It paired beautifully with the house Potato and Leek Soup, prepared with just a whisper of cream sherry. The slow roasted chicken breast entree, served with cherry and balsamic glaze, apple smoked slab bacon with pearl couscous, and French beans was beautifully presented by a knowledgeable and engaging server. Let the outside weather be damned – I had a second Scotch!
Joyful benefit from experiential water therapy is the holy grail at The American Club Resort. The day ended with a long soak in a seven-foot tub with soothing, multicolor lights lulling me into total receivership of the relaxing massaging jets. In the morning, an invigorating shower, with water bombarding me from a traditional shower, a row of “water tiles”, and an overhead “rain showerhead”, was the perfect way to start the new day.
From a breakfast nook in the Wisconsin Room, I watched golfers catching one last cup of coffee before leaving for an early tee time. The tangy 5-year old Wisconsin cheddar cheese omelet, served with locally-picked berries, apple wood cured bacon, and a beautiful selection of pastries made on premise, could not have been more enjoyable. It was hard to leave the stately grandeur of this immaculate room, but there were things to do and places to visit.
I joined other casual visitors at the Kohler Design Center to experience the latest in bath and kitchen innovations. Many of the showroom products are available for guests to “test drive”. My favorites were the Flipside Handshower, the Karbon Articulating Kitchen Faucet, and the Hatbox Toilet. You have to see them to believe them!
The blissful ending for my visit to The American Club Resort was a pair of spa treatments in the Kohler Waters Spa. The Lavender Rain experience appealed to my love of gadgets. Following a lavender and eucalyptus exfoliation, the 6-foot long by 1-foot wide overhead Vichy shower arm, with six hydromassage jets, was swung into place to provide a warm, undulating compliment to the lavender-infused moisturizing wrap working its magic. After a leisurely walk (it was more like leisurely float) around the beautiful grounds, I returned to the spa for the Stretch and Flex Treatment. Orthopedic techniques, in combination with Thai massage, did wonders for my tall frame.
During the dedication of The American Club (as a dormitory for workers) in 1918, Walter J. Kohler, Sr., President of the Kohler Company and a champion of humanitarian interest in the worker, said “… a worker deserves not only wages, but roses as well.” Today, nearly a century after those prophetic words, The American Club Resort continues to deliver roses.