“We have a gap in the spirits world,” Stefano Pileggi says. “There’s no luxury experience when you buy a bottle that’s worth thousands of dollars. You don’t get the same experience that you do when you buy a nice watch, a suit or a car.”
Pileggi, a renowned whisky collector for more than two decades, is explaining his retail philosophy as he shows me around Collezione New York, which has been dubbed New York’s first luxury spirits boutique. Located on Madison Ave near 66th Street, the store is small and purposely minimalist. The rare Scotches and wines on display here — other spirits are forthcoming — have room to show off. There are no dusty bottles or whiskies that are hidden or locked behind glass doors.
It’s an impressive collection that visually doesn’t overwhelm. And Pileggi himself — or another floor manager — is around to guide you through various Macallan expressions or Champagnes. Or they might give you a much closer look. Step inside the private back room — which has a hidden third room — and you’ll see even rarer bottles on display, straight from Pileggi’s personal collection. “The back room is where we want to do some tastings, and it also gives people a chance to actually see a Macallan from the 1940s in person,” he says.
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Pileggi spent 20 years building his spirits collection, which is primarily focused on The Macallan. How he built that portfolio plays a lot into what he’s doing at Collezione (Italian for, natch, “collection”). “When I bought, the transactions were always a quick credit card swipe and I’d leave,” he says. “Even for $100,000 bottles! In any other industry, you’d sit in a room and have a glass of Champagne and it would be a different feeling. With spirits, you just walk away and it’s like you went to the grocery store.”
While Collezione does stock every 18-year-old Macallan bottled between 1954 and 1986 (which can be bought as a lot for $250,000), the store also features extremely rare Japanese whiskies and other Scotch expressions that you’d probably never get to see up close unless you had six figures to spare. There’s Bowmore’s collaboration with Aston Martin, utilizing whisky from 1964. An 81-year-old Macallan. A Hibiki bottle that was never released in the United States.
And you might — might — get a chance to taste before you buy, at least for a few expressions. “If you buy a Macallan 30, which costs thousands of dollars…instead of waiting for a special occasion, now you can try it before you buy it,” Pileggi says (again, this is not for every customer). That said, if you’re just in the neighborhood, there are some nice wine and whisky bottles here that you grab for less than $100. And more curated spirits, including American whiskey and tequila, will soon make their way to Collezione’s shelves.
If you’re looking for a bottle of Ketel One for a party, this is not the place. But if you’re a whisky collector or want something truly special from the wine world, Collezione does offer an elevated experience to match its elevated selection. “Before I was doing this, I was a collector and a customer,” Pileggi says. “So I’m one of them. I’m trying to bring that experience to buying spirits that I was looking for all these years. I also collect watches, and I want that kind of vibe when someone walks in here. You want people to feel like they’re not just a customer in the middle of 50 other customers.”
Collezione New York is located at 786 Madison Ave. between 66th and 67th Sts. It’s open Mon-Sat from 11am–7pm.
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