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Your whiskey stash is probably better than mine

Your whiskey stash is probably better than mine. “What!”, you might say. “You write a whiskey blog – how is that possible?” It’s possible because I drink the whiskey I buy. As in – I don’t hoard it. If I don’t like it, I give it away. If I love it, I drink it and especially share it with others.

You will find no more Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year in my cabinet because I got three bottles last year, planned on saving two, but the stuff is so damn good that I simply cannot force myself to keep it around. I bought two extra bottles of the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch for 2012. I did so with the following mindset that I’m sure is familiar, “this stuff is great, and if I have two more bottles I’ll be able to savor and enjoy it for years to come.” Who am I kidding? This whiskey will be gone before the first tulip peeks its head above ground. And that’s just the way I am.

Yes, I’ve got some extremely good whiskeys around the house. Some you can find, some you can’t. Regardless, they’ll all be gone soon because I appreciate great stuff. The people that made these whiskeys didn’t do so for me to look at it for a decade. They did it for me to enjoy. And that’s what I do. Will I miss these bottles after they are gone? Yes, indeed, but they become a memory that is even better.

Drink your whiskey!

-Jason

72 Comments

  1. castelletti says:

    Salute! That’s exactly how it should be.

  2. Alex says:

    I like your perspective. I also drink most of my whiskey fairly readily (just a couple ounces per night, as to appreciate it). But I must admit that I discipline myself to a possibly ridiculous extent with SOME bottles (e.g. a George T. Stagg that I opened over a year ago, of which half half the bottle remains), because I want to enjoy them on the very best of occasions, such as when all the family is together and the mood is just right.

  3. Matt says:

    Hell. Yes.

  4. Perfect post! I’d guess if you ask most producers, their whiskey was not made to be looked at. I’d feel downright disrespectful if I didn’t drink it.

  5. Jeff says:

    I rarely have more than two bottles at home. I have a bottle of Michter’s Rye right now, and I can’t get it locally. I keep thinking I should stop drinking it, but whiskey is made for drinking, not saving.

  6. David says:

    If I locate a hard-to-find bottle, I’ll usually make the purchase even though there are several other bottles ahead in the queue. For very special offerings, it might be two bottles if I feel that I have one of those “rare” opportunities to get some “great” bourbon. Sometimes this translates to 4 or 5 unopened bottles which does not exceed the number of open bottles (usually 6-8)

  7. Ben says:

    Another great post Jason. I’ve recently been trying to “stock up” in order to build a nice selection of bourbons to drink from (not look at). (Im up to about 9-10 open bottles now). Ive found this rather difficult as I often finish off a bottle before I’m able to pick up another new bottle. Ah what a great battle I face.

  8. mark says:

    Well said. I totally agree.

  9. Southron says:

    Like it says on the back of my 2012 Kentucky Bourbon Trail shirt…”So Many Bourbons So Little Time”. That’s what it’s made for, Drink and Enjoy!

  10. Matthew says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. It ends up stashed away or on craigslist for 5X the retail price. I would imagine most rare bottles are actually unopened and just stored…

  11. Jay Somerset says:

    I love the sentiment of this entry, Jason, but I have to admit to being a bit of a hording type. The problem is one of geography: in Ontario, we can only purchase American whiskey that’s brought up in limited quantities. Bottles such as Blanton’s, Old Forester 100 Proof, Booker’s, Elijah Craig, etc., are all in such limited supply, you worry that once you’ve finished your bottle, you’ll never get it again — let alone the rarer finds, such as anything limited (Buffalo Trace Antique, etc.).

    That said, there’s something satisfying about sharing a bottle and finishing it off.

  12. Dean E says:

    I agree with the sentiment to enjoy the whiskey and share, but I’m in no hurry. I’m fortunate to be able to acquire faster than I consume. But hey, Jason, if you’re ever up in Ohio, give me a shout and we’ll crack one I haven’t yet. :)

  13. Scott says:

    I’m split on this. I love having awesome collectable bottles (of the ones that are limited release, part of the fun is the thrill of the hunt and the friends you make along the way).

    With that said I don’t have many unopened bottles. most of the fine bottles I have are open and I’ve had a couple pours out of them, but then I throw them in the back of the pantry and let them sit till there’s on occasion for me to break it out.

    I also have a few bottles I can regularly get that are my “I’ve had more than a couple drinks, no reason to waste the good stuff” bottles (four roses small batch, anything weller, ect). So I’m all over the place.

  14. Ray O says:

    There is an underlying optimism in your comments, if I am reading you correctly. That is, there is more good stuff to come, so why not que up what you have, enjoy it and then see what comes next?

  15. Matthew says:

    Spot on! I love a sipper while I read and write, but enjoying good pours with friends is always more exciting – especially for everyday occasions.

  16. Scott says:

    Question for Jason following Ray O’s comment –

    Is the thought that everyone should finish their bottles perhaps skewed because you get access to all sorts of phenomenal whiskeys regularly as part of this bourbon review blog / gig? or is it more what Ray O said, that this shows your optimism for other great bottles in the future?

  17. Folks, please don’t mistake me. I am not advocating a mass consumption of your open bottles. I am simply commenting on my philosophy with whiskey. Everyone is so preoccupied with grabbing every limited release and rare bottling and shoving them in the back of their bunker or displaying them on a shelf as if to say, “look at what I have”. My argument is or at least my approach is to never hesitate pouring a great bottle on a Wednesday night while watching tv. Why hold it – enjoy it.

    Don’t be afraid to drink your good stuff. Don’t rush to finish it, but do enjoy it whenever you want to.

  18. Davin de Kergommeaux says:

    Right On, Jason!
    I have a nice whisky collection and darn near all of them are open.

  19. Paul McIvor says:

    Cheers, Jason! Couldn’t agree more. Life is short- enjoy your whiskey!

  20. LVWhisky says:

    Ships are made for sinking, whiskey made for drinking.

  21. Vince says:

    Jason, I am in your corner, bourbon (or any great whiskey) is made to drink. I do try to follow what Alex is saying however, and will hold back some bottles in order to make sure I have something truly special for those truly special occasions.

    My definition of a truly special occasion is having good friends over who enjoy bourbon :)
    DRINK YOUR BOURBON!

  22. John Hunt says:

    Do not stare at your whiskey and rye,
    For it is made for the palate, not for the eye.

  23. GQuiz says:

    Looks like I have some drinking to do… I have 15-20 opened bottles on the shelf. Here’s to 2013… Salud!

  24. Cincy Hound says:

    I agree completely with your philosophy – Drink Your Whiskey!
    While I do maintain a “stash”, it is a stash only in the sense that is bourbon I reserve for special occasions or for conducting a bourbon tasting and need to have representative bottles of different styles. My special releases and limited editions are especially hard to keep since sharing these treasures with friends is half the fun. The thing that upsets me the most is when you show up at a “special release” at 6:00 in the morning to stand in line and can see people there that are clearly “plants” to get extra bottles for someone else to hoard or resell at a significant markup. Maybe they should just start making us drink it onsite when we buy it :>

  25. sku says:

    Jason, I’m sorry to see you jump on this bandwagon. You are doing a huge disservice to your readership. Bottles should be opened sparingly if ever. Remember, opening a bottle completely eliminates the resale value. How are you going to benefit from the whiskey if you can’t resell it at a profit? When you drink rare whiskey, you are literally (well, not literally) pouring money down your gullet. Even worse, when you share great whiskey, you are likely benefiting only hapless philistines who will never appreciate the whiskey the way you do (this doesn’t apply to any whiskey you’ve shared with me though).

    Remember, if they wanted people to drink Pappy, they would make enough of it for everyone.

    Please issue a correction forthwith.

  26. Alan says:

    Great thought provoking topic Jason. I too, have been a bit of a hoarder and have been thinking exactly what we’re talking about here. I am running out of room in my cabinets with damn good stuff and really need to just enjoy what I’ve got for a while. I could go months without buying anything else and still be sittin pretty.
    I do save my really good stuff for special occasions and drink the other on regular days. Great topic…one we all needed to deal with!
    I’m drinkin’ my bourbon! Thanks!

  27. Well done Sku!

  28. Rock says:

    Amen,sku!

  29. Andrew says:

    Jason,

    While I understand where you are coming from I am going to share a personal view on the topic of stashing. First, I do not have a display of what I have. What anyone usually sees is what I have open at any given time — usually around seven to nine bottles. But, I do have what I would call a stash consisting mainly of a handful of products I want to keep on hand for myself and friends. Not a huge collection, but it is there. Nothing incredibly old, nothing incredibly rare. It is not for showing nor is it for selling. Only for drinking. So, why do I have a stash?

    First, it is a hedge against the continuing rise in prices. In general, as grain prices and transportation costs have climbed over the years so has the price of bourbon and whisky. As the demand for bourbon and whisky increased and inventories in the warehouses decreased, prices increased. As distillers got greedy, prices increased. One need only read David Driscoll’s postings of late.

    On a similar note, if there is a product a like I try to keep a reasonable amount on hand. I do not get greedy. But when a local store made Johnnie Walker Green available for $42 and it was something I enjoy it was an easy decision to grab more than usual. I probably saved $15+ a bottle and who knows how inventories will pan out as this product has been discontinued. Am sure towards the end pricing will skyrocket for what is on the shelves.

    Next, while the tasting is good and you know the quality of the product why not stash? As distilleries ramp up production, quality seems to have suffered with a number of products. Redbreast was one of my regular go-to whiskys until it became a hit. Then, as production ramped up the taste seemed to go off a bit. I thought it was just me but then Ralfy made a similar comment in a review. When I found a handful of bottles in the old packaging I grabbed what I could as I enjoyed that version of the product. Also, a number of products change flavor profiles yearly such as Evan Williams Single Barrel. So, if you like the taste of EWSB 2003, why not stock up? Who knows what the 2004 will taste like.

    Then there is local availability. Rittenhouse Rye 100 BiB is not available in FL. A lot of products are not available here. So, when I am on the road it is not abnormal to come home with a case or two of products I would not normally see around town to add to the stash.

    FWIW, I do not go Pappy hunting, but if they are made available to me I will purchase at reasonable prices. I have yet to see a single 2012 Four Roses Limited Edition, either version, and do not expect to any time soon. I also still go out and purchase single bottles just for the tasting experience when I want to try something new. But most of the time I go back to my standards.

    Am happy with what I have, drink what I have, and stash when I see the need.

  30. Jeff says:

    I feel strongly both ways! :) I have have extras of the bottles of whiskeys that I love and are hard to find. But I don’t have anything that has not been opened. I don’t save the highly rated stuff for special occasions. I drink them when I I’m in the mood for one. If I have a friend over than can appreciate a “better” bourbon, I don’t hesitate to bring one out.

    It’s great to have options.

    Thanks for all you do!

  31. Gio says:

    A very refreshing look at whiskey as a hobby. There seem to be quite a lot of people who are interested in buying bottles, but not actually in opening them. The scalping and hording of really exquisite, rare whiskies is bad, and is made worse by distilleries promoting “investment” whiskies.

    The stuff is meant to be drunk, savored, enjoyed and remembered. There seems little point in spending hundreds of dollars on a bottle only to gaze at it wistfully, dreaming of some far off day when you might possibly open it.

  32. Christopher Frank says:

    I would like to learn more about open bottles. The Whiskey Bitch observed regarding Booker’s that it settled down after being opened. She stated that air plays havoc with the product implying not in a good way. Presently I have EWSB 2000, Rittenhouse Rey and OGD 114 all open; it is nice to rotate depending on mood. I just acquired a bottle of Booker’s. I would hate to think that I am limited to consuming one bottle at a time (before opening another). Jason, care to comment on the effects of air on open bottles? The woman went so far as chastising herself by saying “I know I know I should be decanting!” Does the taste of bourbon change significantly if left for a month or two in a half open bottle. You have spoken in reviews about letting a pour sit for 20 minutes and those effects…Anyway now I feel I better not open the Booker’s until the other bottles are finished. Is this misguided?

  33. Matt L. says:

    Christopher, if you look at the topic “Whiskey storage” on the right side of the screen under all the whiskey brands, Jason has an interesting post written about it. As well as a link to an experiment that another blogger, Sku, did some time back.

  34. Andy H says:

    I got a bottle of Van Winkle Special Reserve at Thanksgiving and told my son I’d only be drinking it a special occasions. It was gone before Christmas. (Lot of special occasions during the holidays).

  35. James says:

    Great article Jason. I’m a drinker and don’t buy to stash, but to drink. That’s why I passed on BTAC’s this year. I did have two GTS’s and gave one to a friend as a house warming gift. I don’t like to drink alone, so I like to share my good fortune with others. Luckily living in middle tn, it’s been pretty easy to find the 4 roses le’s and a few others. It was pretty tough passing on GTS and WLW a couple weeks ago, but i’ve got a couple bottles I must empty before my next purchase.

  36. Jeff W. says:

    First off, I don’t just drink bourbon. I like and regularly drink bourbon, rye, other American and Canadian whiskies, plus Scotch and Irish whiskies. Right now I have 21 open bottles, plus a 15 year old Glen Garioch which I’ve been saving, unopened. I went throught the whole Pappy and BTAC thing over the last 5 years, and managed to try every one of them. The only one I sort of hoarded was the Pappy 20 yr, which took me 15 months from the time I opened it until I finished it. I freely admit, that for me Pappy 20 was a near religious experience. Nothing has ever tasted as good to me as it did, especially when fresh. After 10-11 months of being open, and less than half full at that point, it started to go “flat” and definitely did not have the old zing, but was still incredible. Nursing it for another 4 months before finishing it was, in restrospect, a mistake. I just couldn’t let it go, knowing I would never have another. I now never let a bottle get more than 8-9 months old from opening. I currently have a Pappy Family Reserve Rye which I just opened before Christmas, and a couple barrel strength limited release 4 Roses I bought at the distillery in June, which are just about gone. I’ve learned my lesson.

  37. iskch1 says:

    Well said, Jason. I keep the good stuff in the back and the everyday stuff up front. All the seals are broken. No collection whiskey for me.

  38. Jason C says:

    Some people just plain sleep better when they have a limited edition, small batch, single barrel, special release whiskey in their collection.

    I sleep better at night when I have had a couple of glasses of the same whiskey

    ENJOY IT!!!!

  39. Joseph Allen says:

    I must admit that I am ambivalent about this, Jason. If I pay $250 for a bottle of Pappy 23yo, which I have 3 times in the last 2 months, I am definitely going to drink it – but I am not taking it to my company party. I’m sharing it with those I love and can appreciate it – and that may take me a few months. Not sure how you define hoarding, but I have some great and very hard to find bottles. They WILL be enjoyed – but not with someone who can’t differentiate them from Kentucky Gentleman. If that makes me a hoarder, then I’m guilty as charged.
    Let me know when you’re headed to Bowling Green. I’ll treat you to dinner and a great little bar with some super taps and great bourbon selection.

  40. Joseph Allen- I definitely do not advocate quick consumption of bottles for the sake of consuming bottles. Enjoyment is at the forefront of my thoughts about whiskey. There is a contingent that spend a great deal of time amassing huge collections of whiskey to bunker them and hold on to them, look at them, maybe save them as an investment, whatever. I think this is silly. I am not saying you are “doing it wrong” if you aren’t drinking your best stuff quickly. However, don’t make the act of collecting and having 5 bottles of Stagg on hand that you never drink more important than actually enjoying the whiskey you buy whenever you feel the need. I also understand not wanting to dole out Pappy 23 to every guest that rings your doorbell. That would not be advisable. But try a glass for yourself on a mundane Tuesday afternoon and tell me it doesn’t make a great evening.

    Obviously this topic stirs a lot of passion in folks. There is no “right” way to drink whiskey, but whatever that is for you, just make sure you’re not postponing enjoying something great for the sake of amassing a collection. That’s what I consider hoarding. It’s so much more fun to drink.

    And Joseph I’d love to head up to BG some time and have a drink. We should plan on it for sure.

  41. Jeff W. – you make a great great point. I have a section on storage of whiskey on the right side of my home page under categories. I talk about this very thing. Whiskey will indeed change. Just another reason to drink up. One note: sometimes they also get better with a bit of air – so I suppose there’s that.

  42. Christopher, as Matt L notes I do talk about storage on the site. And no – you shouldn’t fear having multiple bottles open. Drinking a bottle at a time is overkill and not necessary. You have a good deal of time on opened bottles, so open and try, open and try. Don’t let that stop you. By all means – open that Booker’s and drink it! : )

  43. Chris says:

    I totally agree, Jason. What good is flavor and aroma if you can’t taste or smell it? I bet a lot of “hoarders” are having to actually open their supply, since Ebay shut liquor sales down!

  44. Christopher Frank says:

    Thanks Jason and thanks Matt L. for the reference to the piece about storage. I thought wow drinking one bottle at a time meaning not opening another until the first is finished would be so boring! And yet after I read the article about storage I thought if after half empty I must start pouring into smaller bottles to avoid exposure to air – these good folks must be drinking far more than I and nightly- no judgement at all but if I have one 2oz pour on three separate nights during the week, that is plenty. So in the future I will keep no more than 3 bottles open to rotate. Here is an astounding bit of information. I contacted a research facility on alcohol because I could never figure out if I had a 2 oz pour of 100 proof bourbon or 16.9 oz of 8.2% beer which was more – I searched the Internet and could not find a formula; finally I was given one and it is you multiply the quantity you are drinking times the ABV and here is what I came up with:

    a 6 oz pour of Tomaresca wine = .81
    16.9 oz (that is how it is bottled) of Weihenstephaner Weisbier=.91
    2 oz of Ardbeg= .91
    2 oz of Rittenhouse Rye = 1.00
    2 oz of OGD 114= 1.14
    2 oz of Booker’s= 1.27
    16.9 oz of Schneider Aventinus = 1.38!
    The eye opener for me here is 16.9 oz of the Aventinus yields more alcohol than the Booker’s which has one of the highest proofs around. Similarly 16.9 oz of low ABV (5.4) beer is equal to 2 oz 92pf Ardbeg!

  45. Dave says:

    It seems to me that bloggers have had a fairly influential hand in broadening the market for good whisky. This in turn has driven demand, put pressure on supply, enabled producers to raise prices, and finally motivated drinkers to stockpile in an effort to hedge against escalating prices and shortages. Perhaps if you and other bloggers stopped evangelizing and let the market whither as it has at times in the past, we could leave the hoarding to the retailers. If I could walk into any decent liquor store and pick up a bottle of Pappy, as I could 10 years ago, I’d gladly empty my stash. I’d be happy, my wife would be ecstatic, and I’d have money for other vices. Just sayin’

  46. BarrelChar says:

    Agree with Jason’s point about opening the bottles. I don’t keep “special occasion” bottles, mostly because I’m afraid of dying before I get to taste them. So when I buy them, I drink them–though some more judiciously than others.

    That said, I’m unabashedly pro-hoarding. Whiskey quality, on the whole, keeps declining and truly exceptional bottles are rare. In fact, I’d argue 2012 was a bleak year for US whiskey. Other than the 2012 FR LE SmB, no new official releases really wowed me.

    In some cases, it pays to hoard when the supply of a particular juice is finite. For example, the super-aged Bernheim wheaters are incredible and unique, particularly the Vintage 17, and Willett 16 & 17 (distilled 4/6/1993). I find they’re as good, if not better than most of the Stitzel-Wellers I’ve tasted. Same for the PHC 4th wheated and the age-stated Old Weller Antique. Never regretted bunkering any of those. In the past, I stocked up on PVW 15 & 20 when I found them at MSRP. Even putting aside the “what percentage is actually Stitzel-Weller” controversy, it’s good stuff (albeit significantly overrated) that’s becoming increasingly ridiculous to obtain, so it’s better have too many, rather than endure the degrading hassle in later years.

    These decisions feel vindicated when I taste the current widely-available wheater releases that pale in comparison. The NAS OWA is astringent, while Weller 12, MM/MM46, and Larceny are boring and watery. Old Fitz/Cabin Still/Rebel Yell aren’t even proper for mixing. Luckily, there are some really stellar OWA single barrels still being purchased by the best retailers & private buying clubs, and some recent batches of Willett 8 wheaters were dynamite. While their youth inhibits the more compelling wood influences, I think many of the best batches are fairly bunker-worthy too. But they’re a pain to find.

    Ryes may be the best case for hoarding, particularly Vintage 21 and Hirsch 21/22. Those Medley/Cream of Kentucky ryes were a one-time limited supply, and have a phenomenal creamy profile that simply isn’t found today with the infestation of minty-pickle juice known as LDI rye. Same for Rittenhouse 21, and there’s a good argument to be made for High West 16 & Sazerac 18, though they aren’t my favorites. When I see VWFRR at anything resembling a reasonable price, I buy it, even though I thought this year’s batch (“C” Series) was not as good as the “B” series–possibly the result of more BT juice being blended in. But it’s still fantastic, and like it’s bourbon brethren, more limited than ever due to the ludicrous hype machine.

    Hell, I even bought loads of Wild Turkey Rye 101 after they announced the move to 81 proof. Never looked back. Instead, I stew about not buying Black Maple Hill 23 when I had the chance. The current supply of rye is thin, and the likelihood of seeing many super-aged, quality batches is negligible. It’s just going to be more LDI poison that tastes like a combination of Scope & Vlasic kosher dills, complete new labels and fake backstories.

    And there’s some great whiskeys from single casks or limited vattings that deserve to be bunkered. Bowman 18 year 138.6 Gift Shop release? Four Roses 2012 LE SmB? Balvenie Tun 1403 Batch #3? All no-brainers. Some of the K&L barrel picks are truly fantastic and worthy of multiple purchases. There are older Glendronach casks that are mind-altering. I snagged a lot of older GTS, WLW, and THH, which has paid off since this year’s batches were, in my opinion, the weakest ever, and that could be a sign of things to come at BT. There are many Four Roses private barrel picks that are stunning and demand to be hoarded. And so on.

    Even for the best distilleries, a truly great “A/A+” cask is a rare event. So when I find one approaching that range, I stock up. There’s plenty of average whiskey out there if I want it. I’d rather taste repeated greatness that a variety of mediocrity. Would anyone criticize the person who bought cases of PHC 1st Edition? Nah, he’d look like a genius today. Given the current landscape of declining supply & quality, and rising prices? It’s a strong case for hoarding the good stuff, if your budget allows.

  47. Jkunks says:

    I think I have the best of both here. I purchase a nice bottle every Friday and taste/drink about half of the bottle over the weekend. Then I add it to my collection. When people visit I let them choose what they want. I end up with a great selection and variety for my friends and me, of course.

  48. Dave, I will always talk about good stuff man. If I and others that do the same have hurt supply in some way, then so be it. I like to think we’ve also helped consumers spend their money more wisely. There’s no money in this for 99% of the whiskey bloggers out there. Fewer samples as well. I’m just like you and have a hard time myself getting these bottles. But I sure won’t stop doing this. Just sayin!

  49. Gary says:

    Couldn’t agree more – I don’t have any more than 2 of any particular bottle, mostly because I like to have variety and wouldn’t have room to stock up on any individual offering! The longest I’ve held a bottle unopened was 6 months, which was my first ever Pappy 20 yr (an early graduation present I bought myself, but stashed until I actually graduated!) I understand the folks who “invest” in rare whiskey, and can’t fault them for that (talk about something where supply is guaranteed to only go down, and fairly quickly!) But I just enjoy good whiskey too damn much to let it sit for that long :-)

  50. Dave says:

    Jason, I seem to have struck a nerve. I think you and the other dedicated bloggers provide a valuable service to consumers. Thank you for that. But, I find it a little odd when those that engage in actions that help create scarcity then chastise others who respond to those conditions by hoarding, or even profiting. Perhaps I just don’t understand the motivations of a whisky blogger.

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