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Hoarding Whiskey Part 2

Apparently the whiskey hoarding debate from my post in late January struck a chord. Some response was positive, some negative, but regardless a fun discussion where over 50 comments can be read here. A nasty cold and cough have derailed my tasting and review plans for the week. But that’s okay – it allows me a chance to revisit this topic if you will allow me.

First, I wanted to further clarify my position. Like most things, it’s never black and white. I consider the hoarding mentality one of collecting whiskey for the sake of the collection. Who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your whiskey? It’s your money. If you can build your stash while not sacrificing your personal enjoyment of good whiskey, then I say go for it.

There were a number of great points made about being a smart consumer. Something I am not. I can only speak for myself but for me, my title as whiskey blogger runs opposite of the title, “smart consumer”. I buy 90+% of the whiskey I review, and taste a whiskey no less than 2-3 times (sometimes more) before writing about it. That requires plenty of sipping and not a ton of saving. If a smart consumer knows he loves XYZ whiskey, shouldn’t he take advantage of good pricing and stock up? Absolutely. If that smart consumer enjoys that whiskey and drinks it regularly that is not a hoarders pursuit in my opinion.

The biggest point I wanted to make is don’t let a hoarding mentality keep you from enjoying the great stuff you have in your cabinet. Don’t rush to finish all those open bottles, don’t crack your Pappy just because you think I said so (but if you already did – save me some), but do find the time to enjoy these whiskeys that you’ve purchased. Don’t always wait for the perfect moment – a great whiskey MAKES the perfect moment perfect.

And finally, for some background, I’m not one that lives in the past. I don’t believe that everything made back in the day was better. Doesn’t mean some wasn’t better, but nobody can convince me that the juice put out by some of these distilleries today is not as good or better today as it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. Buffalo Trace makes better whiskey than Stitzel-Weller did from top to bottom. Is that subjective? No. ; )

A number of comments also saw an underlying optimism in my post. Those folks are absolutely correct. I don’t believe the whiskey bubble is close to popping. I don’t have facts or figures to discredit what others feel to be an absolute certainty, citing rising prices, rising gimmicks, and depleting supply as chief reasons. Sure, it saddens me to see stuff aged on boats, but constraints (lack of supply) also lead to wonderfully creative products we’d never have otherwise.

Distilleries are making more whiskey today than ever before. Yes it’s getting more expensive – that happens. But we will soon have even more viable choices with natural selection doing its thing on a number of the micro distilleries. I tasted a Balcones whiskey that is very good and will only get better. The better micro distilleries are forcing other micros to make ever better products. It’s also forcing established distilleries to be more creative.

You could argue that 2012 would be a chief knock against my theory for the most part. I consider it an average year for whiskey, perhaps one of the worst for me in the last 5 years. Still, I tasted enough great stuff from the likes of Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, High West, Heaven Hill, and St. George Spirits, among others, to keep me optimistic. Therefore I still encourage you to drink your good stuff.

It’s Wednesday night – have a pour in good health!

-Jason

46 Comments

  1. It’s worth saying, Jason thank you for being able to answer questions on how bourbons measure against one another. If you were simply a collector you may not be able to share your opinion on rarer bottles like Pappy or BTAC.

    As a note I happened to by chance look at wine-searcher.com when looking for Pappy links to share with a friend and WOW, those beverages have apparently spiked in price! (http://www.wine-searcher.com/wine-135418-0001-old-rip-van-winkle-distillery-pappy-van-winkle-s-family-reserve-15-year-old-kentucky-straight-bourbon-whiskey-kentucky-usa) While folks may spend a premium for them, Jason you help keep folks grounded and remember it’s just another spirit. It’s made to be drank not stared at.

  2. People will always try and hoard things that they feel are “hard to get” or the best of a given class of products. I fondly remember when I used to buy VW 12yr LotB by the case and drink it as my everyday… Sadly, my evangelism for bourbon has been my own downfall as many premium brands have become impossible to obtain on a predictable basis. In any case I always have a bottle of each Pappy (except 23, not worth the upcharge) and each BTAC OPEN on my bar and I offer them freely to guests. Matt is absolutely correct – whiskey is made to drink and an unopened bottle is just plain wrong.

  3. Ironfinger says:

    Good article/great blog. My practice is to keep an “everyday” whiskey on hand that I love. I usually don’t share it. I watch for sales on about 2-3 whiskey brands to keep this category stocked at all times (only 1-2 bottles). I also watch the liqour store specials regularly and about once a month I pounce on an interesting spirit I would like to try. This is a gamble and I always share because I know others who would like to try them, but would never take a risk on a $30+ bottle they might not enjoy. So, if I don’t like it I can get rid of it quicker and my wife only sees 2-4 whiskey bottles up in the cabinet at any one time. Cheers.

  4. George L says:

    Great post Jason! I guess I’m a hoarder, but drink them! I have plenty of bottles of my favorite bourbons backed up Lot B, PVW 15yo & 20yo, WLW & GTS BTAC, Jefferson’s PS 17yo & 18yo. they are my go to bourbon’s and I drink them all the time. With me it doesn’t have to be a ” Special Occasion ” to drink them. If I run out, I run out. There’s always next years release! ( If Luck Has It! )

  5. Latinpig says:

    I am a little saddened by what has happened this year. I am a huge Antique collection fan. I had been buying every year since 2005 in October on release. The bottles would sit on the shelf for weeks until all gone. I think I first paid $55 or 65 a bottle. I would usually buy one of each but probably sneaked back for more. This year, they limited one bottle for customer and they did not even get a 1/2 a case of each. It was a ruggby scrum to get anything. People lined up an hour before the store opened and the retailer gouged us and charged $100 (I think it was supposed to be $80). I was able to find a little more at another retailer but some places did not even put their allocation on the shelf (dam hipsters). I blame Anthony Bourdain.

    I have been accumlating some just because of scarcity. The Irony is that I have one bottle of the Pappy 20. I purchased it a couple years ago when a retailer had called to tell me that the Antique collection was in. When I showed up, they had the Pappy instead. I bought it just for fun. Historically, I have had the Pappy line up. It to used to sit on the shelf for months. I actually prefer the 12 year old and the Rye to the higher end 20 and 23 year old. I personally think they are a little overated. I saw a 23 yearl old recently for $250. Pass.

  6. Al Hughes says:

    I probably give away as much whisk(e)y as I drink and I typically have between 10-15 bottles in my home at any given time. That said, I have a few categories:

    1. Casual sharing: This is for my friends who are casual drinkers and not aficionados by any means. It’s also for when I have a group of people over and want to share a bottle that I’m sure will be drained before the night is over. While it’s far from rot-gut (I wouldn’t stock my shelf with anything I won’t enjoy), it’s far from the super premium category.

    2. Middle-of-the-road: This is for when I have a good friend who is an active whiskey drinker over to watch a game on TV.

    3. Special occasions: This is reserved for very special occasions (birthdays, the NY Giants winning the super bowl, etc.).

  7. Jefferson S says:

    Speaking of hoarding, Jason – I will be visiting Lexington, KY next week and aside from stopping by a few distilleries for tasting, was wondering if you could point me towards one or two recommended liquor stores. I’d love to stumble onto a bottle or two that I haven’t tried and would love to talk shop with some knowledgeable whiskey folks. If you have any recommendations, please pass them on! – Jefferson

  8. Doc says:

    My wife thinks I hoard bourbon… I’ve got 27 different bottles opened. Some goes faster than others, but it all gets consumed between myself, family and friends. It’s meant to be consumed. This approach allows me to better separate the wheat from the chaff, further develop my palette, and host some fun tasting parties. It also lets me to know what to “hoard.”

  9. SCmayor says:

    Is anyone else noticing how empty a lot of retailers bourbon sections are these days? This drives me to hoard and buy when i can.

    I think this is due to the increased offerings at restaurants and bars. Couple years ago the best most places would have was knob creek or woodford. I saw Stagg at a Cheesecake Factory the other day.

  10. RyanV says:

    Since you’re sick and spring is coming, perhaps you can suggest the difinitive old fashioned recipe?

  11. Good idea RyanV – cocktails soon!

  12. Andrew says:

    Jason, regarding your previous post — my main objection was that just because someone has a stash does not mean they are hoarding. Hoarding projects an aura that one is collecting without drinking. Just having to show. To say, “Hey look what I have.” Having a stash does not infer hoarding by itself.

    Would hope that most of the readers and posters here are not hoarding and not flipping. Those are cancers for the industry driven by the seven deadly sins. With eBay out of the business as a resale market perhaps some normalcy will return. We are also now starting to see some push back by the drinking public on some of the games being played not so much by the distilleries but by a number (not all David D.) of resellers. These are good signs.

    I, for one, enjoy reading all your reviews and postings no matter the availability of the product. There are so many that we do not even see down here in FL regardless of their availability elsewhere. Many, such as the recently reviewed Mellow Corn, I have never seen let along heard of previous. Think about the opportunity missed by many who would turn their nose up on this product just because it is widely available, not rated A+ or 95 and above, and because it costs under $15.

    In conclusion, we should all feel blessed that you do this out of your own pocket and good will to help educate the masses. Your web site contains no advertising and you do not have a subscription service fee to read your content. And for that I am thankful. Thank you, Jason.

  13. Jay says:

    Jefferson S.

    I live in Lexington and the limited release bourbons are pretty much sold out. There is a relatively new liquor store off of Southland Drive called Unlimited Spirits. The owner works during the weekdays and he is very knowledgeable and willing to talk. You might luck up and find something over there. You might call around some of the liquor barns and find some Weller 12 still on the shelf.

  14. Jefferson S says:

    @Jay: thanks for the rec. I don’t expect to find any of the impossible to find bottles by this time of year (BTAC, Pappy) but always hold out hope that i’ll stumble onto something I hadn’t tried yet or have a hard time procuring in my home state of NC. Appreciate the info and looking forward to a trip to Lex!

  15. GQuiz says:

    We have to tuck some whiskeys aside because we my never see them again, especially down here in San Antone. The 2012 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is rarer than rare now. I know that was your whiskey of the year. Since you’re not in a reviewing mode thanks to your cold, how bout revealing that Best of 2012 list… I want to get my liquor consultant cracking on some new pursuits.

  16. Dawn says:

    I’m a little confused, perhaps only because we’re not seeking out much that’s hard to find, admittedly. What we try to get we can get. We don’t stock up because it’s essentially always there in market with tough search or jacked-up prices. So it is tough to imagine (perhaps naively !) that the spirits market is experiencing much in the nature of the geek wine market since the 90′s. My husband’s a wine guy. He’s described some of the crazy market situations that exist for very small product runs (one barrel of this, one of that), which are highly sought, often requiring special “program membership” and expensive relationships with wineries having wait lists for their best stuff. When the bottle price at release runs $400, and the gray market double and triple that, the market adjusts. Is that what’s happening with these special items, such as Pappy 30, Four Roses LEs, William Weller, etc. ? People are hoarding THESE, or are they hoarding more commonly available stuff or less rare such as WL Weller 12, etc. ?

  17. Nick says:

    Bought a bottle of 21 one year old Willett last night. I opened it last night. My brother and I commenced in destroying that bottle, yes, last night. Unreal stuff from the old Stizel-Weller place. It won’t last long.

    Super rare and I don’t care. I think that’s my new slogan…

  18. Max B. says:

    Thanks for the additional, although unnecessary, post Jason. Every rational reader knew the point you were making the first time. The hoarders are beyond reach and the people that don’t know the difference between a large collection that doesn’t impede the enjoyment of drink and hoarding are equally hopeless.

    Keep fighting the good fight, and remember: if you drink the best first, you will always be drinking the best.

  19. Bmac says:

    @Dawn – You’ve hit the nail on the head. However, the market for bourbon vanished when eBay closed down all auctions that contained liquor. Also, the Van Winkles made a request to eBay to stop the sales of Pappy Van Winkle because it was out of control (PVW 15 yr was last going for around 500 bux.). The realization that people will mortgauge their homes for a bottle of Pappy led to a fairly high increase in price. PVW 15 used to be around 50 – 60 bux now it’s 79 – 100. A lot of unscrupulous stores will sell it for 250 – 300+ off the shelf. It has become pure madness, but I doubt it will last much longer.

  20. smknjoe says:

    I have a nice little collection that I drink on a regular basis. In part, thanks to sites like yours Jason. I do enjoy it so.

    Bmac, I hope you’re right about the stupid prices. I’ve seen stores selling and MOVING it at those prices and it’s absurd. In Houston, not New York.

  21. Tom says:

    “Don’t always wait for the perfect moment – a great whiskey MAKES the perfect moment perfect.”

    love it

  22. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason–

    Interesting Bourbon INFO…..

    A Fellow Bourbonite told me National Geographic Magazine recently rated Kentucky Bourbon Trail as #4 Worldwide Favorite Travel Tours !*!*!

    Kentucky Bourbon Trail……Enjoy !

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  23. Brent says:

    Nick – that Willet 21 yr is the best of the best in my opinion. I guess I feel lucky living in Middle Tn as most stuff is available for a while as the 4R LE bottles, BTAC in some stores, and others. I’ve passed on a ER17 last June and in January this year I passed on Stagg and WLW. I can only drink so much, usually about 2 bottles a year as I am a wine guy. I still have a bottle of 2006 WLW that has not been opened. It’s next on the list as soon as I can get a 17yr Vintage and Very Old Scout finished off.

  24. Tony says:

    Jason, I really have appreciated your site. I’m a bourbon newbie who thought six months ago that Maker’s Mark was pretty much all there was. Now I pop up your blog on my phone at my local liquor store to try to figure out what I might enjoy next.

    For example, on your recommendation, tonight I tried an Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can’t imagine my pride in looking at my tasting notes tonight and seeing that they are starting to match up more with yours. I’M LEARNING.

    My family is heading to Kentucky for spring break and i’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to stock up on some bourbons that aren’t available in Michigan. If anyone has any suggestions, i would love to hear them. Honestly, i’m not looking to hoarde, i just want to stock up on things i can’t find around here and I’m very excited to learn more.

    Thanks again Jason!

  25. Todd says:

    I think we all hope that every bottle purchased has the full intention of being opened, after all it is how you appreciate what was created. That being said I can see how bourbon drinkers are not eager to crack open certain bottlings the minute they pay for them. I was only bitten by the bourbon bug a year ago, but coming from a strong wine background I was able to grasp quickly what bottles were sought by bourbon purists. I confess that the scramble and sheer stubborn persistence of procuring my first bottle of Van Winkle took much of the luster and “thrill of the hunt” away from whole experience. So I admit while I will be drinking the bottle I will be waiting till I have a back up.

  26. Jim Listerman says:

    Tony-

    While In Kentucky…….

    #1 = Visit & Tour Distilleries / Kentucky Bourbon Trail

    #2 = Very Old Barton (Abbreviated “VOB”)

    VOB 80 Proof = Aged Minimum 4 Years
    VOB 86, 90, 100 = Aged Minimum 6 Years

    Excellent Bourbon From Barton 1792 Distillery (Bardstown) Owned & Operated By Sazerac.

    Consider W.L. Weller “Wheated Bourbons” From Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort) Also Owned & Operated By Sazerac.

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  27. Ray O says:

    This topic has drawn many comments, most being well thought out and worth reading. The only topic I think would draw more attention and response would be “Scotch or Bourbon”?

  28. Guy says:

    I never used to put whiskey aside for a later date. I buy it and we opened and drank it. Now as I approach retirement age, I find I put the more expensive stuff aside. I found a store with some Jefferson’s 18. One get s opened, one stored. I was able to get a Stagg. Since I have a bottle of Larceny and Weller 107 open, I put it aside. Just hoping when I finally get to retire, I still want to be drinking good bourbon.

  29. Dave says:

    Tony, I’m also from Michigan and one bourbon I ALWAYS try to grab while in Kentucky in Ancient Age 10 Yr. (not 10 star!). We can’t get it in Michigan. Check out Jason’s review. It’s an excellent bourbon for under $20. And like Jim said, visit distilleries. I highly recommend Four Roses and Buffalo Trace! Have fun!

  30. Jim Listerman says:

    Tony-

    What part of Michigan ?

    IF you’re coming down I-75 through Cincinnati to enter Kentucky……

    Shop for bourbon at The Party Source.

    Cross Ohio River at Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky.

    Party Source is one block North of the I-471 Bridge (Bellevue / Newport Kentucky)

    HUGE store that has every Bourbon currently available.

    AMAZING selection with large inventory 750ML, One Liter, and 1.75L bottles.

    Prices will make you want to move Roun’ Here !

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  31. hello
    that’s a good post.Thanks for sharing.

  32. Southron says:

    WARNING- I must take exception with the post from “Dave in Michigan”. Please do not purchase Ancient Age 10 year when coming to Kentucky. It is well known to cause your hair to fall out, teeth to rot, and all your children to be born naked. It’s not even good to use as a floor polish. All of us from Kentucky will continue to drink as much as we can that we might sacrifice ourselves for the rest of the country. You have been warned!

  33. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason-

    How far do you live from Cascade Hollow ?

    Could we talk you into taking Road Trip to make video touring George Dickel Distillery ?*!*?

    Your Video Tour could include tasting Cascade Hollow and Dickel #8.

    Personally enjoy your Dickel #12 and Barrel Select reviews.

    Expand review(s) to include…….

    The Full Line Up Dickel Tennessee Whisky !*!*!

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  34. Dave says:

    SouthRon – Finally! I have an explanation for my hair falling out! And my wife and I have five beautiful kids, and wouldn’t you know it… every last one of ‘em was born naked! Now… my teeth are still in tact, but I figure that’s just because I haven’t partaken of enough AA. I have sacrificed this much, I may as well continue on in the experiment with my Kentucky brethren (Besides, our floors could also use a little polish)! See you next month on the Bourbon Trail! And yes, I will be looking for a bottle of AA. Tony – proceed with caution. :)

  35. california woman says:

    has anyone tried the elijah craig 12yo barrel proof? jason–have you reviewed it (i didn’t see a review)?

    still waiting for it to show up in southern california stores. if it doesn’t hurry up, it’ll be too late (it’s almost tequila and mezcal season)!!

  36. I am a whisky hoarder. I buy way too much compared to my consumation. It is because of me the prices are going up. The day people like me stop buying and just drinking what we have the whiskyboom will be here. At least in the specific small corner of the whiskey market we operate. I agree that the boom is nowhere near as many do think. I can’t see it happen anywhere soon

    The cupboard I have, was meant to host all my bottles. Now its to small for my open ones. I should really do everyone a favour and stop buying whisky

    Steffen

  37. Thanks for screwing all of us Steffen! ; )

  38. Ray O says:

    A lot of what Steffen says sounds like me, in fact (and probably like many readers of this blog). That doesn’t make us bad people, though. Maybe we just need counseling.

  39. cato says:

    I’m not hoarding, I’m just behind drinking :-)

  40. Tony says:

    Jim,

    I am in KY and having a blast. Walked into my hotel and ordered a Weller 12 year (which i still haven’t found in a store yet) and was rewarded with a generous pour. I have Party Source on our agenda and already have a VOB-BIB and AAA-10 year in the trunk.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  41. Dave says:

    My buddy and I are planning our next Bourbon Trail trip over a bottle of the NEW Elijah Craig Barrel Proof right now! WOW! What an Oak Punch! I will reserve further comments until Jason posts. We are looking forward to our visit in two weeks!

  42. Jim says:

    Tony-

    Enjoy your trip !

    At TPS (The Party Source) add the following……

    Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch ($10.99), W.L. Weller Special Reserve ($14.99), Benchmark ($7.50 On Sale…Buffalo Trace Distillery High Rye Recipe).

    Exceptional Bourbons @ Affordable Prices

  43. Tony says:

    Jim, Dave, and Jason,

    Had a great trip . I appreciate all of your suggestions and they helped to guarantee a wonderful trip for me and my family. Between Jason’s great tasting notes and Jim’s suggestion of TPS i also got some great juice at great prices.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to help me.

  44. Rami says:

    Great post.. I am under a self-inflicted ban on purchasing whiskey for 12 months until I thin the herd a bit. This is encouraging me to just enjoy my “collection” instead of buying more.

  45. Todd says:

    Thanks for your whiskey guidance, you have been a major influence on me and I am part of the new generation of whiskey drinkers helping fuel this resurgence. One of my goals as a new whiskey drinker (besides drinking, enjoying, and studying) is to make the older whiskey drinkers proud. I’m doing the heavy lifting by learning the rich history, experiencing as many expressions, ages, styles, brands, etc., exploring low shelves and high. Thanks Jason, keep up the good work!

  46. PR says:

    I’ve been drinking scotch whisky since I was a teenager and American whiskey more recently (I live in the UK so not that much whiskey available). I went through a phase where I hoarded I lot of whisky. I spent 2 or 3 years just buying for the sake of buying and although I also drank a lot, I kept drinking the cheaper, more ordinary stuff whilst stashing away the expensive bottles. At one point it hit me: I was just spending money for no reason and was getting obsessed with having every limited edition, special release or whatever that would be collectable. It saddened me and I decided to stop it.

    Now I am making a serious effort to consume my hoard. I have been drinking a lot of stuff, sent to auction about 10% of my bottles that I realised I wasn’t even that interested in drinking and have been trying to buy less than I consume. I also do periodic raids on my storage (wine cellar) and pick 6-12 bottles that I will bring up and unseal just for the sake of having them open on the shelf (if they are open I have to drink them). Still not perfect, today I was updating my inventory and realised that I bought too much over the last few weeks again, but I think I will be happier the day when I have no bottles sealed and I can just walk into a shop, buy whatever they have on the shelves that I fancy, come home, crack it open and enjoy it.

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