Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chasing Whiskey or Drinking Whiskey

Ok, show of hands who has stood in line and/or joined a lottery for the BTAC or Pappy or Parkers or Birthday Bourbon?  That's what I thought....a whole lot of you.  I admit, I too joined a lottery as I figured it's no effort on my part to enter my email and hit submit.  I was shocked to find out I didn't

Actually, I wasn't shocked.  The congregation of whiskey seekers is deep and only gets worse year over year.  The hunt simply isn't fun and in fact takes a lot of time and energy to acquire these very limited bottles.  Take George T. Stagg which is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique collection.  They dumped 128 barrels but yield was lower than normal with some barrels only containing a few gallons.  So, good luck finding a bottle retail and if not there then look on the secondary market but be prepared to pay five or six Benjamin's for said bottle.

Gone are the days of asking for and getting multiple bottles or the whole set of BTAC.  The lottery I joined asked which one of the 5 did I, that's it.  I visited my local ABC store and decided to go ahead and fill out the special order form entering George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller and Saz 18.  The manager took my form and upon reading my request, chuckled out loud.  I'm actually not expecting much and would be surprised if I got a bottle next year.

This leads me I guess to my musing.  Some people chase these bottles to flip and some to drink.  To me, I'm simply not interested in drinking whiskey that cost me $500 or more.  Now, if you're talking some rare 40 year old Scotch or Japanese whiskey, well then maybe it would be worth it.  But Stagg or Saz or Weller or even the vaunted Pappy simply are not worth the money that many retail or secondary market sellers are asking.

As many readers of this blog know, I do a lot of barrel picking and that to me provides great drinking without having to stand in line for hours or fill out multiple lottery forms.  For those of you who cannot pick private barrels, I would encourage you to do a little scouting around your local liquor stores and see if any of them do store barrel picks of Old Weller Antique, Four Roses Single Barrel or Knob Creek 120.  I'm not suggesting that these will be superior to the normal shelf offering but these single picks do offer something a little more unique that what you can find typically.  Besides single barrel store picks, there's a ton a great whiskey's on the shelf that can provide hours of satisfying drinking enjoyment. 

For those looking for solid whiskey's at a good price, may I suggest the following varietal selection:

Old Grand Dad 114
Evan Williams Bottled in Bond
Makers 46
Elijah Craig 12 year
Old Weller Antique
Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve Rye 104 pf
Baby Saz
High West Rendezvous or Double Rye

Single Malts/Pot Still:
Glendronach 15 year Revival
Glenlivet Nadurra 16 yr cask
Balvenie Doublewood 12 year
Talisker Storm
Lagavulin 16 year
Yamazaki 12 year
Redbreast 12 year
Green Spot NAS

Hibiki 12 year
Monkey Shoulder
Compass Box Spice Tree
Sheep Dip

Update 12/17: Sadly, a couple of the selections above have been discontinued or in the case of Glendronach 15, unavailable for a period of time.  Elijah Craig 12 and Hibiki 12 have been discontinued. 

This is just a very small sampling of whiskies that I feel are great pours for prices that will range from $15 on the low end to maybe as high as $100.  So, stop chasing elusive whiskey and start buying easy to find whiskey and drink up.


  1. I totally agree with the part about it no longer being much (any?) fun seeking the 'Unicorns' of limited release Bourbon. If one (or more) could be had at or near retail, many are well worth the price. However, the seeking of 'em has become so cut-throat, and expensive, especially on the secondary (I call it; "black") market that, pretty much all the fun is drained from the experience. ...And, if it ain't fun, it ain't the Bourbon experience I want. 'Nuff Said.

    1. Well said and I agree. Seeking, collecting and drinking whiskey should be a fun adventure and for the most part it has been. I may post about it in the future but my focus has really changed over the last number of years where I've added a heavier concentration of world whisky to the bunker. Bourbon and Rye continue to be added but in smaller quantities.

  2. Great post. Totally agree. When you mention that you're "simply not interested in drinking whiskey that cost me $500 or more," I think you have also begun to grasp at something. The secondary market is flooded with $500+ bottles of booze. In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, most of these will likely be sold to people who sit on them because they were so expensive and will eventually resell them because they "cost them too much" to drink. Or they will not be sold at all and will be listed for years and be left to collect dust. In the end, at some point, when the bubble bursts, these flippers are either going to be forced to drink them (at a loss) or sell them on the cheap (at a major loss). I'm holding out for that day and drinking my regulars as I sit back and relax.

    1. To put my statement in further context. We can all see that prices are escalating. At to be honest, I'm not sure how distilleries went so long offering well aged bourbons for such low prices. Whatever the reason, American whiskey offerings are getting more expensive and I recognize that. There are some whiskey's that I'm sure are worth hundreds of dollars but a brand new release jumping into the $500 range out of the gate is a little crazy. For me, when I could buy GTS at $45 a bottle, that was a great deal. At current prices, not worth it....but that's just me.

  3. Agree on all points, especially the pricing escalation. I've had some interesting conversations about BTAC pricing vs Willett pricing vs WT pricing and whether or not there was a "sweet spot". Ideally as American whiskey continues to experience this renaissance, is there a middle ground between being priced too low (BTAC), and priced too high (WT shelf turds like Diamond). My belief is that middle ground looks a lot like Booker's, with a wide distribution and a price just beyond cheap at $60~. It's excellent, but it's nothing special in most people's eyes. I'll drink Booker's anytime anywhere, although I do enjoy some batches more than others.

    Personally, I think Willett is smart to price at $10/year, and hope folks enjoy paying for it as much as I enjoy drinking OGD114 and OWA at less than $30.

    1. Fair points Gabe and I agree with your "sweet spot" assessment. There is still quite a few very good whiskey's out there at prices that are totally reasonable. I recently wrote about the new NAS WTRR Rye which at $60 appears to be high but in reality, this is probably the new norm. For Willett, my interest is now looking toward the future when their own distillate is in the bottles. I've had the white dog and early aged whiskey and it's darn good. I just hope the prices remain reachable.

  4. As of this whole to-do last year, I realized I couldn't care less about Pappy or the BTAC. Have fun making whiskey for investors and the connected rich, Buffalo trace. There's no joy or hope in pursuing these bottles for me, and as a result of their scarcity, my interest in them has plummeted. Don't care that they were released. Didn't even bother to walk across the street to enter a lottery, because at this point, it just seems degrading that I am expected to beg and plead to be allowed to give a company my money. I can spend it on other things besides hype and scarcity, and I'd rather read about something, anything, besides another year of no one being able to get Pappy and BTAC

    I still have receipts from 2009 for bottles of Pappy 15, which you could just stroll in and pluck off the shelf at your convenience. We used it as our house whiskey. It was $34.99 a bottle. Old Rip 10 cost me $11.99. I don't expect the same prices as then, but still...

    1. Keith - I remember those days as well. I purchased 1/2 a case of PVW15 back in 2007 for $36 a bottle and was still buying BTAC 5 months after release for $45 a bottle. I don't chase limited release stuff anymore but if winning a lottery gets me a BTAC for less than $100, I'd buy it and drink it. Other than that, I'll focus on barrel picks and other world whiskey. There's simply too much out there that's very enjoyable that doesn't include Pappy or BTAC.

  5. At this point I feel pretty comfortable judging somebody's intelligence, the fragility of their ego and their overall Bourbon knowledge by how much or how little they go on and get all worked up about getting their hands on anything Van Winkle and now BTAC and Birthday.

  6. Amen. I work in a big store and we no longer take names. Even though it's a big store, we know our customers. And the chance of a prize bottle going to a stranger is slim. Now if the newcomer wants to build a relationship we have ways of rewarding the newfound loyalty...