I’ve got a thought exercise for you. Imagine every single whiskey you love, gone from shelves: no Wild Turkey 101, no Rare Breed, no Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. And let’s not limit it to just Wild Turkey: no Evan Williams, no Eagle Rare, no Knob Creek. It’s all gone, never to be seen again. Which bottles would you miss the most? Forget about rarity or valuation. Which whiskeys would you miss sipping the most?
If you’re honest with yourself, I think you’ll find the majority of expressions making your list aren’t necessarily difficult to find. They’re probably not expensive either. They’re the bourbon and rye whiskeys you appreciate more often than any others: your fundamentals, your old reliables, your “dailys.” Sometimes these expressions change, but we all have our longstanding mainstays.
The Impossible Collection
This past week the Bourbon Pursuit podcast featured writer Clay Risen. For those unaware, Clay authored American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit (as well as other acclaimed books). You can also find him on the Spirits Network and Bourbon+ magazine. It’s a fantastic episode and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re into whiskey, writing, or both. In the Bourbon Pursuit interview the topic of bourbon hunting came up, and how, looking back, Clay wished he’d purchased more of the whiskeys he cherished so much in the mid 2000s (many that are especially sought after today).
That discussion started me thinking … We live in a world of whiskey excess. There are high-quality bourbon and rye bottles seemingly everywhere. Hell, they’re all around us. We’ve just tuned them out. They’re like static – always there, never changing. No, I’m not talking about Pappy or BTAC or whatever wax-dipped “sticker-gamed” monstrosity everyone’s clamoring over. I’m talking about your fundamentals, your old reliables, your “dailys.” The very stuff you and I take for granted every damn day.
Today is Tomorrow’s Yesterday
So here’s my challenge to you in this Fall season of whiskey stupidity and spite. Take five minutes out of your day. Sit down with a pencil and paper and write down the ten whiskeys that matter most to you. Why ten? It’s just a start. You can write more or less. That’s up to you. When you’re done, take that list and review your cabinet. Is it an honest list, or did you merely write down whiskeys you think you want? In other words, is what’s on your list reflective of what’s actually sitting in your cabinet – opened, enjoyed, appreciated? If not, I encourage you to sit back down and be truthful. And if so, you’re ready for step two.
In that very same cabinet, or better yet a completely separate one, set aside space for each of the bottles on your list. Let’s call this space your “whiskey time capsule.” Each time you visit your local store, buy one of those bottles on your list along with whatever else you were originally planning to purchase or discover. Each time you return home from these trips, place your listed bottle in your whiskey time capsule. Important: if you run out of a specific listed expression that’s a regular of yours, don’t open your time capsule bottle. Just pick up another the next time you’re out shopping and leave your whiskey time capsule alone.
Now, some might call this idea unoriginal. Some may say it’s simply a bunker. No. This isn’t a stockpile of highly allocated or overhyped releases. This isn’t a “tater hoard” or combustible investment. This is your whiskey time capsule – one bottle of each of the whiskeys you enjoy on a regular basis right now. When you complete your checklist, shut the cabinet or isolate that particular section off completely. Let the years go by … five, ten, maybe even fifteen or twenty years. You now have the ability to literally travel back in whiskey time. Open a bottle with an old friend, or maybe a son or daughter that’s come of age. Celebrate one of life’s milestones with a vintage expression you once tucked away effortlessly at retail price. Who knows? Whiskey might be in bad shape by the time you finally explore your time capsule. Supply and demand is a fickle thing, as are the trends that fuel them. And then there’s legislation and regulations that could change everything. You just never know.
I’m not saying you should be a “whiskey prepper.” I’m just saying we’re living in the Great Whiskey Dynasty. Why stress your life out over the same old seasonal allocated bottles when you have quality bourbon and rye right down the street? Excellent whiskey is virtually everywhere and Wild Turkey is arguably the best place to start looking for it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Get out there and do your thing. Buy and sip what speaks to you most, and as you do, try your best to never take that whiskey for granted. Cheers!
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Great idea, and I agree 100% regarding stressing over allocated bottles. I stopped hunting long ago. If I happen upon something cool, then great, otherwise I’m more than fine with readily available standards.
Give me a handle of 101 and a Russell’s Reserve pick ever once in a while and I’m good to go.
Damn right, Scott. It’s silly really. And once you step back from the insanity, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, life gets a lot less stressful and a helluva lot more simpler (and fun). Cheers!
For me, Ardbeg 10 is one of the few whiskies I’ve bought extra of and have been saving. Was fortunate enough to find it on sale for about $35 about a year ago, which is a great deal around these parts. I find that I have to tuck them away in another room so that I forget about them, ha ha. But I really love the idea of specifically keeping some bottles as a time capsule. We know there will be great whisky still being made down the road, so it’s not out of a sense of worry that things will decline, but one of a fun historical comparison. Whisky operates in a unique space regarding this because other things like wine or even cellared craft beer will change over time so you can never truly do an A-B comparison years on the same way you can with whisky.
When it comes to Scotch, I love Ardbeg 10. That’s definitely one to add to my (non-WT) list. 😉
Geesh… I just looked at the list i wrote, Wild Turkey,1-10. When the time comes for the dynasty to end… stop by for a drink my friend….
You know I will, David. Cheers sir!