There has been a lot of discussion lately about the phenomenon of whiskey collectors. Whisky Advocate just did an entire issue on collecting which covered collecting from many perspectives (it's a fabulous issue which on its own probably justifies the annual subscription price). After that hit the stands, numerous web discussions ensued.
The discussion is often framed as a conflict between collecting and drinking, but the lines aren't always so clear. Many of us have collections even though we don't consider ourselves "collectors." To my knowledge, though, in all this discussion, no one has actually tried to categorize the various whiskey collecting types out there. So here is my field guide to whiskey collectors (I'm hoping Audubon will pick it up).
Type 1: The Hoarder
Most common in American whiskey circles, this collector lives with a constant fear that they will one day run out of their favorite whiskey (which is usually George T. Stagg or Pappy Van Winkle 15). As a result, they buy case after case of their favorites, which are usually stored in the original boxes in the basement or attic. Enough is never enough of their whiskey, but they ignore pretty much everything else on the market.
Where to find them: Trolling the internet and calling liquor stores to find more Pappy and Stagg.
Field notes: Don't tell them your Pappy source!
Type 2: The Thrill Seeker
This specimen is the opposite of the Hoarder. They seek new flavors and will never buy the same whiskey twice. In fact, they don't even like to drink the same whiskey twice, which is why they have amassed an enormous collection of opened but mostly full bottles.
Where to find them: On web forums PMing you with offers to trade samples.
Field notes: If you get invited to their place for a tasting, you should go as they tend to be very generous.
Type 3: The Hybrid
This person cannot decide whether all whiskey should be drunk or whether they should maintain a pristine unopened collection, so they dutifully buy two of everything, one to drink and one to save, though they aren't exactly sure why they are saving that one.
Where to find them: Therapy.
Field notes: If they really like a bottle, they have to buy a third so they can drink two.
Type 4: The Librarian
This person can't bear to finish a bottle of whiskey so, when a bottle gets low, it is transferred to a 50 ml mini bottle and goes into the library for future reference. When that gets low, it is transferred to a 25 ml mini. This continues until the transfers are occurring at a microscopic level.
Where to find them: Specialtybottle.com
Field notes: May be overhead yelling into the phone, "What do you mean 5 ml is the smallest bottle you have!"
Type 5: The Speculator
This is the type of person that we all hate but that I'm not sure actually exists. This phantom menace doesn't even drink whiskey and certainly doesn't care about it but has decided that it's a worthy investment vehicle. They make strategic purchases based on what they believe will increase in value in the hopes of turning a huge profit.
Where to find them: Bonham's
Field notes: Wait for the bust, then we'll get all their stuff for cheap!
Type 6: The Dusty Hunter
This collector doesn't trust anything that's less than 20 years old. They will, however, buy anything old, regardless of quality. Their collection is a treasure trove of closed distilleries and extinct labels. They notice subtle variations in tax stamps and have memorized the UPC codes and DSP numbers for every label and distillery. But don't bother them with something recent; they think anything made after 1990 sucks.
Where to find them: That run down store with the sign that says "Liquor/Deli/Lottery"
Field notes: When travelling with this person, build in time for stops at every corner liquor store.
So dear reader, which type are you?