Monday, January 9, 2012

Whiskey Collectors: A Field Guide

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:
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?


Bryan said...

Can the answer be a bit of all of them?? I find myself exhibiting some of all of these. Well done Sku!

RegularChumpington said...

Bits of #2 for me. Really working on reducing the count this year though.

What about you, Sku? I'm gonna guess a bit of 6, maybe the faintest bit of 2, but primarily 1 & 5? ;)

sku said...

You got be RC, I'm a total it for the money!

AaronWF said...

Well, I'm a 3 on just about all counts. How you know me so well, Sku, how you know me?

Too early for post of the year...

AdamH said...

Great post. Except, obviously, Specialtybottle's smallest size is 15ml... or so I heard.

SteveBM said...

F'n hilarious. Great post!

I'm probably a combo of 2 and 4. I have a large collection of mostly opened bottles save a few that I really stocked up on. Some are quite full, some are down to that last glass. One of my new years resolutions was to bite the bullet and finish off those last drops to clear way on my home bar.

I wish I could be #6 but I just don't have the patience.

Greg said...

I'm a mix of Thrill Seeker and Dusty Hunter. I don't believe that anything after 1990 sucks but I do understand the nuances of various labels, bottles, etc. The Thrill Seeker in me likes to try different things and I don't drink the same thing repetitively which is why I have about 70 bottles open right now. So maybe I'm a Thrill Hunter.

fussychicken said...

HA! Fantastic post Sku. Well done.

Started out as a #2, but now am a combo of #2 and #3, with occasional fits of #6.

Chazjaz said...

After much thought I must be a 2-3 hybrid. Great subject sku. Do we all need better storage solutions?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

im def a 2, but nearly all my bottles are empty haha