Whisky Advocate

Why are you buying whisky?

July 8th, 2013

What triggered me to write this? The onslaught of whisky collections that I see people posting up on Facebook. I’ve never seen so many unopened bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, A. H. Hirsch, Ardbeg, Brora, and Port Ellen. People speak of putting whisky in their “bunker” like there’s another World War or Prohibition imminent. It’s amazing what happens when you combine passion with disposable income.

I should know. I confess that I was guilty of “Whisky OCD” myself once, but I’ve been reformed. Instead of buying whiskies and stashing them away somewhere in my house, I’m opening up my whiskies, drinking them, and sharing them with like-minded friends.

What changed my attitude on whisky? Two things. It began when I was perusing a coffee table book about an Italian whisky collector, and it included pictures of his whisky collection. Many of the bottles lost so much volume do to evaporation, the quality of the whiskies were obviously compromised. Instead of being impressed with his collection, it made me sad to see so many bottles wasted, all for the sake of amassing this enormous whisky collection.

The second thing that changed my relationship with whisky was when a very prominent whisky collector and enthusiast passed away. He died before he could even enjoy and share the 1,000 plus whiskies he had accumulated. Instead, his wife put them up for auction!

It was at that moment I decided that I’m not letting any of my whiskies go to waste. The first thing I did was stop buying whisky. The second thing I did was go through my bottles and see which ones looked like they were beginning to evaporate due to imperfect corks or metal enclosures and immediately put them on my “whiskies to drink next” list, so I could enjoy them before they go bad.

The third thing I did, which brings me back to the title of this post, is take a look at the whiskies I had  and ask myself why I bought them in the first place. It was usually for one of three reasons: it was rare, great tasting, or it had sentimental value to me.

I took all the whiskies I purchased because they were rare and immediately started opening them and using them in the many whisky tastings I was hosting at the time. I figured this might be the only opportunity these people will have to taste them. Some of you reading this might have been to one of these tastings. They weren’t necessarily great-tasting whiskies, but they were rare. I also sold some at auction because the prices people are paying for rare whiskies these days, whether they taste good or not, is ridiculous.

Then I looked at my remaining whiskies (the ones that taste great or are special to me for sentimental reasons) and mapped out a plan on what to do with them.  Some I’m sharing or giving away as gifts, some I’m saving for special occasions, and some I’m opening up for no particular reason at all–the whisky becomes the special occasion. My goal for these whiskies is to make sure they are enjoyed and consumed–preferably while I’m still alive!

Why am I taking the time to tell you about this? It’s not to talk about how many whiskies I have (or had) or what brands of whiskies I have. In fact, I intentionally did not mention quantities or brands, because that’s not the point of my post. I’m hoping you will take a step back and ask yourself why you’re buying whisky (especially if you’re buying and hoarding them like some of the pictures I’m seeing on Facebook). Is it for the right reasons, and what are those reasons?


133 Responses to “Why are you buying whisky?”

  1. Jordan says:

    Personally, I’m buying it to drink it. Even the rare, old stuff that I’ve bought will all be drunk – I have a plan to drink something older than myself on my birthday for as long as I can swing it. Right now it looks like I’ll be able to continue into my early-40s. So it’ll sit around for a while, but each bottle *will* be drunk. I don’t own them just to own them. Anything younger than that will be opened a whole lot sooner – the 27 YO Millburn I picked up a few months ago got opened within a week after purchase. And some of that was to dismember the bottle into samples so I can share it with others.

    John, you’re also a in a bit of a unique situation – most of us don’t get regular deliveries of samples from distilleries all over the world.

  2. Lew Bryson says:

    I rarely buy for any reason other than fairly immediate drinking. I mean, I buy for gifts, and I bought up a number of bottles when Binny’s put the Hirsch 16 year old on sale for $40 a while back, but otherwise…I buy it to drink it. And then I drink it, share it, or give it away. My wife has instructions in case of my death to keep what she wants (probably any Islays) and give the rest away at the funeral.

  3. John Little says:

    My mom, when referring to cleaning out the closet, used to say “If you haven’t used it in a year, and it’s not just for a special occasion, get rid of it”. It’s works well here too. But I’ll be getting rid of it in a different way.

  4. rowley says:

    Amen, John ~

    A friend visited from North Carolina last week and posted a picture of one of my liquor cabinets to Facebook, writing that it’s one of the most extensive liquor collections he’s ever seen. I clarified; it’s not a collection — it’s a working library. Furthermore, in two years there will still be plenty of bottles, but very few (if any) of the current stock. If someone wants straight whiskey, or a classic cocktail, or wants to put together some vertical flights or a tasting of white whiskeys, that’s fine. Perfect, in fact. That’s why the bottles are there.

    As a former museum curator, I am acquisitive by nature and training so I, too, have been guilty of hoarding — or, at least, “holding on to” — rare, expensive, or just plan special bottles, but at the end of the day, none of them serve much purpose if they’re just sitting on shelves. The purpose, I’ve come to understand, of good liquor is to share. Here’s a bit more on that:

    (That having been said, I do have a friend who is as happy guzzling Beefeater as he is expensive, rare, and special bottles, so particularly outstanding bottles sometimes get tucked away if he’s expected; he’s still happy and there’s more to share with others who don’t get much chance to sample outside their usual purchases.)

  5. Thomas says:

    good thoughts. just one thing, there is no doubt old whisky tastes significantly different than modern whisky (´old´ just in the sense of distilling year, be it an 8 year old 70s bottled or 40 year old recently bottled, roughly the period after WW2 until the distilleries changed barley type, closed on site floor malting, gave up direct heating, and started ´sherry seasoning´ instead of importing whole casks from Spain). today it´s central malting, fast growing barley, and so on, see above. that is a new era.
    the coming cask maturation or bottle calming of today´s whisky aside, no matter how great modern whisky tastes and will tatse, but the whisky of the 50s to mid 70s is a whole different thing. I´m not (only) talking about lost distilleries but a different basic material and production method.
    and with the price doubling (!) up recently, roughly the past 2 years have been the last chances of grabbing such old whisky.
    so there was a certain ´you will never get this taste again´ feeling rather than ´I need bottle XXX or distillery XXX in my collection´ which hyped up my purchases. it is the taste of a completely different malt quality (often slightly peated) that I never got in any post 60s or 70s whisky.
    but I´m calming down. it got to the point where I could buy a great piece of designer furniture for another bottle, and this made me think. 🙂

  6. Barry Jay says:

    When I did drink whisky, every bottle was opened. Now that I can’t anymore, boy has our bank account gone up. Every bottle I bought, my friends and I enjoyed. As I see it, why horde? Every year new whiskies come out and you can never catch up….

  7. Rick Duff says:

    I stopped buy about 2 years ago.. with all of the hype and raising prices getting on my nerves.. and have concentrated on drinking what I have. So far so good and I think I’ll be in good shape for a LONG time. I also stopped reading blogs and magazines on the subject as much so I’d stop being tempted to buy something new.

    • Mike says:

      >I also stopped reading blogs and magazines on the subject

      Present company excepted, of course.

  8. John Pitts says:

    I’ve never considered myself the kind of person who buys to stash or store (save for my few bottles of ’84 vintage that I will be cracking – and sharing – for my 30th next year), but over the last few years I found that I was, ahem, ‘accumulating’ whsky at a faster rate than I was opening it, mainly due to the fact that I prefer to open a new bottle in the company of friends. Admittedly the staff discount at my previous job was at hand in this accumulation, but I ended up being glad of having 30+ unopened bottles because I soon found myself preparing to move from the UK to the US, and I was able to offload them to help pay for immigration fees. I still consider myself a drinker, and not a keeper, and although I didn’t originally purchase those bottles to sell or make profit, it ended up being serendipitous that I was able to.

  9. This past Saturday I sat down with two very good whisky mates, and opened some incredible whiskies including the Bowmore ‘Sea Dragon’ 1970/2000. It’s the second time we’ve done this, and we plan on doing it monthly. The idea is to enjoy and appreciate these wonderful whiskies in the company of good people and appreciating drinkers.

    With that said I still have a few dozen bottles closed. But the plan is to drink them, share them, and make memories from them in the future.

  10. Gal Granov says:

    I buy whisky to drink it. I never have more than 100 bottles or so, so I do not plan on accumulating a vast collection. I do keep some closed, and plan on opening each of those on a special occasion. birthday, wedding etc.
    So yes, whisky is to be enjoyed with the right people at the right time.


  11. Steven MacNeil says:

    I am purchasing some whiskies, 20+ years old, that I like and saving them for my retirement for when I have to put myself on a different budget and I wont have the same income level. I am only going to be waiting 5 or less years. I will open one of my 25 year olds and drink it at my retirement and then plan out my next tastings.

    • Danny Maguire says:

      Well, I retired last year so I’m going to be drinking rather than purchasing. Having said that, I joined SMWS last week so I can see me bying the occasional bottle.

  12. Paul laCock says:

    Guilty as charged! Never meant to start hoarding but next thing I knew …

    I buy for two reasons – to drink and enjoy (is that one reason or two?), or to sell in the future at a profit. In the latter case someone hopefully eventually still gets to enjoy it and I have a great hedge against the rapid increase in whisky prices.

    And similar to Thomas’ point above, if someone didn’t hang on to that Bowmore 1970/2000 for 13 years no-one would have been enjoying it last Saturday:)

    Is there perhaps a support group I can join:)?

  13. Jeff says:

    I’ve been amazed at the amount of bottles posted on Facebook as well. And some of the collections – yeesh! I wish some of the those bottles had stayed on the shelf longer because I’d love to try them, but I’m not going to break the law and pay inflated prices to do it. The prices on some of the bottles still currently in production really blows my mind. What other product currently in production can you buy at retail one day, and sell it the next day for 4X the price you paid?

    I’ve never bought, sold, or traded (or ‘sipped’ or ‘tasted’) any whiskey illegally, and I wish more bottles stayed on the shelf for the drinkers, rather than the collectors, to buy, but I certainly understand the appeal of buying something for $80 and selling it for $320. It’s like American Pickers but without all the hard work of developing a delivery channel.

    Eventually the FB forums will get shut down like ebay. Facebook gets nothing but risk by allowing it to continue.

    • John Hansell says:

      I wasn’t singling out any particular whisky FB site, because there are so many of them right now. But I do feel better when someone posts up what they’re drinking, rather than showing off their entire unopened 75 bottle collection of Glenwhatever.

      • (Another) Jeff says:

        Great topic! I buy whisky to open, share and drink, not to flip, but the other Jeff’s point is a good one: even as a consumer, it’s hard to fault those who simply collect/speculate these days. The profits to be made are outrageous and the overheated markets in mediocre (and even bad whisky) serve to superheat the market in the good stuff which the fussier people want to drink.

        I think I understand the philosophical point being made (sort of What’s It All About (R)Alfie), John, but asking about the motive for even non-speculators to be bunkering bottles kind of surprises me. You and many others have already commented elsewhere, and Rick Duff alludes to it here, that bunkered bottles represent the future source for their personal consumption – in short, people with experience ARE being turned off by the new market which the industry, and its media, are constantly labouring to create.

        There IS, in effect, a war on – a war against good quality at reasonable prices – and, like any war, one of its most important fronts is that of propaganda. Suddenly, in an Orwellian twist, it’s colour, not age, that matters and even as the industry touts the quality of its younger spirit, it refuses to say just how young it is and instead hides it behind older whisky (and why, if older whisky isn’t better?) in NAS bottles – bemoaning the lack of aged stock while conveniently forgetting about the higher yields, and profit margins, to be had with the NAS trend it’s actively promoting.

        Some people see through the doublethink and, seeing no brakes being applied to the hype, bunker bottles in hope that the current trending will somehow blow over before the good stuff runs out. It isn’t just a combination of passion and disposable income; it’s a rational response to a real problem which deserves more widespread discussion. While it’s probably always been the case, the majority of new releases really just aren’t that good – the difference these days is that we’re being told that the problem lies, not with the product, but with consumers and their “undereducated” appreciation of it.

        • John Hansell says:

          Perhaps I should clarify. When I posed the question “Why are you buying whisky?” note that it is in the present tense. I didn’t ask “Why did you buy whisky?” sometime in the past. I’m referring to the purchases people are deciding to make right now. (I can see how you thought differently with my “bunker” comment. That was a bit misleading.) I think those people who stocked up on some on good whisky a good prices years ago were wise to do so–whether they drink them, share them, or even sell them. I was one of those people.

          What I’m really asking in this post is: Are you buying whisky now? If so, why? And are you doing it for the right reasons? How many bottles do you have and how many do you really need? What do you plan on doing with the bottles you already have. I did that after reading about the two guys I mention in my post with the thousands of whiskies–sort of a reality check–and it was very beneficial.

          • (Another) Jeff says:

            Thanks for the reply, and the clarification did help. The last two notable bottles I bought were an Octomore and a PC9, though it might be some time yet before I get to them – I’ve been drinking down (and even pouring out) open bottles and re-examining many of the questions you discuss in your blog, so the topic is quite timely.

            For all the problems I have with Bruichladdich’s approach to NAS, I don’t have a problem with their whisky, per se, so long as they’re straight with me as to what it is, and it’s a microcosm of my issues with the current state of the industry. The marketing people will tell you that anything below an 8 doesn’t make for a very impressive age statement, and they’re right, but I say that the larger problem which the industry should be concerning itself with isn’t the lack of impressive age statements – it’s the growing lack of impressive whisky, and it’s a problem that won’t be “spun” away. As it’s clear that the industry is NOT going to abandon price step/age step coordination, it should embrace it fully and come clean as to what is (and what is not) in the bottle before it muddies the waters so much that trust is completely gone. This young stuff is completely overpriced for what it is and that needs to be seriously corrected. But bean counters, and not whisky people, are now firmly in control, and it’s hard to know if they can see past quarterly reports to preserve formerly valuable reputations.

            So, going forward, I watch the trends and reviews closely and honestly find less and less worthy to take bigger and bigger monetary gambles on. Talisker Storm, Glenlivet Alpha and (Lord, why?) Black Grouse Alpha won’t be coming home with me, to say nothing of the series of NAS reboots which Macallan can’t make sound logical even in approved press releases. For me, at present prices, it HAS to be about achievement, not just quality vs. price. There’s a huge glut of 80-something whiskies out there, and it’s getting bigger every day – if I’m forced to look at quality vs. price alone, I logically have to look beyond the overheated whisky market and, given the price differentials, really have no reason to ever look back. If trends continue, whisky WILL become the new vodka, its overblown prices will never stand up in that market, and I might as well buy the truly tasteless real McCoy rather than something I have to tell myself tastes good.

            Anyway, thanks again for the reply and the topic – there’s a lot of food for thought in these posts.

  14. Danny Maguire says:

    I have about 50-100 bottles unopened,not sure of the number. It is my intention ultimately to open all of them. We have agreed not to buy any bottles when we go to Dufftown for the festival this autumn. We’ve got enough to last us a while. As said above, any left will be drunk at my wake and any left after that can be distributed among family members who will drink them

    • John Hansell says:

      Sounds like a good strategy to me, Danny.

      • Danny Maguire says:

        What I have got is a collection of minatures, must be in excess of 1000 now. When I’m gone, isn’t that the name of a song? they’re going to the museum in Dufftown.

  15. Andy Jones says:

    I purchase whisky to keep it out of other people’s bunkers and OPEN on my bar. I never have more than a years supply of any given brand because I believe that a hoarded collection is harmful to everyone that drinks the good stuff…

  16. ely says:

    interesting piece John… i went a bit crazy myself the last couple years and have amassed over 240 bottles of which close to 200 are closed. i dont think i can finish them in a lifetime which is a shame.

    what piqued my interest was the notion of a marketplace for whisky on facebook where i could maybe sell some of the bottles – i have never heard of that. do you have any more information on it? i used to buy and sell on ebay often before it got banned and have been looking for another outlet ever since. would be great to sell some!

  17. B.J. Reed says:

    Well, I mostly follow the Hansell Rule – I open them and share with friends almost every week (today it is either the 18 YO Springbank or the new SMWS Sherry Cask Laphroig I just acquired) . My problem is that I keep buying them which really doesn’t make much sense at my age…

    I know the person John refers to who passed away leaving thousands of unopened bottles and I don’t want that happening to me. So, my wife knows that when I pass there will be a huge party at the Dundee Dell here in Omaha with an open bar featuring whatever I have left of my collection and people can tell outrageous stories about my trips to Scotland 🙂

    Maybe I will hold one bottle back that John might like and he can share with his friends before he passes it on to Amy! 🙂

  18. Dr. J says:

    John, you sure hit a nerve! And to think two days ago I opened up a bottle of Handy from 2007, thinking “what am I saving this for?” I am drinking some now, the taste and your post have put a smile on my face.

  19. Louis says:

    Many reasons:

    1) Trying to recapture some of the magic from my early single malt scotch days. And yes, it’s a long time between those magic moments nowadays

    2) Given the ever rising prices for older malts, I’ll try to pick up as many bottles as the budget allows that are the exception to that trend.

    3) So I can have that perfect dram on hand, no matter what the mood, season, time of day, meal, etc. This alone should raise a red flag 🙂

    4) For the true bargains, stock up. I mean, like, is the Evan Williams Black Label going to be $14/liter forever?

    5) There are still significant birthdays and anniversaries (hopefully) ahead, not to mention weddings, birth of grandchildren, etc. Got to stock up now, since I may not be able to afford the really nice bottles the way tings are going.

    There probably are a few more.

  20. Mojo says:

    I am on one of those FB sites and it kills me, too, to see how people buy up everything on the shelf just to keep (“I win!”) or to flip. I am more interested in folks like myself who buy, share, and pick up a bottle for a friend.

    I simply buy what I can drink within the next year, maybe two. And all my bottles are opened. I purposely don’t tell collectors or hoarders where I find my own gems – I’d rather let the people in that area have the chance to buy them, taste them, and share with their friends.

  21. Chad says:

    Let’s not forget that this same blog asked recently if this is the Golden Age of Whisk(e)y. And the magazine ran an article about super fans and their collections. Take it from someone who also collects tequila (I have a few hundred bottles) great things won’t always keep coming out year after year. If you find a few things that you love buy them and hold them. If you store them properly bottles can last a very long time. But drink them, find a chance to share with people who can appreciate them.

    • John Hansell says:

      Yes, I asked the question and said that it wasn’t. And we also ran a feature on super fans and collections, because our job is to write about trends.

      I’m not discouraging people from stocking up on special bottles and saving them for special occasions, but I am asking people to think about why they are buying.

  22. Raoul Duke says:

    Nothing at all wrong with collecting. Lots of people collect all sorts of things. If someone out there wants to buy a couple bottles of something that is hard to find so be it. Beat them to the punch (those of you that are worried).

    Why does everyone get so wrapped up with other people’s collections? Its everywhere. Blogger after blogger and consumer after consumer constantly complaining. Its also great to see people complain that are in the industry who have access to hard-to-find whiskey’s or who have the privilege of tasting them via samples that are sent to them that the commoner doesn’t. It might not be a big deal to you if you’ve gone through a couple Old Rip Van Winkle 15’s or limited Ardbeg releases, but it is to me.

    What people do with their whiskey is up to them. I have quite a few bottles and many of them will be sealed for quite some time. Some I will try to trade for bottles I can’t get my hands on in local stores, some I will save for special occasions, and some I will open with no stipulation.

    • John Hansell says:

      Raul, I don’t disagree with anything you said here. I’m not criticizing people for buying good bottles of whisky and saving them to open at a later date. I’ve done it for 20 years and am glad that I did. I still have plenty of bottles of whisky myself that will be enjoyed in the future.

      All I’m suggesting is that people pause for a moment and look at the big picture. Think about the whiskies you already have and the whiskies you plan on buying. Why did you buy them? What are you going to do with them? What are you buying now? And why? Have you thought it through? Do you have a plan?

  23. sam k says:

    John my boy, can you see why the whiskey blogosphere appreciates your contributions? There hasn’t been this much response to a post here in two months, and it’s only the first day for this one! None of us should be wedded to a static collection, ever, that accumulates only dust.instead of memories.

    In fact, the next time we meet, I’m committing right now to bringing a complete vertical tasting of unopened Michter’s jugs from their first release to their last to support the principles laid out here.

    Want to set a date?

  24. Marc from Ann Arbor says:


    Great and timely post! My short answer to “Why are you buying whisky?” is so that I can keep drinking and sharing great whisky at a great … or at least reasonable … price. I could not do this unless I did some amount of hoarding … buying cases of Talisker 18, 25 etc. when I find it at a reasonable price … which I can still do … holding on to it for a few years and then “trading up” for even harder to find and more expensive whisky.

    Just this past weekend, I traded two bottles of Talisker 25 for a bottle of Brora 30 (which I first tasted early on a Saturday morning at WhiskyFest 2012 in NYC!). Given what we each “originally” paid for the bottles, both of us walked away very happy. My plan is to drink/share the Brora 30 next year at a 30 year anniversary party, auction it off for charity or trade it up again. I’ll figure this out in the next year.

    I remember that your “collection” of 17 years’ worth of Evan Williams releases brought in a good sum for a good charity last fall. I too was able to turn 4 bottle of A.H Hirsch 16 (that I hoarded) into a nice donation for a food pantry in Ann Arbor. I have also shared some of my Hirsch with other whisky lovers and even whisky makers who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to taste this very unique whisky with a very unique history. ( By the way, I too bought the A.H. Hirsch 16 at good ole Binny’s … in the good ole yesteryears of reasonably priced whisky.)

    I too believe that whisky is for drinking, plain and simple. But, with a little work … and … a little hoarding you can really stretch your whisky dollar, have great stuff to share with other whisky lovers for years to come and also help out others who need the help. Everyone wins in the end!

    Marc from Ann Arbor

    • Danny Maguire says:

      You’re lucky you can buy by the case, when it comes to whiskies of that quality I have to think about affording a bottle never mind a case.

      • Marc from Ann Arbor says:


        Understood! My end game is to get be able to “afford” the high quality / rarer bottles by finding really great deals on somewhat easier to get whisky and bartering. Also, an investment in a case of Talisker 18 before the recent dramatic/absurd price means I can “afford” to drink it for a while longer (I can’t afford the new price) or I have something valuable to trade for some other bottles I also can’t afford.

        John writes “It’s amazing what happens when you combine passion with disposable income.” I have passion but not disposable income. I would write “It’s amazing what happens when you combine passion with determination.”

        On a separate but completely related note, the price increases we are seeing … especially for american whiskey in my opinion … is a result of the greed of those selling it and the gullibility of us buying it. I don’t believe there is a shortage of good mature bourbons! I do believe there are people that want us to think this.

        Marc from Ann Arbor

  25. Marc from Ann Arbor says:


    As you probably know, you guys not only “write about” trends, you also “create them.” I assume this post and the comments will make a bunch of people re-evaluate their “position” and actually change their behavior … which of course you can then “write about.”

    Never a dull moment. Keep up the good work!

    Marc from Ann Arbor

    • Matt W says:

      I completely agree with the comment that this magazine can also help start trends too. I hope that people reading this will realize that it is fine to save some bottles for special occasions but the purpose of whisky is to drink and share. I have about 50 or so unopened bottles left because I have been opening everything and these sealed bottles are just extras of some of my favorites. I want to have them again in the future to compare to the newer stuff as well as to share with Frieda who have never had them before.
      We are lucky to have so many whisky bars and tasting events to try different ones every time we drink. We learn each time we have something new, so just buy extra of the ones you really love. Make sure to share them with others with the passion of whisky too.
      If we all would drink like this we could possibly have an impact on the prices of the whisky. They can only increase prices if we are buying. If we just buy what we like to drink and not much more, there will e more for others and we won’t have these rediculous prices.

  26. Luke says:

    I buy to drink (the Golden Rule!)

    However, if I see a bottling that’s almost certainly going to increase in price/decrease in quality (these, alas, tend to go hand-in-hand) in the short-to-medium term I buy it almost on the spot.

    That said, I review my “stash” (nothing so grand as a “cellar”) regularly and open, or plan to open any bottle that’s been there more than three years.

    You can’t take it with you! (Now, where did I leave that First Batch LMdW Redbreast 15?)

  27. Gary says:

    This blog entry made me think. Why exactly am I buying and not drinking whiskey? Not that I have a very big collection. Only about 30 bottles. But, I am now going to drink them with friends. Honestly, I get no real enjoyment from staring at the bottles. There is plenty of whiskey out there for the drinking. Today I start sharing some of my bottles with friends. Thanks John!

  28. open, taste, buy more, repeat often

  29. Lawrence says:

    I buy to try, to share and to store away for a raining day. The rainy day bottles are in glass fronted cabinets. SHOCKED FACE!! But somebody somewhere someday will drink it all…you’ll just have to be patient.

  30. Jazz Lover says:

    @Raoul Duke , Well said.

  31. Jay says:

    I will buy anything that I can sell for double the price I paid. Stocks, guns, antiques, and bourbon. Unfortunately I didn’t sell Apple stock when it was at 700 or guns Dec through April. If I don’t sell my Pappy before it goes back down in price (if it ever does) I can always drink it. It is hard for me to pass up something on the shelf that goes for more than double on the secondary market.

  32. Johanna says:

    Nice read John but I do have to ask: is your Glendronach 19yo OB still gathering dust? Because if so my offer to buy is still valid….! :o)

  33. Vin says:

    I buy because I like to try new whiskies. I have been keeping a tasting journal for about 5 years and I have logged in about 135 bottles with a small number of repeats and a smaller number bought more than twice. I sometimes set some bottles aside for the future but temptation eventually gets the best of me and they get opened. I love to share with friends, especially those with a good appreciation. It is also fun to get a newbie interested in whisky.

    • Matt W says:

      You are completely right is saying that sharing whisky with others and getting more people into whisky is the best part of this passion.

      Just so you know, one thing that may help lower the cost of your “education” is to buy sample bottles from online retailers or go to some whisky bars. Then you don’t have to buy full bottles and can try more. I have tried hundreds of whiskies by those two tips alone, and I’m only 23! Then you can spend the money on bottles of the ones that you really love or think that others would love to have with you.

      I am from a newer generation of drinkers than most and am all about saving money while being able to get the most out of the experience. I get a few friends to go to our local whisky bars and we try out a couple. Then we buy the ones that we like the most to save for down the road. We even have great gift ideas for our friends because we know what their favorites are too. It then becomes a regular event as well as a passion.

  34. sam k says:

    My personal tastes in whiskey (mostly American) have traditionally never required much of an expenditure, but for the first time in 35 years of drinking , that has finally changed. Some of my favorites cost twice what they did ten years ago or less, and U.S. distillers are finally catching on to the idea that started with scotch: you can charge more money for very indiscriminate reasons.

    This is not all bad because it reflects increased interest in my favorite styles, including the once (and not so very long ago) nearly-extinct rye, which ensures variety and future stability in the supply chain. That said, my latest quest is to find those undiscovered value brands that exceed my expectations, and they ARE out there.

    A recent trip to The Party Source saw my buggy filled with budget brands like J.T.S. Brown BIB (deep and woody), Heaven Hill BIB (a favorite), and Old Ezra 7 year old (a new favorite!) among others. There were a couple of higher-end bottles in there, too, including a John J. Bowman 14 year old single barrel at 100 proof, a steal at $55.

    My point is that so many of us are trapped in the heady upper crust of the whiskey realm. We’re informed, we’re connoisseurs; we deserve better whiskey. What we sometimes fail to realize as we struggle to find a Pappy or Stagg is that there remain brands on the lower shelves of any liquor store that will satisfy if not exceed our expectations, and the beautiful thing is that if we don’t like one we can mix it with ginger ale or coke with no regrets whatsoever!

    I’m pretty sure this applies to any category of whiskey, and that becomes evident just looking at the Buying Guide in each issue of Whisky Advocate. Right now, I’m buying whiskey to beat the system, thwart the hoarders, and stay within my budget.

    • John Hansell says:

      Nicely said, Sam.

    • Gary says:

      Sam, I completely agree. I too primarily enjoy American whiskey and am happy to pay less than $20 a bottle. Or on a good day under $30 for an Old Grand Dad 114.

      • sam k says:

        Gary, the JTS Brown and HH BIB were barely more than $20 a handle, and both provide an excellent price/quality ratio! I can special order Evan Williams 1783 for less than $15 through the PLCB. Unfortunately they also just discontinued OGD 114, now available for $17.99 till it’s gone.

        • John Pitts says:

          Thanks for the OGD tip! It’s not widely available in the UK so hadn’t tried it before, and was “chuffed” (pleased!) to get hold of the 114 for such incredible value at a nearby PLCB store. Did you mean that they will no longer be stocking it, rather than it being discontinued by the brand?

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      “There remain brands on the lower shelves of any liquor store that will satisfy if not exceed our expectations” – this is undeniably true, but it’s true, for the most part, because of the low bar at which those expectations are set for those products!

      When we’re down to the lower shelves to look for value for price, and having to stop on the way home to pick up mix to make the purchase drinkable, it might be time to re-examine the entire situation. I’ll never be so in love with whisky that I’ll buy bad expressions over other spirits that can be considered almost equally good neat or “as whisky”.

      • sam k says:

        I think you’ve missed my point, Jeff. I’m saying that I’ve found a number of less expensive whiskeys that I find more than acceptable, even very good, for much less money. I’m not advocating buying crappy whiskey (and there is plenty of it out there), though to find the better brands you’ll invariably have to also figure out which ones you don’t like.

        Those are the ones I mix to make them disappear, and it’s not an expensive gamble in any regard. The rest I drink mostly neat, and enjoy them, or they wouldn’t be in my cabinet. I’m not dumbing down my expectations (which are not in any way proportionate to the price of the bottle…I have personal quality standards that must be met by any whiskey regardless of price) or my palate to achieve my objectives.

        • (Another) Jeff says:

          Thanks for the reply, Sam. Point taken, but you framed your comment in terms of expectations, not absolute quality, and it’s not clear whether or not the cheap gems you found are being recommended as 90+ whiskies or just “really good value for money” (and I would be interested in clearing this point up, not to put you on the spot, but to have the information). I understand that you’re not recommending purchasing crappy whisky (and I didn’t mean to imply it), but my point is that, if it’s about quality/price, cheap blenders will always win out – and on price alone. I can buy JW Red Label (or something worse) and actually, and always, have a much better “value” for my investment than someone who buys an expensive Macallan, but I’m the one that needs the Coke.

          Although I do think that quality is, overall, on the decline, it’s not the bad whiskies which are going to wreck the market; it’s the swelling sea of overpriced mediocre ones. Finding an underpriced 90-class gem is very rare, but it is possible. To find a dirt-cheap 80-class whisky might be an equally good value but, unless I’m planning on entertaining on a large scale on a tight budget, it’s of limited interest to me. Although my purchase mistakes make great stories, and I do tell them, I’m not fussy on making more of them, and blending them away, just to find a level of quality that I know can be had just about anywhere for a little more money. And, as I’ve written above, for me, at these price levels, it HAS to be about quality achievement, not just finding “a good value” to drink, or I’d have to leave whisky entirely.

          Take care and Sláinte!

          • sam k says:

            I’m not necessarily a numbers-driven guy, so I can’t speak to the 90+ thing, but I’ve had plenty of 80+ whiskey that I’ve really liked, so I’m guessing I’m somewhere in between those two benchmarks.

            My 80 might be your 90, and vice versa, as taste is so very subjective. There have been plenty of 90 rated whiskeys I just don’t get. Angel’s Envy rum cask rye is the latest on that list. I’d rate it VERY low 80s at best, but our friend Mr. Hansell loves the stuff! Who am I to argue?

            Numbers bother me. Taste is the only true arbiter.

          • (Another) Jeff says:

            Thanks for the reply. While I agree that ALL ratings are subjective, to simply say that a whisky is “good” tells me very little about whether it’s worth $20 or $40, much less $60 or $80, and if the basis for rejecting numbers is that all tastes, and therefore assessments of value, are subjective, what is the point of recommendations? If you don’t quantify quality, even subjectively, all you’re left with is adjectives – and they are BOTH in the eye of the beholder and a dime a dozen.

            As for who are you to argue, you’re exactly who you need to be: a consumer with an honest opinion and, no offense to John, if I find your ratings more in tune with mine than his, I’ll give yours more weight in future purchases. And not arguing with people’s numbers is how they become “a colossus of whisky” and how poor trusting people get the VERY mistaken idea that Black Grouse is significantly better than Blue Label.

  35. Matt says:

    I never have more than 2 whiskies opened at any one time and the intention is to drink them within about 8 weeks of opening. So much time and effort goes into making these lovely drams that it seems insane that they are kept locked in a bottle for no one to ever know what they taste like. Seriously if you buying to collect then your buying the glass bottle and the colour of the liquid inside which could be tea as far as the eye is concerned. Drink it and enjoy it because that is what it was made for. Even John Campbell of Laphroaig tweeted recently how disappointed he was to see people buying the recent limited Cairdeas release just to resell. When a distillery manager starts voicing disappointment you know they are making the whisky to be drunk.

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      I agree with, and appreciate, your “buy it to drink it” philosophy. As for John Campbell and his disappointment, I’ll be more impressed if the distillery price of Cairdeas doesn’t go up as a result.

  36. Lazer says:

    I have a collection of about 25 bottles, which is more than I will drink in a year. I try not to buy faster than I can drink them, but I also can’t sit out a whole year of new/annual releases and not buy anything. So I get the new bottle I want when I see them like EWSB or Larceny, for example. Then there’s the staples that I need to have on hand like OGD or George Dickel. Then there’s the rumor bottles that are going to disappear if you don’t grab them now like WT Rye 101 or EC18. It just keeps going.

  37. Eli says:

    I’ll admit it I spend way too much time and money on whisky. As an enthusiast I’m always wanting to get my hands on various bottles but for the sole purpose trying them. If I like it I’ll get another bottle to keep for later on so I can share with friends and family down the line. I’d say 75% of my bottles are open and the other 25 have been set aside to open on special occasions. I don’t collect to hoard or to flip bottles for more money I collect to experience.

    I don’t want to be like that man in the article who died without getting to taste his great collection. If there is some sort of heaven or after life I don’t want to be looking down from heaven and regretting not opening that pappy or brora. I do think it’d be nice to pass on a particular bottle I really enjoyed to future generations as a sort of remembrance but whisky is meant to be consumed and appreciated. It’s good for the soul and it can’t do you much good sitting on the shelf.

    • John Hansell says:

      Yeah, imagine looking down from heaven and watching your grandchildren/nephews/cousins opening up your bottles of Pappy 23 and mixing it with coke.

      • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

        I once almost died (and went to heaven) watching something close to this at my nephews wedding just last month. Coke and George T Stagg does make a killer drink though. Youth is certainly wasted on the young!

    • Jeff Galli says:

      I like your point. In a way, our whiskey collections are like record collections, and its nice to flip through them and find the perfect thing to enjoy at THIS moment. I like having enough things around that I forget about them and get to rediscover them. I like feeling lucky to enjoy a big rare release after a long day at work, (a whiskey bar by the way), or just an Old Pultney after dinner. I have about 80 bottles around, and the only sealed bottles are repeats.

  38. H.Diaz says:

    Just how the hell am I supposed to crack open my 1979 Macallan Gran Reserva for which I paid the original MSRP of $150? Can’t do it.

    • John Hansell says:

      Well then what are you going to do with it? You can’t do it now, or you can’t do it ever? BTW, I also have bottle of the same whisky. I do plan on opening it and drinking it, but I haven’t decided when yet. I still have open bottles I need to deplete.

      Oh, and incidentally, I had an extra bottle of it and sold it recently to someone for $1,100. Why did I sell it? That will buy me a lot of good beer, wine and cigars the foreseeable future.

      • Johanna says:

        Seeing as you’ve had the good fortune to buy a spare 1979 Mac GR at the original price and resell for almost 10x as much, why not wish well to others who may be trying to do the same, even if they’re coming to the party somewhat late? And isn’t this what Whisky Advocate’s new Auction Index is all about, encouraging people to hang on to certain bottles that look set to increase in value?

        I have to agree with Raoul that there seems to be an inordinate amount of obsessing of late with what others do — or don’t do — with their whisky purchases. Is it a similar crime that Jay Leno leaves his cars and motorcycle sitting in a warehouse? They were built with the intention of being out on the open road after all.

        • John Hansell says:

          I’m not saying one shouldn’t buy whisky, stock up on favorite whiskies before prices go up, or even sell whiskies they have. See my reply to Raoul above. It’s more about thinking about why you’re buying, selling, or whatever, and how that fits in with the rest of your life. I sold some whiskies because I looked at what I had and what certain bottles were going for and decided that I was willing to sell some bottles and put that money to better use somewhere else. (For me, beer, wine and cigars.)

          More people are commenting about people’s buying (and hoarding) habits because Facebook and other social media sites have provided a forum for people to show their whiskies to people around the globe, for better or worse.

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      Just bite the bullet and open that puppy UP! On the side of the cork that you’re currently on, it might as well be Red Label! You’ve got it and you, and your friends, are the ones that deserve to enjoy it.

      Live every day as if it will be your last, because one day you’ll be right!

      • John Hansell says:

        Exactly. Just because it’s worth more now than when you bought it doesn’t change why you bought the whisky in the first place: to drink it.

  39. Jason says:

    Because it is financially sound to stock up now. I keep around 8 – 10 bottles open at any given time. I have a “bunker” of about 100 bottles. Of those bottles, maybe 10 are rare/super pricey one offs. They are special occasion bottles. The remaining are all multiple bottles of whiskies that I enjoy, and drink regularly. Some, like Sonnalta PX, I hoard because the supply is dwindling. Some, I got a great price on, so I bought several. But with the rest, like HP18, I see the price increasing before my eyes. Why would I not buy multiple bottles of HP 18 at 100 when the price has just risen to 112? And it will only go up from there. This year alone I have seen the price for Yamazaki 18 rise from 112 to upwards of 170, and that’s if I can even find it. Need I go into Talisker 18? So, if the price is right, and I like it, I prefer to have 3 or 4 bottles on hand.

    My bunker is more like a big vending machine, and it is stocked with the candy I like. Next year when we are all facing down 130 a bottle for HP18, I will have already purchased what I need for the foreseeable future.

    • John Hansell says:

      Great analogy to the vending machine. I have taken a similar approach. I stopped buying and will just keep selecting from my big vending machine, as needed.

  40. Lawrence says:

    Stop being so selfish! Think of all the cabinet makers that you’ll put out of work if you all stop collecting. I’m doing my bit to ensure their continued employment.


  41. Marc from Ann Arbor says:

    This is a little embarrassing, but sometimes I buy whiskey because it will look nice on the shelf next to another bottle that I bought because it would look nice next to … (you get the picture). Having all the Ardbeg expressions lined up (minus the Galileo!) is just a pretty sight. I did have pretty impressive collections of miniatures … starting when I was 12 … and ending when I went to college. Maybe I just never really grew up. I will eventually open and drink everything … just like the miniature collection … but not all in one night.

  42. Kevin says:

    Excellent article. I am a little guilty myself.

  43. FatherNick says:

    I have all 6 releases of the Parker’s Heritage Collection (most of which are impossible to find today), unopened in an air-conditioned storage unit. Although I’ve been tempted to crack these open and guzzle away, I feel much better knowing I have resisted and have something rare and unique! I am curious to know if this is considered “hoarding” or “stashing” or “bunkering”, and how you distinguish it from “collecting” or “investing”.

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      It’s stashing or bunkering if you plan on drinking it, investing if you plan on selling it, and collecting or hoarding if you can’t bring yourself to do anything with it except just look at it. I used to be envious of people who hoarded, until I realized that I was enjoying their whisky as much as they were.

  44. Scotty Freebairn says:

    I have probably the largest collection of King’s Ransom 12 year old known to exist. Acquired many years ago when this outstanding whisky was discontinued, I’m drinking it regularly and share with friends. I also have ample supplies of House of Lord’s, a companion 8 year old blend, and a large supply of Glenforres, a blended malt produced by the same house. All of these have Edradour as a key element. . I need to think about what happens when it happens! Appreciate the thoughtful comments by so many. Cheers!

  45. Marc from Ann Arbor says:


    Maybe another question to ask is “What whiskies are you buying?”. Maybe there will be too many comments to keep track of. I bet the readers would be interested in the whiskies you actually go out and buy. I assume most / a lot of what you drink gets “delivered” to you as part of your role as editor!

    Marc from Ann Arbor

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      A more telling question would be “What whiskies won’t you buy and why?”.

      • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

        Great idea Jeff! Bulleit 10 is the first that comes to mind! Price / performance is the “why”!

        • John Hansell says:

          Yeah, I was very excited to try Bulleit 10 (essentially, Four Roses 10) but then after I tried it and compared it to the standard Bulleit, I liked the standard Bulleit just as much if not more.

      • John Hansell says:

        Not a bad idea, but it could end up turning into one big bitch fest.

        • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

          Agreed! Maybe some ground rules, like “one line max” and not replies to the replies! Or not!

      • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

        I won’t buy Talisker 18 at the MSRP of $140+ a bottle. I love this whisky but I am not that gullible.

  46. (Another) Jeff says:

    I could live with, and work within, some set ground rules – max. lines/no. of whiskies, just reason why, no editorializing or reply chains – I’d be interested in the responses, so please consider it.

    • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

      I won’t buy Talisker 18 at the MSRP of $140+ a bottle. I love this whisky but I am not that gullible.

      • (Another) Jeff says:

        As stated above, I won’t be touching Glenlivet Alpha or the Macallan 1824 Series, mostly on price, but also for their reversal on the importance of age.

      • Paul M says:

        FYI – Talisker 18 is $100 at Binny’s in Chicago

        • Andrew says:

          $160 in S FL.

        • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

          Indeed. Comes to ~$108 a bottle with taxes and a Binny’s discount. Thanks Bret!

          • Matt W says:

            I remember buying Talisker 18 for about $80 (in NYC) for my 21st birthday in 2011. That is ridiculous that is could go up so much in price.

          • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

            Yep! Those who buy it at the $140+ are definitely feeding the flames. The folks at Binny’s fought hard to get the price down to around $100. The folks at K&L just sent it all back. If there are enough people that buy it at the high price they have to sell fewer bottles to make the same overall profit. If they don’t move enough at the high price, it will come down.

          • Matt W says:

            Exactly! That is why we all need to collectively just buy reasonably priced stuff so the brands learn that they can’t sell products for rediculous prices anymore.

  47. Red_Arremer says:

    With the crazily rising prices these days and my limited income, I’m not buying that much whiskey at all– But generally I always buy on taste.

    Ideally, I like to have a good variety of things open. I love tasting people I know on whisky. I love showing someone something delicious. However, opening someone’s eyes to the endless variety that the category has to offer might be be even more important.

    • Marc from Ann Arbor says:


      Your last sentence is dead on! Opening someone’s eyes is one of the most important (and interesting) things we can for them.

      Marc from Ann Arbor
      Whiskey Lover, Whiskey Teacher and Whiskey Evangelist (this should capture almost everyone)

    • (Another) Jeff says:

      Uh, did you mean “I love testing people I know on whisky.”?

      • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

        Well, I know I love teaching people (whether I know them or not) about whisk(e)y. I have been mistaken as an employee in many a fine spirit store!

        • (Another) Jeff says:

          No offense, but having talked with employees in spirit stores, that’s not necessarily a compliment. Cheers!

          • Marc from Ann Arbor says:

            Well said and no offense taken! Too many times these folks are basically “clerks”. More the reason for me to help enlighten those wanting / needing more than a “price check”!

  48. politicalidiot says:

    Great thread. I don’t know where I land in the “too many bottles” spectrum as it is hard to gauge based on the comments what too many is. I have found that my buying comes in three forms over the last 25 years: buy for everyday cabinet dramming (Lagavulin 16) or a special occasion (1963 Bunnahabhain) or because I can buy a case at half normal price (HP 12 @ $21 ea). It turns out that over the years I have just fallen behind on drinking them all –OK severely fallen behind. I am not finding it a problem though. I live in a very bottled whisky friendly climate. I have never seen any evaporation on bottles I’ve had –even the ones I’ve had for twenty years. Prices of late are ridiculous and I have not been buying much this year. Like a fat man, I’m glad to have plenty of reserve to tap into. I’m even ale to get to some of those sweet special occasion bottles…yum!!!!

  49. jazz lover says:

    Amen Fat Man.

  50. Bruce Schmitt says:

    I’m taking any remaining whisky with me! My last Will and Testament calls for my dead body to be pickled and/or marinated, depending on how much is left. Thousands of years from now, I will be the object of great adoration and mystery.

    • Marc from Ann Arbor says:


      Not to encourage more on this part of the thread … I suggest you also ask to be vacuum sealed. It will really help get the whiskey to all parts of you. The archaeologists will also really appreciate it.

      Marc from Ann Arbor

    • Danny Maguire says:

      Dream on, I would have thought that with modern record keeping everything would be well documented; including your reasoning.

  51. Paul Bissett says:

    I don’t consider myself a hoarder, as I have around 20 to 25 bottles of single malt at any given time. I Have a few standards that are always in there like Lagavulin 16, Glenfiddich 15, and latterly Balvenie 14 Caribbean cask. The rest are whiskies that are not so readily available, as I like to invite friends over for a whisky night 3 or 4 times a year and let them taste whiskies that they haven’t had before.

  52. Jeff Galli says:

    Was just talking to a friend last night about my intention to have my entire collection available at my upcoming wedding. The friend encouraged me to hold back as he thought some wouldn’t appreciate the “finer” whiskeys. I admit it’s a bit scary to put it all out there, but having read this thread- I’d rather serve it all at my wedding than my funeral.

  53. Jeff Toalson says:

    Single Malt is made to be consumed, not to look pretty sitting on a shelf. I just purchased two bottles (Old Pulteney 12 and Glenfiddich 12) as gifts for my brother. Bottles of Bowmore 12 and Lagavulen 16 are currently being enjoyed with friends on the golf course or while sitting on the back deck enjoying a nice evening. I have two bottles of Dalmore Cigar Malt remaining and I think I may be opening one of them quite soon. We will just keep rotating that stock.

    • Matt W says:

      I just bought a bottle of the cigar malt for my dad and he opened the bottle that evening. That is how to enjoy whisky!

  54. Javier Santiago-Lucerna says:

    I buy whisky, mostly because I can’t get it locally. Whenever I travel, I look for places where I can buy whisky, specially those I’ve already tasted, or those Whisky Advocate reviewers recommend. I’ve also bought whisky hard to get, or that is over charged in the local bars I frequent with my wife (who, by the way, also love whisky). There other cases where the dram is just to pricey while being just too little. Those too we have purchased.

  55. Ivan says:

    I buy to drink, plain and simple. However I do admit to buying a bottle of the Hirsch/Michters once. While in Chicago a couple of year I noticed that Binnys had it for a great price. I’ve saved that bottle to open to celebrate the birth of my son. Otherwise, I only buy to drink.

  56. Matt W says:

    Thanks for posting what is one of the most involving posts that I can remember, John! I really hope that this will impact many whisky fans to actually enjoy drinking this great product.

  57. Tom D says:

    I buy to drink. I may buy some rare bottles, and I have bought some at auction, but my line in the sand is this: if you are not willing to open it, don’t buy it.

    I have a group of friends over once a month who also have amassed quite nice collections and we work our way through the bottles. So most of what I own is opened right away.

    My only exception is that I buy my son a bottle each year on his birthday. He is 3. When he is 21, we will figure out what he wants to do with them.

  58. Brent says:

    Read the article yesterday. Great job. I had friends over last night from out of town. While the grill was cooking I opened a bottle of VW Lot B. We sampled and enjoyed. After dinner, I had a bottle of Vintage 17 that I’m trying to finish off. From there, I broke the seal on a 2006 WLW. All it has been doing is collecting dust. This was a great finish to an evening with friends. They left this morning, but will be back next weekend stopping again on their way home. Pretty good timing as well. This time last year we opened a 2010 GTS.

  59. morgan says:

    I really dont care what others do with their bottles. They can drink them, sell them or use them to flush their toilets for all I care.

    Every last one of Us will die, and if you collect or keep things, when you pass, you will leave those things behind. I have no problem leaving every drop of whisk(e)y I own, and will own, to my loved ones. I do not need to consume, or contemplate, or plan on, consuming every drop of whisk(e)y my hands have held within my lifetime.

    I cant take the whisk(e)y or the memories with me but, I can leave some good free whisk(e)y to my loved ones so they can have their fill of whisk(e)y and memories in their lifetime.

    • John Hansell says:

      Sounds nice in theory, Morgan. That’s assuming your loved ones will drink and enjoy whiskey. I have seen too many whisky collections at auctions from whisky-loving enthusiasts who bought the whiskies, died before they could enjoy them, and their spouse (or children) sold them for the money shortly afterwards. (Note that I am the son of missionary parents who didn’t drink or swear or smoke).

      Each situation is different. Each person is different. I’m not telling you what to do, but rather to just think about what you’re doing and make sure it’s for the right reasons. That’s all. It sounds like you did that, so good for you.

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