I am not an authority on whisky collecting. My ‘collection’ is barely worth the name since there is absolutely no theme, direction or focus to be found. In short, what I have is a random bunch of bottles that I bought and haven’t drunk yet.
However, my guess is that there are thousands of people like me that just buy a bottle when they are at a distillery, tasting or shop, even though their drinking shelf is full. Some of you might even purchase a bottle every now and then, knowing that you’re not going to open it for a while.
By going at it like that, I now have a page full of bottles that are looking for a new owner, even though I like, or expect to like the booze in them. There’s just too much ‘stuff’ and compared to what I own apart from those bottles, I no longer think I’m ever getting around to them.
Also, by now I wish they were money. As in, I don’t need a hundred bottles of whisky sitting there while I could also be using that money for a trip to Scotland, or something else entirely. Heck, even an extra mortgage payment…
That does not, however, mean that I would actually have the money had I not spent it on those bottles, since I have never been hard pressed to find something to spend cash on. There’s always something that peaks my interest.
So, with my dozen years of buying more whisky than I am drinking under my belt, I thought to write some things down so you might not fall for the same stuff I did.
Many people told me that if I was serious about building a whisky collection, I would have to focus on something. Some guys I know collect Springbank. Others collect Lagavulin or Jim Beam. They buy other stuff, but they only buy that stuff to drink it and open the bottle soon after purchasing.
When you want to collect something, in this case that means buying a bottle to not drink it, focus is a good thing. It means it narrows down what you’re spending your money on and it eliminates distraction. However, when I told myself a few years ago that I wanted to collect the entire series of Lagavulin 12, I forgot one tiny element of that intention.
If you want to focus on actually collecting something, make sure you understand what that something costs. As in, the first few releases of Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength are only available in auctions and people spend 400 euros a pop on them. Since I wanted two of each (one to drink, one to keep) that would mean investing thousands of euros on just getting up to date.
So, focus is a good thing, but do some research before you get started!
Also, what I’ve noticed in the last dozen years is that I have gotten spoiled. I try to not be some obnoxious snob about whisky, but I do realize that when I pour myself a dram at home, I go for the best available. Add to that that I’m part of two bottle share groups which generally results in even better whiskies making their rounds, I never get around to whisky that is ‘just good’.
What I mean is that, for example, I still very much enjoy Lagavulin 16 and Knob Creek Bourbon, I never drink those at home. At least, not when there’s also a sample of 21 year old Springbank waiting to be investigated, or a tail end of 1988 Blair Athol that needs finishing.
However, until recently that never stopped me from occasionally buying a Bunnahabhain 12, Talisker 10 or Springbank 10 “because they’re such a great whiskies”. They are good whiskies, but I’m never getting around to them since there’s always something else that I’d rather drink from my collection.
This is the one that I still find very, very hard. When I want something, I want it now. On various blogs and websites this ‘instant gratification’ is described as a major issue in overspending habits, which I have to agree with.
Not a few times I bought stuff that would be available years later, while shortly after that not being able to buy something else that sold out instantly. A good example of that is the Laphroaig 15 that came out for their 200th anniversary in 2015. A great whisky, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not been until recently that it has started to become more rare and go up in price. I bought quite a few of these ‘for later’ and could easily have kept that money in my pocket for another year and a half.
Another example is the Lagavulin 8 that came out for their 200th anniversary last year. As with the Laphroaig I had already put a couple of these babies in my shopping cart on some random web shop, but somehow I decided to not go through with it. A few months later it was still available and I got to taste it. While it’s not a bad whisky, I found it not to be better than the similarly priced 16 year old, which I have half a bottle of. I think I saved myself 200 euros.
So, when you’re buying more than you’re drinking (especially when buying multiples) make sure to understand how limited something is. When it’s a single cask with 300 bottles all over Europe, you might want to go for it. However, when it’s a Highland Park Thor with 23000 bottles to go around, there was not really a need to rush.
This one is ridiculously obvious, but try to not buy stuff at festivals and after tastings. When you’ve had a good time and a couple of drinks, barriers drop and you quickly pull a credit card for stuff you would otherwise not buy…