The Anti-Rant

I was reading Jason Pyle's well-written blog today - Sour Mash Manifesto - when I was completely overwhelmed by an odd emotion. What was this feeling that rattled my rib cage and choked up the back of my throat? Could it be remorse? No, that's not it. Could it be guilt? No, I don't feel sorry or ashamed about anything in particular. Could it be the fact that I was wrong concerning my long-standing anger towards those who hoarded their whisk(e)y? Yep. That was it.

Much like Jason proposes on his blog this week, I've tried to be the outspoken voice in favor of drinking one's whisk(e)y collection. Fuck all this storage nonsense. Whiskey is there to get drunk, so you need to drink up!!!! That's the idee fixe of any whisky blog mantra these days. To separate yourself from these straw men. These shameful whiskey hoarders who are completely fucking everyone else over by rummaging away every bottle of Pappy Van Winkle known to man.

Since Ebay has been shutdown, the whisk(e)y scalper business has indeed taken a turn for the worse. You can't instantly flip your impossible-to-get booze over to some sucker in a whiskeyless realm of sorrow for three times the standard retail value. However, there is another side to whisk(e)y hoarding that is being totally ignored by the world of bloggers and booze journalism: the fact that those smart enough to anticipate price increases were buying in to save their pennies, not make more of them. I'm going to shamelessly bite one of the comments from Jason's most recent post (only because he obviously reads the K&L blog as well):

Commentor Andrew wrote the following:


While I understand where you are coming from I am going to share a personal view on the topic of stashing. First, I do not have a display of what I have. What anyone usually sees is what I have open at any given time — usually around seven to nine bottles. But, I do have what I would call a stash consisting mainly of a handful of products I want to keep on hand for myself and friends. Not a huge collection, but it is there. Nothing incredibly old, nothing incredibly rare. It is not for showing nor is it for selling. Only for drinking. So, why do I have a stash?

First, it is a hedge against the continuing rise in prices. In general, as grain prices and transportation costs have climbed over the years so has the price of bourbon and whisky. As the demand for bourbon and whisky increased and inventories in the warehouses decreased, prices increased. As distillers got greedy, prices increased. One need only read David Driscoll’s postings of late.

On a similar note, if there is a product a like I try to keep a reasonable amount on hand. I do not get greedy. But when a local store made Johnnie Walker Green available for $42 and it was something I enjoy it was an easy decision to grab more than usual. I probably saved $15+ a bottle and who knows how inventories will pan out as this product has been discontinued. Am sure towards the end pricing will skyrocket for what is on the shelves.

Next, while the tasting is good and you know the quality of the product why not stash? As distilleries ramp up production, quality seems to have suffered with a number of products. Redbreast was one of my regular go-to whiskys until it became a hit. Then, as production ramped up the taste seemed to go off a bit. I thought it was just me but then Ralfy made a similar comment in a review. When I found a handful of bottles in the old packaging I grabbed what I could as I enjoyed that version of the product. Also, a number of products change flavor profiles yearly such as Evan Williams Single Barrel. So, if you like the taste of EWSB 2003, why not stock up? Who knows what the 2004 will taste like.

Then there is local availability. Rittenhouse Rye 100 BiB is not available in FL. A lot of products are not available here. So, when I am on the road it is not abnormal to come home with a case or two of products I would not normally see around town to add to the stash.

FWIW, I do not go Pappy hunting, but if they are made available to me I will purchase at reasonable prices. I have yet to see a single 2012 Four Roses Limited Edition, either version, and do not expect to any time soon. I also still go out and purchase single bottles just for the tasting experience when I want to try something new. But most of the time I go back to my standards.

Am happy with what I have, drink what I have, and stash when I see the need.

This guy has it totally right - that is a logical, well-explained, and clearly-made case for hoarding a bit of whisk(e)y. If I go to Whole Foods and I notice that my favorite Chana Masala Indian sauce is on sale with a 2 for 1 deal, I'm going to stockpile a few of these jars in my pantry. If toilet paper is on sale at Walgreen's, I might buy a few more rolls than normally. Therefore, who the fuck are we to lecture consumers of whisk(e)y that they should drink their collections (not photograph them or display them) when they're merely hedging their bets against a rising tide of greed? If you would have bought a case of Laphroaig 10 at K&L back in October, you would have saved yourself $144. That's a giant chunk of savings if you drink Laphroaig 10 on a regular basis. The SRP went from $30 to $42 a bottle in less than four months.

I could keep going. Old Pulteney 17? If you would have bought six bottles back in October, you could have saved yourself $120. There's a big difference between saving $12 or $20 a bottle and the few cents I save buying toilet paper by the 24 pack. These are significant price increases!

Guess what sanctimonious, righteous, holier-than-thou whisky bloggers? WE WERE WRONG!!!!!

Hoarding whisk(e)y was totally the move! Look at what just happened with Talisker 18! Personally, I don't collect much whisk(e)y because my position gives me access to limited supplies, but even I can't protect myself against a $60 per bottle increase. Had I known Diageo was going to jack up that price I would have definitely stored a bottle or two of Talisker 18 under the bed. When I first started working at K&L, I was the assistant to a guy named Jeff Vierra, the former Loire Valley and German wine buyer for our store. He recently dropped by to say hello and told me, "If I had known all those Black Maple Hill bottles would be so valuable today I would have bought cases!"

He wasn't stressing their retail value. He meant "cases" for his own personal consumption. I can't blame him. In a market where whisk(e)y is more valuable than ever, there are many of us who wish we would have bought in earlier before our options began to vanish. Just like I wish I could have bought a house in the Bay Area back in 1989. However, that didn't happen so I need to get over it.

Meanwhile, all this "drink your whiskey" talk is getting too self-righteous for me. Jason is totally right when he stresses that booze is meant to be drunk. However, commodities are meant to be hoarded when they constantly fluctuate in price because human beings will always look to capitalize on a good deal. If someone was smart enough to have the foresight to stockpile a bunker of good booze, then you shouldn't be a hater. You should simply say, "Hot damn, I wish I had been as smart as you."

Yes.....we all agree that whisky is meant to be consumed, just like pretty flowers are meant to be sniffed and baby kittens are meant to be loved. However, deals are meant to be capitalized upon as well. While we know that a few people are indeed hunting down limited stocks with the intention to profit, most people I've met are hoarding for protection rather than avarice. The whisky companies are doing the scalping now, so at some point you have to take a stand – either buy in big or stop drinking it. If you have the foresight to know a deal when you see might just want to get yourself a real estate license.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll