One of the questions I get asked most come December (along with "What's the best?") tends to be: "Is this bottle worth the money?" That's another loaded query with an answer that will vary from person to person, because—let's face it—what's worth it for you might not be worth it for me, and vice versa. So we need to dig a bit deeper. What are you normally willing to pay for a bottle of whisky? What's important to you in terms of quality and craftsmanship? What ultimately determines value for you personally? These are all follow-ups I would ask in the face of that question; more specific inquiries into the intimate philosophies of each customer that help me to understand how they typically spend. In attempting to predict consumer satisfaction it's important to know a bit more about what makes each person tick.

But let's say I wasn't able to ask any follow-up questions. Let's say I had to answer that inquiry point blank; on the spot. One general answer to guide every general spending habit. This is what I would say:

I've always loved Burgundy and I've always been really interested in learning more about the wines. Every now and again I'll splurge on a high-end bottle from some fancy vineyard that I've read about in a book, or from a producer whose wines we don't see all that often. Each time I do this I always fool myself into thinking that this bottle might be the one that really opens my eyes. But that never actually happens because, in the end, expensive bottles of Burgundy don't cost hundreds of dollars because of they contain epiphanies. They cost hundreds of dollars because the production is limited, the demand is high, and wealthy people have determined that this is what they like to drink (and they have the money to drink hundred dollar bottles whenever they feel like it). Whereas I'm buying one single bottle and holding on to it for dear life, others are buying cases of this stuff and burying it in a cellar full of hundreds of other cases.

With wine, you're never quite sure when the actual liquid is going to peak, or if you've got a spoiled bottle on your hands, so you need to buy multiple bottles to protect against that. Open one now, see how it is, then use that experience to judge when you might open a second. Buying one bottle of anything is always risky because there are so many things that might be off: it might not be the right time in the wine's evolution, the wine might be corked, the bottle may have been jostled in transit and is in need of a rest, or any multitude of other factors. When you look at how these bottles are usually purchased and consumed—in cases, rather than bottle-by-bottle—it really puts my dilemma into perspective. Here I am, anguishing over whether or not to splurge on this one experience, whereas the people are are generally drinking bottles like this don't even bat an eye at popping one just as a tester. It would be like buying a Rolls Royce and being afraid to drive it, or buying my wife a Chanel purse and her being afraid to wear it. We're not supposed to be afraid to drink these bottles, which is why I generally avoid buying them. It's supposed to be fun, not scary.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: splurging on one bottle hasn't ever answered any longing questions or delivered any ah-ha moments for me, and I don't know if I've ever spent more than $300 on a bottle of anything that actually delivered value or worth. What I usually take away from those experiences is a greater sense of who I am, what I enjoy, and what I'm willing to pay for that enjoyment. Sometimes that sense of awareness itself is worth paying for; just knowing that you don't need to spend that much to enjoy the best things in life and being certain of that because you've splurged, had the experience, and can safely come to that conclusion. You can't write off anything until you've tried it, so sooner or later you'll have to take the plunge. Either way, you'll probably learn something important about yourself.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll