400 Bottles of Booze on the Wall: A Cautionary Tale
I have 400 bottles of booze in my closet – mostly whiskey, brandy, rum with random other stuff thrown in. I know this because I recently had to termite tent my home. As local readers know, Los Angeles is home to a termite-industrial complex that requires that every 7 to 10 years, owners of any wooden structure in Southern California must pay thousands of dollars to put a wildly colored circus tent over their homes and fill it with poison to eradicate small wood-eating pests that the termite company swears are there. Perhaps this is why we don’t make bourbon in Los Angeles, because you could only age it for 10 years before you would have to termite tent the barrels – though that would undoubtedly make for special, limited edition “Termite Tent” editions of bourbon.
In any case, one of the things you have to do before making your home into a colorful death circus is remove anything that is edible by human or beast. So I had to remove my whiskey…all of it. In doing so, I disposed of probably 100 bottles that I no longer had use for – mostly the latest craft whiskey or private label Indiana bourbon that I felt obligated to try, trashed on my blog, and then never touched again. This filled up a recycling bin and demonstrated to me that I have bad neighbors, because if they were good neighbors, they would have called 911 or at least had a talk with me about my drinking since I had 100 EMPTY BOTTLES OF WHISKEY IN THE TRASH. But they didn’t, so I know now that I have either (1) bad neighbors or (2) neighbors so unconcerned with my well-being that they don’t look in my recycling bin.
Even after disposing of 100 bottles of trash whiskey, I still have 400 bottles. I’m not sure where all of these bottles came from. I remember 20 years ago I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich, but after that, it’s all a bit fuzzy. Some of the bottles definitely came in the mail, others were tokens from my visits to exotic and faraway places and their liquor stores, but I can’t for the life of me understand how that became more than about a dozen bottles.
Every person has their individual tolerance for bottles invading their homes, but for me, four hundred bottles is too many bottles. Twenty or even ten years ago, when I was young and sprightly, this probably did not seem like too many bottles. I drank plentifully back then, doing random blind tastings and side-by-side comparisons on a whim for blog posts, and sending out samples far and wide. I enjoyed buying and sampling and buying more. It was fun, which is how I ended up with so many bottles.
But now I am old and whatever the opposite of sprightly is, and I don’t drink as much and so the number of bottles no longer declines, and new ones still seem to occasionally appear, though I have no idea how or why.
I saw this problem coming. Seven or eight years ago I had an idea to fix it. I would invite people over to drink all of these bottles. I threw a big party in the hopes that people would drink from these bottles. It would be like the song 100 Bottles of Beer – take one down pass it around – and the number of bottles slowly decreases, and before you know it you’ve completed your drive to Big Bear or at least to the In ‘n Out on the way to Big Bear and there are zero bottles of beer on the wall. It was a great party, and I’ve thrown one every year since, but it didn’t work. Whiskey geeks, or at least the ones I invite to my party, are generous creatures, and when they come to my party, they each bring not one, but many of their own bottles to share, and even leave some with me, so to my consternation, I often end up with MORE bottles after the party.
Of course, I know that there are people that sell their bottles, but I can’t do that for a number of reasons:
It’s illegal, or mostly illegal, and despite having a short arrest record, I tend to follow the law. Ironically, I live in California, so if my closet was filled with marijuana, I would probably be able to legally sell it, but private individuals can’t legally sell alcohol, so I am stuck with it.
I’m a terrible investor. I know people who collected tons of rare whiskey – Pappy Van Winkle, Brora, A.H. Hirsch, Port Ellen, other Van Winkles that you can’t call Pappy or people will yell at you, etc.- when it was cheap and plentiful and now sell them for millions or even billions of dollars. I was there in the early 2000s and I did buy all that stuff when it was cheap and plentiful (though keep in mind that for anyone who does not spend their spare time reading liquor store blogs, the $150 I paid for Port Ellens back them would not seem cheap but more like a monstrous amount to pay for one bottle of whiskey that is not so different from the dozens of bottles you could get for less, but I digress). As I said, I did buy all that stuff, but I drank it, because it was tasty, and it was whiskey, and I was under the misguided impression that that’s what one does with tasty whiskey. So what I’m left with is bottles of 10 year old Edradour from 2007 and weird Bruichladdich one-offs and random vintage Balblairs and Glenrothes and bottlings of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Still, they would each probably make $50 to $100 at auction, minus the insurance, transportation fees and commission, but if anyone likes old bottles of young Edradour, please let me know.
They are mostly open. As I said, I buy whiskey because I like to drink it, so when I get a new bottle, I usually taste it, but I am told that this is a grave mistake because the secondary market for open bottles of whiskey, even mostly full open bottles, is quite weak these days.
Now, it is not my intention to tell you not to buy bottles of booze (nor I imagine would K&L endorse such a message on its blog), but do let my experience stand as a cautionary tale to you who are young and sprightly or old and more sprightly than I. If you don’t pay attention and instead pay money, bottles can accrue like triffids or tribbles or tree frogs or some other invasive species, and before you know it, you will be wondering not how to get more bottles but what to do with those you have and whether any of your relatives would be more thankful than furious to learn, upon your untimely death, that they are now in possession of a bequest of four hundred of bottles of booze on the wall. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go pick up a new order – will call Hollywood.