Whisky Collecting: Small Steps

“A whisky collection is much more than a haphazard accumulation of bottles. The collection is a hand-picked selection of whiskies assembled to elevate them from normality into objects of significance.” Jonny McCormick, Whisky Advocate Magazine, Winter Issue 2011

Collection to Drink

People collect most anything. You name it and guaranteed there is a person proud to talk about his/her collection of “whatcha-ma-call-its.” There are hoarders who frankly scare me with their out of control obsessions. And, there are those whose collections are worth thousands, millions, and are priceless. Somewhere in between are the personal collections of the hobbyist, fan, enthusiast and average, every day Joe and Josephine. The passion of those of us in the latter category is no less striking than all the other collectors in the world.

In the world of whisky, the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Collection housed at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is perhaps the most famous and unique. Before the Vidiz collection hit the public air waves, Umberto Angeloni published the book Single Malt Whisky: an Italian Passion.  The book is a colorful and beautifully printed coffee-table book that highlights some of the best Italian whisky collections. Yet, as in all collections, the Vidiz and the Italian collections all began with one bottle.

Whisky.com states, “A real collector always buys three bottles. One to enjoy, a second one for the collection and a third one for later swapping, when the price has risen.” Most of us cannot purchase three bottles at a time and our collecting is fun and kinda-serious but not a business nor in pursuit of challenging the Vidiz collection. I believe Jonny McCormick’s quote at the opening of this blog says it well….”objects of significance.” The collection should be significant to YOU.  I profess that the size of the collection, the price of the bottles, the type of whisky collected should follow your passion and wallet capacity. Small steps. Chapter 3 of my book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations offers recommendations for starting your own modest collection. Here are some highlights:

Think about your end goal for collecting:

  • Is it purely ego: to have the most, the best, the most expensive, the unusual?
  • Is it to enjoy and share?
  • Is it simply for the fun of having a liquor cabinet with depth and variety?
  • Is it to host tastings for friends, clients, charities, etc.?

Think about what you want to collect:

  • Do you want to collect only whisky from specific regions of Scotland?
  • Only from the same distillery?
  • Whisk(e)y from around the world?
  • The choices are endless – give it some thought and planning.

Recommendations:

  • Only buy what you can afford – don’t go into debt just to purchase whisky.
  • Keep your receipts in the whisky carton/box or a record of them so you always know what you have spent and the year of purchase.
  • Buy what you enjoy drinking, not just what is fashionable.
  • When you find a whisky that is special and unique, and you want to share it consider buying two bottles – one to share and one to keep for yourself.
  • Always taste a whisky before you buy it. A number of fine liquor stores host tastings throughout the year and most are free.  Attend a few and find out what you like.
  • If you can’t taste a whisky before wanting to buy it – read as much about it as possible, find a “whisky expert” whose opinion you value and whose tasting notes reflect yours.
  • Always keep a record of what you have tasted whether you buy it or not. Jot down your thoughts on the color, nose, palate, and finish. Create your own simple rating system.
Variety in Collecting and Drinking
Variety in Collecting and Drinking

I have more than 150 bottles in my collection.  Less than a dozen of them are unopened and put aside for future consideration (open, trade, sell, gift.) For me, whisky is for drinking first and foremost.  My single malt whisky collection is based on owning and drinking bottles that are generally not available in chain liquor stores nor on the shelves of most bars and restaurants and in the $100 to $300 range (when purchased.) I do have a number of what I call my every day bottles: single malts, bourbons, ryes all in the under $100 price bracket and occasionally used for mixing cocktails. I am having a blast with whisky with my friends and family; on Twitter, Instagram, my blog, and while writing and now talking about my book and the experiences that caused me to write it.

I raise a glass to all of you who enjoy whisky, collecting not required.

Something Special - American Bourbon and Rye
Something Special – American Bourbon and Rye
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