...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Whisk(e)y at Home

It has become increasingly apparent to me that a lot of you good folks have substantial volumes of whisk(e)y at home.  My own selection has quadrupled since last year at this time.  Employment has its occasional benefits.  Though I now have an Official Whisky Cabinet (yay!), this rapid growth has now been curtailed.  It's time to enjoy what I've got.

Everyone has his own way of approaching his whisky.  Some folks open everything upon purchase.  Some keep a couple dozen in going at once.  Some say they'll only keep 2 open at a time, but are totally lying.  Not naming any names, Guy In The Monitor's Reflection.

The collection used to fit in our general liquor cabinet.  But then it grew.  Before the Official Whisky Cabinet arrived, I stashed my bottles in a sunlight-free corner of our condo.  In the process of collating the whiskys, I started ordering them not by distillery name or age, but by when I would drink them.  A tier system started, and continues today with bottles segregated in The Cabinet.

Here's my system:

Tier 3 - Tumbler Whisky
This is the anytime stuff, the whiskies that can be opened without reservation, poured generously at all times, enjoyed without guilt.  I also call them the House Whiskies.  For instance, Power's Gold Label is the House Irish.  Buffalo Trace is the House Bourbon.  Currently, Bank Note is the House Blend.  Other Tumblers have been Glenfiddich 12, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Tullamore Dew, Jameson's, and Isle of Skye 8.  I call them "Tumbler" whiskies because I can dump a splash of it in a tumbler (rocks glass), even over some ice(!), and settle into an evening or a lunch or a game on TV.

Tier 2 - Weekend Whisky
These are limited to the weekends or after great (or terrible) work days, in order to not burn through the bottles so fast.  Think Glengoyne 17 or Bruichladdich Bere or oh my friggin' gosh I don't have any indie bottles open.  Weekend Whiskies are opened per the season.  When we had an insane heat spell last year, I found the cask strength heavily peated stuff really did not cater to the weather.  But when the cool evenings came back, so did the Islays.

Tier 1 - Event Whisky
These are to celebrate achievements, friends, beauty, and life.  Or sometimes just the existence of whisky itself.  I remain hush-hush on the sealed Event Whiskies, but I'll discuss 'em once they're open (see the birthday Balblair from last year).  I look forward to a lifetime full of Event Whiskies.

Though price partially plays a role in determining a bottle's tier, cost does not get the final say.  For instance, Sullivan's Cove is an expensive whisky but due to its mild quality and impressive performance in club soda, it has become my current House Malt (Tier 3).  I have a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label stashed away to be my final one (*sob*), and though its price would make it a Tier 2, the event of its demise qualifies it as a Tier 1.

On that note, I have noticed some sub-tiers which come close to drifting between the levels.  For instance, Collectible Whisky.  First off, I'm drinking all of my whisky.  None will languish for eternity.  BUT, I recognize the short supply of certain bottles and thus will take that into consideration when determining the tier.  For instance, I have Kilkerran bottles that are out of circulation.  Their price would make them look like Tier 2s, but I put in some sincere footwork (or mileage on my Accord) to get them, so I ain't opening them just for gits and shiggles (thus trending towards Tier 1).  But once they're open, I will be drinking them for gits and shiggles.  Ultimately, they will be Tier 2s.

Another example of a sub-tier is American Whiskey.  I tend to find bourbon to be a Tier 3, always.  This may change once I delve into more barrel strength behemoths.  I also have yet to find a bourbon that I'd spend typical Event Whisky-level cash on.  I've tasted Pappies and a number of famous dusties, but none of them have inspired particular devotion (financially or otherwise).  Maybe if a Stagg falls into my hands someday, it would get a Tier 2.  For safety purposes.  On the other hand, I am LOONY about barrel-strength rye.  I want to make them Tier 3, but I would run out of money and white blood cells much too quickly.  They're Tier 2 in name, but Tier 3 in my heart.

There are other borderliners, like Redbreast 12, that I would love to make Tier 3s, but for financial purposes will remain Tier 2s.  Plus with whiskies like Redbreast (and Willett rye), I do not want to tire of them, nor do I want to get used to them.

So how do you guys (and gals) choose to open your whiskies?  Have you determined a tiered system?  Is that nomenclature based on tangibles or passions?  Do you find your system changing with time?


  1. I've been making a somewhat determined effort to cut down on the number of open full sized bottles on my shelf. I've managed to knock it down to two single malts, though that might get to bumped out to three (both right now are peated, which less and less hits the spot right now). I'm making exceptions for ones that I've poured into smaller bottles for longer term storage. I'm aiming for roughly the same point with bourbon and rye (a couple of bottles of each) and am there with my higher end brandies. While I'm also trying to do that with spirits aimed for cocktails, that's a bit of a lower priority because think oxidation matters less. I find it's actually kind of satisfying because it forces me to focus on a few spirits until they're done instead of opening every new bottle that comes into my hands.

    I also have event spirits, which won't get opened for a while. At this point their all whiskies that I've combed from the shelves of Oregon liquor stores. The goal is to drink something older than myself on my birthday for as long as I can pull it off. Given that I have a 42 year old Strathisla right now, that could be a while. Speaking of which, you're on the list for a sample of the 34 YO BenRiach I'll be opening in a couple of months. It'll be fun to share that one around.

    1. Hey Jordan. You, sir, have done a great job scouting (and maybe pillaging) the Oregon shelves. Good grab on that Strathisla! Was that a Lonach bottling? Just asking since I've found a Lonach or two to my liking.

      I'm hoping to go with birthday whisky that matches my age or birth year until it gets too damned expensive (read: next year). Thank you for considering me for a sample of the BenRiach!

      I think you and I are aiming for the same open bottle count. And I do the same thing with decanting into smaller bottles. Like you mentioned, I want to get back to focusing on and enjoying a bottle from start to finish before hurrying off to something new.

    2. Unfortunately the last bottles of that BenRiach got bought up (why they didn't disappear instantly when they were marked down to $99, I do not know) or I would have pointed you in the right direction when you made it up this way. There are still a few good ones I've got my eyes on, though none are such good deals. There's a 34 YO Tamdhu for ~$180, a Lonach Tomatin for ~$160, and a 38 YO Invergordon for ~$150, plus a few others like a 34 YO Bruichladdich that might be a bit too rich for my blood at over $200. Assuming I can keep everything intact through however many moves I got through in the next decade, I should definitely be able to keep this going through my 30s if not into my 40s.

      Seeing as I have full bottles of these, I'm definitely planning on spreading them around, both by inviting friends around and sending out samples. There's no good reason not to share.

      I found with Tobermory 10 that it was a really good thing that I got to the end of the bottle before reviewing it. Took about halfway through for the malt to really hit its stride, so I wouldn't have had the same impression if I had just given it a few drinks before posting. I'm going to at least aim for that, seeing as I have a mountain of samples to get me through more regular posts.

    3. I have an indie Clynelish that has gotten better with time as well. Maybe the approach with full bottles is to do a number of smaller sets of notes throughout a bottle's history and then combine it into one post. I did that once before and it was fun. Need to do that again.

      My purchasing policy has changed. I'd rather buy one awesome fancy whisky, than three or four lower-priced ones I'm sort of excited about. That will keep the quantity bloat down and the quality quotient up. There's probably another post in this.

  2. Jordan is my inspiration on open bottles, though because I've been a "Bought it=Opened it" sort of guy in the past, I'm currently at about 32 open bottles. But that is down from 40 so there is that...

    1. That is progress! I see a Willett Rye in your "The Stash". In my mind, one probably can never have too many open Willett Ryes. Great blog, by the way!