...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beginning a Whisky Buying Freeze and Ending the Dusty Hunt

Man, did you make it all the way through that What Was the Whisky Boom series?  "It's half as long as Das Kapital and only twice as funny."  Thank you for sticking through it and stopping by for more words.  Whisky reviews (and shorter posts) resume next week!

Every year I go on at least one whisky buying freeze, during which time I purchase nary a bottle of whisky.  Each time, I write up a list of rules and regulations then post it on the fridge.  The freeze lasts usually a month or so.  Last year's freeze was technically for 120 days, but there were so many asterisks (due to previous commitments) attached to that one that it wasn't too difficult.  Plus my daughter arrived right in the middle of it so my attention was just slightly diverted away from whisky.
Here he goes again with "The Freeze".
I engage in these buying freezes for a number of reasons:
  1. Storage limits. In 2013, we bought a whisky cabinet. It was actually Kristen's idea. After measuring everything, told her with much confidence that I'd never fill it.  I filled it.  Quickly.  We have very limited closet space and the aforementioned baby, so I have no place to put my bottles other than in the cabinet.  Despite much rearranging, the cabinet is at maximum capacity.
  2. Finances.  If you haven't noticed, whisky prices are higher than they used to be (another plug!).  With less money and more obligations, I have less to spend.  I'm a picky buyer, but I still buy more than I need.
  3. There's not much out there that I find worth buying.  In 2014, I purchased a total of 3 recent (bottled in 2012-2014) officially bottled Scotches.  My preferences lead me to the indie companies and recently discontinued or revised single malts.  Those are the items that excite.  And as the rest of my fellow hoarders buy up those goodies, there are fewer left for me.  Oh well.
  4. Happiness. Buying a bottle is a momentary pleasure.  Even if one stretches out the bottle research for months, like I do, once one obtains the bottle and stashes it away in the hoard, that glee is spent.  If life's stress and anxiety are playing havoc in one's blood, the search for the next bottle(s) begins again soon.  One can keep buying to keep the rush going but I believe that strikes closer to addiction than sustained happiness.  I have more than I need and I would like to enjoy what I have without having to have more.
If you have both the means and room, and you love the chase, then that's great!  Enjoy!  (Though please actually drink some of your stash.  You're not going to live forever.)  But when I'm short on those elements then it's time for a freeze.

This year, my purchase fast will last until at least April 1.  The only exception is the commitment I made to a friend (on this site actually) on the purchase of a bottle of rye.  Otherwise I'm still working out the regulations, ordinances, and bylaws of the freeze.  Usually they look something like this:

1.    The Buying Freeze begins at 00:00 January XX, 20XX.  It continues for XX days, ending at 23:59 on April XX, 20XX.
2.    No whisky of any sort will be purchased during this period. That includes Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 bottles.
3.    No samples or minis will be purchased.  No bottle splits allowed.
4.    Whisky trades are allowed.
5.    Whisky gifts are allowed from and to other people.  Examples are: etc. etc. etc.
6.    Social whisky events are allowed.

7.    The following are exceptions to the rules as they were commitments made before The Freeze began, and will be carried out during The Freeze: etc., etc., etc.

Punishment for violation includes reseting the freeze entirely and feeling like a sad sack of sh*t.  Anyway, if you're ever interested in doing a buying freeze, I highly recommend that you nail down the particulars before it starts.

Once the first of April arrives, I may choose to extend the freeze longer.  What I am suspending indefinitely is The Dusty Hunt.  Much of 2014 was spent on the hunt.  I found stuff.  I found awful stuff.  In California the good dusties have been picked over and over and over.  I'm getting sloppy sevenths, at best.

Though most of the dusty bottles I've opened have been crap, the disappointment has helped me see
more clearly that all whisk(e)y wasn't necessarily better in the old days.  I've had much better luck with bourbons since they usually stay nice and sweet, especially the National Distillers stuff.  I've found only two palatable Scotch blends (which I'll review this year).  There was a bottle of (tainted?) Teacher's from 1981 that was so bad that I started reading about stomach pumping immediately after swallowing.  That was such a heartbreaker because of my love for its main ingredient, Ardmore.  Damn thing had a perfect fill level and the liquor store had at least a dozen bottles.  Now I know why.  Good thing I bought only one.

Connecting this back to the buying freeze......Dusties are usually cheap and when ya find a bunch ya buy a bunch.  So then ya have a lot of bottles.  That leaves me (changing pronouns) with two problems: I've spent a chunk of money on a bunch of bottles I can't store.  $200 on 10 questionable dusties would have been better spent on a pair (or more, once upon a time) of excellent single malts that I actually want.  So the hunt is done.  But if I were to just happen to step into a store that had a dusty single malt at its original price?  I'll welcome that dilemma if ever arises.

I'm not usually one for New Year's resolutions, but those are my 2015 whisky resolutions.  Have you made any?  What motivated them?  Do you feel good about them or do you give them until, like, March until you crumble?


  1. That bottle of rye is on its way, but if it helps I'll happily drink it myself. After a bourbon bend throughout December most of these nights I find myself with a glass of rye in front of me.

    1. We opened our last bottle of Willett 4yo rye this weekend. Man, it's good for our freezing 50ºF nights.

  2. It's not a good sign when even the baby is rolling her eyes...

    Did that store put those bottles of Teacher's in a poor location with heat and light? Bit of a shame those old bottles were bad.

    1. The store had almost no natural light and the bottles were on a middle shelf which meant they wouldn't be hit directly by a heat vent. I've been very careful about that since I bought a dusty bourbon that was probably getting cooked for two or three decades.

  3. It's very nice of you to offer to buy me whisky as a gift. I couldn't possibly say no.

    1. You're welcome! For you, I have my eyes on an early-'80s Old Smuggler blend that has been sitting in a sunny window since the first Reagan administration. Just think, it's been redistilled right in the bottle for more than 30 summers.

  4. This is interesting timing for this article. My wife just challenged me to not buy anything for a while, and I was thinking tax refund timing. I think 4/1 is a better goal. Challenge accepted!!!

    1. Yeah, the tax refund temptation all depends on how early one files one's return...... But, good luck!

  5. This is a great idea and one that I should emulate. Unfortunately all I have done since reading this is buy more and more bottles. Someone please stop me. Maybe I will start in February.

    1. John, the general rule is, if the wife doesn't complain, you're not ready to stop.

  6. Funny. I made a similar resolution, mostly to my wife. I've already screwed up.

    This meant resetting the fast too, until somewhere halfway through April. I do have some events lined up, but I even skipped buying the 'only then and there' purchases. It's hard, and I made only one excuse for non-whisky stuff for a bit but that also has (to) come to an end now.

    It's funny how most of the parameters are the same. Kid, storage space, less money, not being overly thrilled on quite some new stuff.

    Good post!

    1. Thanks! I've been following your posts about the open bottles and whisky collection. I think we're in a similar spot, trying to appreciate what we've got. There are a couple dozen partial bottles (decanted into smaller bottles for oxidation and storage reasons) that I need to consume before I start opening more.

      I've found myself window shopping long before the whisky freezes have ended and I've missed out on a number of limited or single cask bottlings as result too. So it's something that needs to be managed (reminding myself why I'm doing this) more than I'd like to admit. And resetting the freeze is rough; I'm glad you had the strength to do that. Good luck with your fast/freeze(s)!