The most prized piece in my whiskey collection is probably a bottle that no one will ever open.
Actually, all of the ones I prize most will never be opened – I have a 50 ml. bottle of the first distillate I ever made, which I guess would be 10 years old now. It’s just white whiskey – full strength, hasn’t touched a barrel or anything. It went into that bottle straight off the still, and that has traveled with me for the last ten years.
I also have a 50 ml. bottle of the first vodka I ever distilled, which was here at Old Dominick. I keep a bottle from each distillery I’ve ever worked at – when I was at Wild Turkey, at my interview, they gave me a 750 ml. bottle of their 101. A neat thing about it is that it’s got a really old label, because they’ve done so many label changes since then. That bottle will never get touched, because it’s commemorative of my job there. I have a bottle from the distillery before that, and I will eventually have a bottle from Old Dominick that will never be opened.
I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind on that, which is weird, because I also firmly believe that you should never buy a bottle that you’re not willing to open. I really do! If you’re willing to spend $200 on a bottle of bourbon, you better open it at some point and enjoy it. Like, really enjoy that one! These will not get opened for a couple of reasons. First, they’re nothing special, as far as the liquid that’s inside them – they’re not single barrel, hand-picked by me or anything like that, they’re just what you could’ve bought on the shelf. Basically, the idea is just to have a portfolio, if you will, of where I’ve worked.
As you build your own whiskey collection – as I mentioned in the posts about building your home bar – your personal budget is the most important thing to keep in mind as you stock. If you have enough money that you can spend $500 on a bottle and it’s nothing to you, then by all means, do it! For me and my husband, personally, we tend to draw the line at around $150-175. Through all the whiskeys we’ve tasted, our experience has been that the higher-priced bottles are delicious, but for $100 cheaper we might be able to get something that is almost identical.
This is especially true when you consider that something like 95 percent of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. Among those distilleries, there are only so many mash bills, so many yeast strains – the differences that you get at those highest price points are very nuanced. The liquid in the bottles may have simply been aged in different warehouses or have a slightly different blend. Unless your palate is incredibly discerning, you may not be able to taste some of the variances. As you’ve probably realized by now, my advice is almost always that you can probably spend a little bit less and still find something you love!