So long, 2018.
This time of year, everyone is publishing their “Best of” lists, remembering those who passed away in the course of the year, and making resolutions for the new year. It’s customary in the whiskey world for bloggers and writers to publish their versions as well. But here’s the thing. The “Best Whiskey of 2018” is probably something you can’t buy anymore because it’s already gone. And even if you could buy it, it’s totally subjective. I thought Jim Murray’s selection of the 2017 William Larue Weller as his whiskey of the year was complete crap – in my opinion it wasn’t even the best BTAC in 2017. But I digress. In lieu of a “Best of” list, I’m providing something else. First the things that are as dead as 2018 or just dead to me…
- Age Statements – They’re all gone. No one is providing meaningful age statements on flagship brands anymore. Hopefully this trend will turn around in the next few years but Heaven Hill pulling their age-stated bottled-in-bond product from the market was the last straw.
- Bourbon Hunting – I haven’t walked into a store and found anything meaningful in the past year. This used to be my hobby. Now I don’t even bother. My 2019 will be limited to retail relationships and distillery gift shops.
- Meaningless Reviews – Reviews are only helpful to me if I can read the review and go into the store and buy the whiskey. Now many reviews are for stuff you can’t find. The only value in super premium reviews seems to be boosting the secondary market for complimentary reviews. And for many of the reviews, people are using words and descriptions that don’t translate. I’m looking at you, Fred Minnick. What the hell is fenugreek, anyway? You shouldn’t have to google an adjective to know if a whiskey tastes good.
Whiskey 2019 New Year’s Resolutions
- I’m not camping, standing in line, lottery-ing, raffling, or anything else. If I can’t buy it through a retail relationship or by visiting a distillery gift shop, so be it. Cheers to the guy who skipped Thanksgiving again this year to be first in line at my local store for the Black Friday allocated whiskey release. You must really hate your family.
- I’m not chasing stickers. Your store pick is probably good, but a sticker does not a good whiskey make. I blame Willett for their super clever bottle-naming. They were trend setters. Drink curious, but this sticker stuff is out of control.
- Non-distiller producers aren’t worth the prices they’re charging. So, I won’t buy them in 2019. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Kentucky Owl Rye at a lower proof at almost $200? Dickel and MGP is everywhere in pretty labels at $70+/bottle. Nope. Just give me a flagship Buffalo Trace or Elijah Craig at less than $30 and I’ll be happy. You might not feel the same way, but a line must be drawn. And I’m drawing it.
- More cost plus shipping. I’ve tried just about everything out there in whiskey. I live in a state that gets great distribution and I am fortunate to have generous friends that share the stuff I can’t get. Some of you aren’t so lucky. Although distribution isn’t going to be sufficient in super-premium releases, there’s no reason someone can’t get their hands on an Old Weller Antique at $50 or less if we all do more C+S in the new year.
Raised in the great state of Tennessee, Matt has a hard time admitting the native spirit of the Bluegrass neighbor to the north captured his obsession (& most of his wallet). Having progressed through the red solo cup days to a passion for a barrel-proof wheated bourbon, neat, Matt is always on the hunt for the next bottle. When he is not scouting or sipping bourbon, Matt spends time with his wife and four children. When he needs money for the next trip to Bardstown, Matt manages a wealth management firm. He always buys bourbon to drink and believes nothing should come between friends except two rocks glasses and a three-finger pour.
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I already started doing some of the things you wrote about. You can add no more complaining too. I am going back to a time when I had fun drinking bourbons and not collecting them. Cheers.
I couldn’t agree more with your resolutions. Hurray!
I’m with you brother. My local “Big Liquor Store” seems not to be able to get the stuff I really like. As an example, I have procured my last 5 bottles of Blanton’s at my local Safeway Super market. Go figure!
Agree completely… As the individual that brought the 4 Beam small batch brands into Ohio I am very disappointed at the marketing folks inventing stories about other peoples juice instead of distilling good whiskey.
I Agree, being new to the bourbon scene I am seeing retail stores grossly overprice harder to find Bourbons, saw a 12yr weller in a shop for $449..?
Make us newbies want to look for another hobbie….
I was nodding my head the entire time I read this post. I’m tired of everyone treating pretentious people like Fred Minnick as if they are worthy of our attention. I’m also saddened by the craze of cute stickers in lieu of simply providing good whiskey. I spent 2018 looking for good store picks to share with friends and plan to do the same in 2019. I may not gain many Instagram followers, but I’ll get more enjoyment out if it.
I live in Pennsylvania. I have to go to Delaware or New Jersey to find anything different. Even those states don’t carry everything.
Welcome to the resistance.
Hubba, hubba, hubba!
I’m not giving up the rediculous searches, I’m just going to severely lower my
lofty expectations of actually trying to find any harder to get gems. Still thrills me
when I catch one. Really harder to do in FL
What saddens me is seeing some of my long time, loyal liquor stores, jumping on the “greed” bandwagon & jacking up the prices on any/all Bourbons that get good reviews in the press. Over night, the $30 bottles jump to $50/$60 just because some reviewer says they are a lot of bag for the buck. I’ve been a long time, loyal customer at these stores, but it now seems like loyalty has become a one-way street. Matt Self is “spot on” with this article. I have finally given up on chasing the windmills/Unicorns/unobtainiums.
Yes, big gold stickers stuck on a bottle simply advertising the local liquor store are overused! And I’ve found some great deals at random grocery stores more than at liquor stores. Maybe the grocery store manager doesn’t know what he/she has when it’s priced at a bargain price. And maybe he/she simply doesn’t care. All the better for us!
Outstanding article and words that I will work to live by. I enjoy being a Bourbon Enthusiast – not an Obsess-or! God Bless Us, Everyone.
Weller 12 for $449? How things have changed. I was fortunate to win a lottery at Total Wine and Spirits in Tennessee. Purchased Weller 12 for $34.99 two weeks ago. Secondary markup is really destroying the game for real bourbon enthusiasts. Just sell good bourbon at a reasonable price.