Is This Whiskey Worth The Price Header

Is This Whiskey Worth This Price?

In Banter by Jeffrey Schwartz9 Comments

Several of us probably spend more time on social media than we should. I can verify that I’m in that group. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow wouldn’t disagree. But, it is what it is. As you can imagine, I’m part of a lot of online whiskey groups. There is a chance that I own one and moderate a few others. After all, anything is possible.

One of the most common questions I see asked in whiskey groups is,

I just found ______ priced at $_____, is it worth it?

Predictably, questions of that nature lead to all sorts of answers. Some are helpful, others not so much. To be fair, I find that most fall into the latter.  The snarky ones are obvious. The serious ones are harder to recognize how subjective they are.

We’re at the point in the whiskey boom where everyone not asking these types of questions are successful chemists. Conveniently, they’ve also obtained degrees in immunology and constitutional law. A handful has even successfully schooled TTB agents on how to do their jobs. They’ve read all the comments on every social media post out there and even a whiskey review or two, and are skilled at busting someone’s balls repeatedly until they cry for answering incorrectly.  You know you’ve run across people who fit that profile. Heck, maybe that’s even you.

Marketers are marketing experts. It would seem the best of the bunch work for Sazerac. They’re so successful at it, that they’ve created a frenzy on nearly every whiskey they’ve released. It doesn’t matter if it is Pappy Van Winkle or their flagship Buffalo Trace brand. There’s a run on everything out of that distillery like they’re bottling the secret to eternal youth. Even their bottom shelf brands, such as Old Charter, now get the royal treatment (watch for Early Times, which they just acquired, to become the next big thing).

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If you think I’m ragging on Sazerac unfairly, that’s not my goal. For the most part, I enjoy what they distill. But, I also realize at the end of the day, if I can’t find a bottle of Handy or Stagg at retail, I don’t suffer from FOMO. There’s no need to.

Other spirits brands are good at the game, too (but, not as skilled as Sazerac). Brown-Forman has created a huge market for its annual Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Heaven Hill has successfully converted Old Fitzgerald into something sought-after. Let’s not forget Beam-Suntory with Booker’s, something that stores couldn’t move to save their lives at $50.00 just a couple of years ago until Beam’s marketing squad decided to jack up the price. And, that’s just the American stuff. Scotch can occasionally get caught up in the hype with very young whiskies commanding an easy three figures.

I’ve written a lot, and you may think that I’ve forgotten the question, I just found ______ priced at $_____, is it worth it?  I’ve not. What I’ve done is give you all the background you need for why these questions come up.

The answer to the question is not found by people adding their two cents in the comments section, particularly when you get into single-barrel releases. As I’ve said many times, barrels are like snowflakes. No two are alike. To ask, I just found [a single barrel whiskey] at $[some inflated price], is it worth it? is going to earn you a ton of unqualified answers. Every brand of single barrel whiskey you can think of has less-than-stellar barrels. I pick many barrels a year, and I guarantee you the variety in single barrel whiskey is very real and even the greatest names offer samples that are cringe-worthy.


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Follow a good reviewer whose palate you trust and take his or her recommendations to heart. We have plenty here at Bourbon & Banter. Or, find yourself a good whiskey bar. I realize we’re still in pandemic mode and getting into bars around the country isn’t so easy, but buying yourself a pour, even an expensive one, is a sure-fire way to answer your question as to any whiskey’s worth. If you take some random stranger’s word for it, you’ll likely end up trying to convince yourself you did okay after you realize that ____ wasn’t worth $_____ after all. Cheers!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sr. Contributor |

Known throughout Wisconsin (and now the world) as Whiskeyfellow, Jeff was a late-bloomer to the Wonderful World of Whiskey. At the suggestion of his wife, he started with Scotch and was hooked. He was under the impression that he was happy. A friend asked him several times to try Bourbon, and he eventually gave in, only to fall completely in love with it. Those first steps started him on his #DrinkCurious adventure that led him to #RespectTheBottomShelf. Jeff now relishes many types of whiskeys, ranging from the super-affordable to the super-premium and everything in between. Aside from simply sipping and writing about it, Jeff now enjoys spreading the whiskey gospel by hosting educational tasting events.
Read Jeff's full profile.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz

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Known throughout Wisconsin (and now the world) as Whiskeyfellow, Jeff was a late-bloomer to the Wonderful World of Whiskey. At the suggestion of his wife, he started with Scotch and was hooked. He was under the impression that he was happy. A friend asked him several times to try Bourbon, and he eventually gave in, only to fall completely in love with it. Those first steps started him on his #DrinkCurious adventure that led him to #RespectTheBottomShelf. Jeff now relishes many types of whiskeys, ranging from the super-affordable to the super-premium and everything in between. Aside from simply sipping and writing about it, Jeff now enjoys spreading the whiskey gospel by hosting educational tasting events. Read Jeff's full profile.

  • Linda Miller says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I would add, try every bottle possible. It’s really the only way you’ll know if it’s for you. That said, know your bar or Bartender. 🥃😋
    #BarrelLife

  • tms says:

    the answer to the question posed is more nuanced and deeply rooted in economics & social psychology:
    How much money do you have to spend without impacting other aspects of your life? and
    How much of your sense of self worth/social standing is attached to being able to say ” I have tasted/ a bottle of _____ on my shelf.”?
    The current whiskey mania is really driven (unfortunately) by the media (social and other) we chose to consume and use to project ourselves. Where we may have once believed that “information is power”, the dynamic has shifted to “understanding the system is power”.
    There is no “winning” this game, only degrees of happiness and sanity lost or gained.

    • I was with you all the way until the end. I don’t believe there is any sanity to be gained in this game of bourbon. Pleasure, yes. Sanity…not a chance. 😉

      • tms says:

        Yes of course! I meant it in the sense that you can play the game and opt to lose the sanity, or you can opt-out of the game, and keep what precious little sanity is left, while enjoying the drink in your hand!
        cheers!

  • tms says:

    “We’re at the point in the whiskey boom where everyone not asking these types of questions are successful chemists. Conveniently, they’ve also obtained degrees in immunology and constitutional law.”

    Whaaat??!!!

    What does constitutional law and immunology have to do with knowing whether a whiskey is subjectively worth it? Why are chemists the only ones NOT asking the question? Ima chemist, but I still make the same value judgement every time i go the store or shop online. The problem is a warped sense of values caused by the media we consume and our internal desires to be validated as “better than somebody else”.

    Please get a grip, and stop hating on chemists, constutional lawyers and immunologists (btw, chemists & immunologists are among those helping save our nation from the ravages of COVID-19).

    • Jeffrey Schwartz says:

      I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out if you’re serious or joking. I’ll assume you’re serious.

      This wasn’t meant to poke fun at chemists, immunologists, or even lawyers. It was directed at know-it-alls who are “experts” at everything on social media. Today they’ll be an expert in chemistry, tomorrow the same people are experts at law, yesterday they were experts in immunology.

  • David says:

    Jeffrey,
    That is a question I hate. “Worth” is subjective and asking the question gets OPINIONS which are like…..well you know. In my OPINION what you get north of $100 it is hard to justify that the quality is that much better. Quality, taste, however you think about it plateaus at some point and it just can’t get that much better. Quality curve plateaus but price curve spikes up. You are right about “experts” as well. Anyone with a camera and Youtube channel can become and “expert.” My observation that true experts do not consider themselves experts and are always learning more.