Look, you aren’t getting any Pappy… Or, how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the tedium of American whiskey. Part 4 of 4

**my editor is getting a mani-pedi, this is going to be a rough cut**

What should you buy if you are the ballingest baller that ever wasted money in a liquor store?  Obviously, the stuff below, but, I know you are reading this from 1 of 2 distinct points of view:

1.  I have money, sell it to me now!

2. How can American whisky be worth so much?

For the first camp, I’d say, “Slow down Mr. Baller.  Learn a little something and you’ll enjoy that whiskey like it’s worth $200 a bottle, plus you’ll learn to enjoy $30 bottles like they’re worth $100.”

For the second camp, I’d say, “These whiskies are actually cheap; considering what they go through.”  The story alone on any of them is likely worth the price tag.  But enjoy the chart below, and understand that a barrel gets taxed every year it isn’t bottled, and every barrel needs to turn a profit.

Barrel 1 is 220 bottles, Barrel 2 is 200 bottles, Barrel 3 is 130 bottles, Barrel 4 is 60 bottles

Barrel 1 is 220 bottles, Barrel 2 is 200 bottles, Barrel 3 is 130 bottles, Barrel 4 is 60 bottles

This, my friends, is the Angel’s Share of water and/or booze that evaporates as bourbon ages.

I just did some back of the coaster math on this one and while I’m not confident to publish it here: But, here’s my thinking …

  1. After paying taxes on all of the whiskey that has evaporated
  2. And on all of the whiskey that is still in that barrel upon which must be paid every year it’s still in the barrel
  3. Plus, the time value of money, the money value of time,  the chance of the barrel drying up (very real!) or the Rickhouse burning down (also very real!)
  4. That all told, making old whiskey is a terrible investment.  I’d say that they make less on these barrels percentage wise, that anything else.  Artesian lightbulb factories are sooner to turn a profit.  These barrels are created out of love.

That said, let’s get back to role playing:

It’s the beautiful holiday season, a time of year that we can drink with our friends, families and even our enemies.  You have gone to the store and asked for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 15yr, you are prepared to spend between $60-$100 on American whiskey only to find out you can’t get this gift for your father in-law, boss, poker group, husband, wife or more likely, yourself.  What do you do with that searing hot money in your pocket?  First off, give a couple bucks to the bum looking for booze, you were going to spend it on booze, even though it’s morally objectionable to most everyone and it’s never going to be tax deductible. but after that, choose your destiny:

  1. Big Lots o’ Whiskey
  2. Unknown Underdogs
  3. Hometown Heroes
  4. Next Year’s Pappy

You rolled a “4” and got “Next Year’s Pappy.”

High West 21yr, gentle spice aromas, delicate on the palate, toasted vanilla

High West 21yr, gentle spice aromas, delicate on the palate, toasted vanilla

The fun thing about High West 21yr, is that even though the bottling was done three years ago, the hype lives on due to the hit-and-miss nature of finding it sitting innocently on a shelf. Meaning it has all been sold from the distillery, and has been scattered to the wind of retail shelves – mostly still found in states that have government controlled liquor stores.  Rye exploded a few years back and since, the rye that actually has age has become more and more rare.  There are more 2 year old ryes on the market than I can keep track of, but as soon as you crest 10 years, the rye market dries right up.  This little gem is amazing at 21 years.  Not that you should look for traits like this in whiskey, but you could drink a pint of this just as easily as a pint of beer.  “SMOOOOOTH” is a  word that idiots use for spirits, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t apply here.  While this whiskey still tastes like rye, it tastes like a rye that is going to meet his in-laws for the first time.  Everything has been toned down but in a way like a crisp french cuffed shirt pulled down over sleeve tattoos. $200 is is a steal

Pro Tip: There are no 750ml bottles left our there, however there are many 375ml bottles to be found.

everyone is alway a winner here, but Weller is the diplomat of the bunch

everyone is alway a winner here, but Weller is the diplomat of the bunch

William Larue Weller 2012 Limited Edition is the whiskey that everyone wants to drink even though it is the least sought after of the Buffalo Trace antique collection.  Always a single barrel, it will change a bit year to year. But remember, it’s that wheat that sweet bourbon drinkers love & the wheat in this makes this Weller the baby softest cask strength imaginable. Drink it right out of the bottle. It’s a dram of grandma’s pumpkin pie.  The antique collection comes out annually, and you generally have to be on a list, and no one is ever fighting over the Weller, but they should be. $100 is great, $150 is a bit much

see how it glows?

see how it glows?

I have loved every bourbon from the Parker’s collection, but when I heard that there was going to be a 27 year old, I guffawed, GUFFAW!  Basically, this thing is a candy bar after you add water to it.  Think of it as a Milky Way bar style bourbon bottled at 129 proof. Take a sip, hold it it your mouth for 10 seconds, swallow, exhale, think and punch anybody that interrupts your meditation. How can bourbon live that long? Well, I still don’t know, but Heaven Hill found a way.  Heaven Hill even says on their website, it’s “something only Heaven Hill could offer.”  Understand that creating bourbons this old (on a mass scale) is something that only the most prolific distillers could do.  You’d basically have to be distilling for at least 30 years to have enough money to embark on a project like this and in another 30 years until you’d be able to start trying it out to taste and to attempt a business model.  Since it has taken one human’s entire lifetime to create this bottle, paying less than $200 is the moral equivalent of you actually robbing Heaven Hill.

To wrap it up with a simple note, the best whiskey is shared whiskey.  If you are gifted a whiskey, offer to open it up on the spot, regardless of locale.  Enjoy whatever you end up with this holiday too, hopefully these last 4 days will show you what went into those whiskies.


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10 Responses to Look, you aren’t getting any Pappy… Or, how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the tedium of American whiskey. Part 4 of 4

  1. Jelani Alexander says:

    Loved this series of posts Andrew. I was wondering what brand of American whiskey you might recommend as a good value for home cocktail mixing. Primarily manhattans and boulevardiers. I live in Washington state.

    • caskstrength says:

      I use Johnny Drum black for mixing simple drinks at home. You can get one for less than $20 and even for a bourbon, it has more backbone and spice that some of the “premium” rye whiskies that come out these days.

      • Jelani Alexander says:

        Thanks Andrew,
        Picked up some Beam 8 and Russell’s Reserve at Total Wine will keep an eye out for the Drum.

        Happy Holidays,

  2. TM says:

    OK, High West 21 would be fairly easily found by anyone with an internet connection, but WLW and PHC 27 are not going to be found in the wild. I would rate the BTAC in decreasing order of desirability: GTS, WLW, Saz18, ER17, THH. In fact,

  3. All good suggestions, but I haven’t seen any of these available near Seattle, have you? Looked quite a bit for the Larue Weller and usually check out the High West offerings. Definitely going to keep my eye out for that Pure Kentucky, hope to get a chance to try it

  4. Thanks for the Pappy Service Announcement…..sadly some would prefer be told what they should like rather than tasting for themselves…which is
    most of the fun.

  5. Lauren H says:

    Breckenridge bourbon is also a good alternative to pappy, though it tends to be underestimated because it is from Colorado.

  6. Tony Harion says:

    Absolutely awesome series, Andrew!!

    Too bad besides only one of all the bottles you mentioned can be found here in Brazil.

    I hope more brands start looking south a bit more soon. Our market is pretty dry of american whiskey, but very thirsty.



  7. Curtis says:

    Fun read. I’ve just recently stumbled upon a store with the PHC 2nd Edition 2008. I’ve been debating on whether or not to snatch it up. I think you may have just pushed me over the edge. Thanks.

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