If you’ve been paying attention to whiskey trends, you already know that interest in the spirit is booming. In fact, the U.S. whiskey market has been skyrocketing in the past decade, with bourbon production alone growing by more than 150 percent and the number of craft distilleries exploding coast to coast. Demand for American whiskey worldwide has increased too, with exports topping $1 billion starting in 2013. It’s safe to say that craft whiskey has made a residence in the U.S. and is here to stay. Which is great news for true whiskey fans!
As a budding whiskey collector, you want to make sure your home bar has the right amount of the good stuff. Whether you’re starting from scratch or merely want to expand your current selection, the following tips can help. We spoke to 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co. founder and distiller Ryan Thompson for his tips on curating the ultimate whiskey collection.
On age statement:
Is a whiskey’s age statement an important factor in selecting the right whiskey? Thompson says that too many people start to form their opinion on a whiskey’s taste just by knowing the age statement. “We see this all the time in our tasting rooms,” he said. “People make an assumption before they even taste the spirit!” Thompson says instead of asking how old the whiskey is you should let your taste buds weigh in first. “We ask people to taste the whiskey and tell us how old they think it is. Nine times out of 10 they guess it’s older than it actually is and they’re surprised when we tell them the actual age.” In this case, older may not always be better. The age statement can be an overly simplified way of assessing the quality of a good whiskey.
When it comes to a rare bottle of whiskey, Thompson cautions against beginning your collection with a rare, hard to find bottle. “If you’re just starting a home whiskey bar and you have only six slots to fill, then buy six bottles that you’re not afraid to open and enjoy,” he says. There are too many great bottles of craft whiskey waiting to be enjoyed, so why attach the rare stigma to it? “If your passion increases and you want to expand your collection with hard-to-find whiskey, go for it,” Thompson adds.
On different types of whiskey:
There are so many different types of whiskey, and the variety of nuances is one reason the spirit is so well-liked. And this is the same reason that Thompson said the ultimate whiskey collection should go beyond your favorite bourbon. “You should absolutely have different types of whiskey in your collection,” he says. “There are so many different nuances within the spirit that will come out when you start to drink them side by side.” Thompson says budding whiskey collectors should consider having a bourbon and rye, as well as a scotch, Canadian and a Japanese whiskey. He also says you should consider adding a blended, single cask or cask strength whiskey to your collection as well.
Along with differing types, Thompson says to shoot for many different flavor profiles as well. “To fill a six bottle whiskey bar, choose a variety of flavor profiles so you can compare and contrast the different spirits,” he says.
On the bottom line:
Above all else, the goal of having the ultimate whiskey collection is to simply have fun. “This is all about a good time,” Thompson adds, “don’t overthink it or feel stressed.” And he’s got a solution for any whiskey bottles that don’t make the final cut. “If you happen to choose a bottle you don’t like, pawn it off on your in-laws the next time they visit.”
Choosing the right whiskey for a beginner’s collection is just as much about quality as it is quantity. If you’re looking for an easy way to be introduced to and find unique types of craft whiskey, check out RackHouse Whiskey Club. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-sized bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. We’re building a community of premium craft whiskey drinkers and you’re invited. Join us!