To hoard or not to hoard? When is it necessary and worthwhile, and when does it become a borderline-autistic, wallet-breaking, debilitating obsession? Some fellow bourbonistas and I recently debated this on Twitter, in part inspired by pictures some of the epic bottle collections on other SB threads.
The argument against buying multiples is largely two-fold: Firstly, that one should try a variety of new tastes rather than be pigeonholed with one particular batch, no matter how excellent. This is true particularly if you include Scotch whisky, there are so many OB and independent bottlings that deserve exploration. Secondly, dead men can't drink whiskey. Do you really need 100+ bottles? Or more? The amount one man can drink without succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver should trump the desire to build a regal army of bottles. And if you move, esp. overseas, it's difficult--or impossible--to transport them; and regardless, selling & shipping whiskey, with all of the regulations, can be a pain. At some point, the whole enterprise can become a poor use of money, time and space.
The case for hoarding has three main components, with some inevitable blending (or vatting, if you will):
a) No regrets: If it's limited edition, out of production or unlikely to appear ever again--and you adore the taste--why not save a few (or more) for the future? How many on this board bemoan their failure to stock up on the PHC Cask Strength and Wheated, Vintage Rye 21, Weller Centennial, various WTs, Van Winkles or BTAC, and then spend hours hunting them down later on only to come up short or face jacked-up prices? And given the whispered-about forthcoming shortage of ultra-aged ryes and whiskeys (discussed by David at K&L), why not stock up before the famine? Finally, if you stumble across a mess of delicious tax-stamped dusties, why limit yourself to just one?
b) Beat the crowd/price hikes: The bourbon fever is spreading and the Wine Spectator crowd is jumping in. Securing bottles of PVW & BTAC has never been harder, and the extortionist prices on eBay are unlikely to relent. If you come across bottles at MSRP or lower, why not snag a bunch and avoid the hysterical mobs during the next release? Especially since the consistency, batch-to-batch, is relatively strong. Yes, some years are better than others for a particular BTAC or VW, but they're rarely world's apart. And with SW batches of PVW dwindling, that window is closing; and a bottle like Stagg, at 18 years+ and 140 proof+, is only likely to increase in retail price and shrink in availability.
c) Investment: Whiskey as an investment may be a bubble, but quality will usually hold its value. If you overbuy elite juice, you can always trade it, or, at worst, sell it down the road if you really need the cash. Recently, PVW15 prices have topped $200 on eBay, while Stagg fetches $130+. Is that the peak? Maybe. But it's doubtful you'll never recover that original ~$75/bottle if you really need to liquidate the stash. A fellow collector or rube off the street will always want it. And when future limited-edition releases emerge and you miss out, you have a bevy of trade bait to coax a bottle or two out of a fellow collector. Finally, if worst comes to worst, you drink your collection, declare bankruptcy, and hope for a bailout like the insolvent megabanks.
In short, I hoard because I think in the right cases, it makes sense. Yes, I overdo it from time to time, but I pick my spots carefully. If it's true love, I follow my heart and let the bank account suffer the consequences--even if that means squirreling my extra bottles under the bathroom sink in the guest room when space runs out.
Last month, the always-excellent Sku classified bourbon drinkers on his Recent Eats blog, and while clearly tongue-in-cheek, he nailed it. The link to the entire article is posted below, but I included some highlights, and I hope he won't mind.
What are your thoughts on the debate?
"Type 1: The Hoarder
Most common in American whiskey circles, this collector lives with a constant fear that they will one day run out of their favorite whiskey (which is usually George T. Stagg or Pappy Van Winkle 15). As a result, they buy case after case of their favorites, which are usually stored in the original boxes in the basement or attic. Enough is never enough of their whiskey, but they ignore pretty much everything else on the market.
Type 2: The Thrill Seeker
This specimen is the opposite of the Hoarder. They seek new flavors and will never buy the same whiskey twice. In fact, they don't even like to drink the same whiskey twice, which is why they have amassed an enormous collection of opened but mostly full bottles.
Type 5: The Speculator
This is the type of person that we all hate but that I'm not sure actually exists. This phantom menace doesn't even drink whiskey and certainly doesn't care about it but has decided that it's a worthy investment vehicle. They make strategic purchases based on what they believe will increase in value in the hopes of turning a huge profit.