In 2002 we converted part of our downstairs family room to a bar. Prior to this I would normally have several basic bourbons always on hand (Makerís Mark, Wild Turkey 101, Jim Beam Black, etc.) then another five or six other brands that I would rotate in an attempt to try the many different bourbons out there. I had never tried to accumulate a lot of bottles at any one time. As I finished one brand I would often move on and try another brand or bottling. However, my thinking changed after we built the bar. I started to look at it from a point a view of what a bourbon enthusiast like myself would expect or like to see at a well stocked bar.
Obviously, now for space, financial, and wife reasons I canít go out and buy a bottle of every type of bourbon. So I developed certain perimeters. I even have developed a menu somewhat like you see at the taverns that carry many different brands of beer.
First, I settled on three super premium collections that I would try to always on hand. The three I chose where the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon Collection (Bookers, Bakerís, Basil Haydenís, and Knob Creek), Wild Turkey Selections (Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel, Rare Breed, and Russellís Reserve) and the Buffalo Trace Antique Whiskey Collection (Eagle Rare 17 yr, George T. Stagg, and Sazarac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 18 yr.).
Second, I have used my old rotation method that allows me to offer five or six (OK I am at 9 at the moment) assortment of other premium small batch and single barrel products.
Third, I have what I call the Distillerís Selection. Here I have chosen seven whiskeys from seven different distilleries that represent one of their basic premium bottling. These are the whiskeys that can be found in the $15-$20 range. Included in this category are:
Brand - Distiller
Buffalo Trace - Buffalo Trace
Elijah Craig 12 yr - Heaven Hill
Four Roses - Four Roses
Jack Daniels Black - Brown Foreman
Jim Beam Black - Jim Beam
Makerís Mark - Makerís Mark
Wild Turkey 101 - Wild Turkey
Fourth, I have an assortment of other whiskeys that I happen to have on hand. These will rotate however Jim Beam White and Old Forester 1.75L bottles are usually under the bar for those wanting bourbon and coke or a shot of whiskey with their beer.
Five, I display the better stuff. If I have a signed bottle it will be on the shelf but I would have an unsigned bottle that I could open in the cabinet. The idea is that if friends want to try one they see you can offer it to them.
Six, Remember if you start from the premise that it is a bar then you may want to have something you personally do not enjoy. For example I am not a real fan of Jack Daniels but a bar would not be complete without it because for many people Jack Daniels is what they think of if they think of whiskey.
Seven, Restocking requires that you start looking for a replacement bottle once you open the one on the shelf unless its part of your rotation stock.
Eight, Have a good time!