• Mark Still

The whiskey is worth what it's worth

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

There is no way a $50-75 bottle of whiskey could be as good as a $200+ bottle, right? The problem with a statement like this is that the selling price of some bottles isn’t based on its suggested retail price (SRP). The perceived value of many bottles is based on factors beyond what the distiller considered.

Sometimes, a $35 bourbon wins a prestigious spirits competition and then overnight, price tags in liquor stores are updated to $50. Almost as quickly, shelves are emptied and that bottle can’t be found anywhere at all for $35 or $50 and your only option is to pay $75-100 if you want one. It’s the same bottle with the same inputs, costs, etc but that’s the world we drink in today. Many consumers will chase the next medal-winning whiskey until it’s a terrible value and then complain about it. A long time ago, I earned a degree in Economics so I understand this reality; products are worth what people will pay for them. 

So, is there any way a $50-75 bottle could be as good as a $200+ bottle? Sure. In fact, it happens all the time, sometimes it’s the same bottle.

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 has an SRP this year of $69.99 and it is a great bottle of bourbon at that price. If your stars align and you can buy one for $69.99 (or $59.99 in my case a few years ago) it’s a no-brainer but that doesn’t happen often these days. If you want an ORVW 10 these days, you could pay around $400 for it. Is it worth $400? Not to me and it isn’t even close. For $70 or $80, I’d buy it again for sure but there are too many $50-75 bottles that are as good or even more enjoyable to pay any more.

As I said, the market changes quickly so some of those bottles will be the next darling that commands triple retail but if I’m paying attention, I’ll already have a couple in the cabinet. How about an example? The recently released Larceny Barrel Proof has an SRP of $50 and can be purchased for that or very close to it (I paid $55). Like ORVW 10, it uses a wheated mash bill and even shares some Pappy history. At barrel strength, 123.2 proof for the first release (A120), vs 107 proof for ORVW 10 it’s even a better value and more flexible. More important than proof, to me at least, is the type of filtration used. Larceny BP is not chill-filtered. Non-chill filtered whiskey just feels better than most chill-filtered offerings in my opinion.

Is Larceny BP as good as ORVW 10? I don’t know but, all things considered, I think it is, at least until the stars align for me again. 

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