Dec. 3, 2022

What did we learn about whiskey and ourselves in 2022?

What did we learn about whiskey and ourselves in 2022?
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Every year around this time, we look back and ask ourselves what we learned about whiskey. In 2022, the big takeaway is that we should really focus on bourbon, rye, and scotch whisk(e)y that we really like. Saving $5 on a bottle on Elijah Craig Small Batch is no reason to stock up. It isn't going anywhere.

I'd made a pledge not to buy any more pedestrian whiskey until I drank all of the pedestrian whiskey I already had in the house. I'm still drinking but that pledge means I'll end the year with fewer bottles than I started for the first time ... ever. At least I think that's the case. I don't count or keep records of which bottles I'm stocking at home so I could be wrong. It is a change in philosophy for sure whatever the case. 

Bourbon prices continue to rise so it seems to make more sense to refrain from buying bottles that aren't really good and direct some of that budget to the ones we really like. Booker's, Russell's Reserve, Wild Turkey, Barrell, and the like. We aren't suggesting only buying $100+ bottles but as much as we like Wild Turkey 101 and Rittenhouse, Rare Breed Bourbon and Rye are just better so why not live a little?   

Dan had a tough year with his favorite store's club program that requires him to purchase the monthly pick sight unseen. So far, he's 1 for 11 with 1 pick to go. That's not a good ratio so he'll step away from that next year. He's happy to commit to spending every month as long as he can pick what he buys.   

So, 2023 will be about fewer bottles that we choose based solely on the enjoyment factor. We rarely get the chance to buy unicorns but that in-between land of $50-80 feels like a better range to shoot for regularly to ensure every pour is worth the sip.


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What Did We Learn About Whiskey And Ourselves In 2022?

Mark Still And Dan Cavallari


[0:00] Hey Mark, what'd you learn about whiskey this year? That's a great question, Dan.

[0:06] Music.

[0:23] I learned I still like whiskey. Hey, that's something. Good to confirm those things. Yeah, and I think I learned I like good whiskey. How about that? How about that? No big revelation.
But every year about this time, I take stock of what I did in the year with whiskey, because it's not a cheap hobby. No.
And at some point earlier this year, I decided I wasn't going to buy any more pedestrian whiskey until I drank all the pedestrian whiskey in the house.
Which is a lot.
Which is a lot. And there's still some of it here. But this is the first year I'm going to end the year with less bottles than I started with because of that. My God.

[1:02] And I think what I learned from it was I don't regret any of the times this year that I passed up a sale on an Elijah Craig small batch because it was $5 cheaper.
But it did get me drinking a little bit more of the nicer stuff. Now, neither one of us have any of the unicorn stuff laying around.
So I think next year is going to be fewer bottles, but nicer bottles. I like that. And I only have one purchase regret.

[1:30] And that was the rare breed rye that you texted me and it was like super on sale. Yes.
And that seems like that violates. But that to me is not a pedestrian whiskey. That was a very nice whiskey that happened to be at an attractive price.
Yeah. Relative to the fact that a lot of local stores have really they've they've gone up ten or fifteen dollars on that bottle Yeah, just because of demand. So here's here's the question And so if in 2023 your goal is to buy fewer bottles, but nicer ones, does that bring the price point up?
It does, I think, overall. Obviously, it's going to bring the average price point up. And again, I'm not talking about only drinking $200 bottles of whiskey.
The bottle you mentioned, Rare Breed Rye, that's a good example. So define, that's a good place to start then, define pedestrian whiskey.
That is hard because there's a lot of inexpensive bottles that are quite good. For instance, for some reason this year, Baby Saz was available on the regular Sazerac.
So I've got, I don't know, two or three, two more bottles, one open, two more, and then that store pick that you got for us.

[2:48] Price-wise, that's a pedestrian whiskey when you buy it, right? That's a $30, $35 bottle of whiskey.
I guess I'm talking about things like, I don't need to have, I don't think I need to have five or six bottles of Wild Turkey 101 hanging around, even though I like it for sipping, I like it for old fashions.
Maybe that's just it. The stuff that is not necessarily pedestrian. Your daily drinkers.
The daily drinker kind of things. I don't need to keep buying those. Yeah, your Rittenhouse's and the stuff that's on the shelf consistently.
Yeah, Rittenhouse is a good example. It's $25, $26. Maybe I want to make my cocktails with that rare breed rye instead and live a little bit.
I don't get to be a baller very often in life. Yeah, this is a good way to flex your baller muscle. Yeah.
Well, we've always talked about it. It's a little bit of a joke. I don't think anybody that's not into whiskey believes this, but we have a buying problem more than we have a drinking problem, which is why it's remarkable that I will end the year with less bottles.
And by the way, I've only ever counted bottles once.

[3:52] So I don't know for sure there's less bottles. It seems pretty obvious there's less bottles. We also, we opened a lot this year and we shared a lot.
So it's probably very likely that you ended the year with fewer bottles.
And frankly, I mean, you opened a lot of good bottles. So it wasn't just the pedestrian bottles that you opened and shared. I mean, there was a lot of good stuff that we cracked open this year. Yeah, we opened some old fits,the Cantor bottled in bond stuff.
Well, we found another Kentucky Owl Rye batch one opened it up. Yeah.

[4:24] Well, so, and that brings me to my, what I learned this year. Because I had, I had a rough year. I had a rough year with whiskey. I did. And, and I think, how you gonna say this, around a particular style of whiskey purchasing.
Yes. Yeah. I think my takeaway from from my purchasing this year was, you know, I tried to, I like to support local and my local shop that has treated me very well in the past. One of the things is they have a monthly pickand you buy that pick.
Like you just debited from your credit card every month, you go pick it up.
And I didn't like a lot of the picks that I got. I mean, I would say the vast majority of them were either giveaway bottles or there weren't any yard pours or anything, but they just weren't stuff that I wanted.
And so I think I'm not going to do it in 2023. I think if I'm going to do anything that is loyalty based or anything like that, I'm going to choose the bottle.

[5:18] I'm okay with spending money. You know, I don't mind spending money every single month at this place because they've supported me.
They, you know, they've done, they've given me great bottles, uh, aside from the, the monthly picks. And I just want to be able to walk in and choose what I want. So you don't mind them debiting the credit card. Not at all.You'll just come in and pick something for that.
Yeah. And I don't know if they'll go for that or what, but you know, whatever, but I'm just not going to do it. I'm not going to sit here with, with 12 bottles that I, I don't want.

[5:44] Uh, and, and they're just taking up space now. I don't know what I'm gonna do with them. So I've been giving them away as samples. I've been giving them to friends.
I just wanna be in control of what I'm buying. Because like you said, this is not a cheap hobby.
I wanna spend my money wisely, more wisely. At least if it's not wisely, it's your decision. Yeah, right. I mean, and not all the bottles were bad. And in fact, a lot of the bottles, I'm sure other people in the club love. So they weren't bad picks.
They just were bad picks for me. Right. So I just want to be more in control of what's on my shelf.
When you retrospectively look at that, would you have known those were bad picks for you?
No. And I think that was a benefit. But as the year went on, I started to- It was a trend? Yeah. Well, and honestly, I mean, the longer you and I do this, the podcast and the videos, I know what I like now. Yeah.
And I think when I first started doing that Whiskey Club, I was willing to experiment a lot more, because I didn't really have solid definitions of what I did and didn't like, now I do.
I do think too, we want to try new things, but part of knowing what you like isn't just knowing that you liked that particular bottle, it's being able to look at the match bill,
look at where it came from, think about the age, and go, that's not gonna be me.
Yeah, yeah.
And I think, you know, when I look back at all those bottles, I think, okay, there was probably.

[7:06] 10 bottles I didn't really like, one that was a pleasant surprise, and I've got one left in the year that I'm going to finish out the year and be done.
So, you know, that's one for 12, or one for 11 at this point, and not a good ratio.
Yeah, you know, I found something similar last year.
I guess it was 20, yeah, 2021, I was in a local club, and we didn't have to buy the picks.
It was kind of assumed you would, because it's an investment to do that.

[7:32] And as long as they stuck to Knob Creek's, whistle pigs, it's hard to pick a bad one of those.
You may not get something all that different or off profile or whatever you like, but it's not going to be bad.
But any time they strayed from that, I found the same thing. I kind of knew going in, but I did it to support the club.
I have a theory about that. I don't think this applies to the person that picks those barrels, but the person that mostly picked these barrels is well off.
And generally if he's just drinking from his collection, it's michter's 20 and it's happy this.
I don't think that's the person that should be going to pick a four year old locally produced bourbon. Right.
Cause I mean, their pallet's just adjusted for some of the finest whiskey you ever produced. How is it they're going to all of a sudden downshift and go, yeah, this is good. Right.
And universally, they were not good to me at all. So you think they were just kind of phoned in at that point?
No, no, I think he tries. He's a super nice guy. But his pal is just so far different from the daily drinker like us.
He'll post in the secondary groups, looking for a mick that's 25, six, seven grand, 20 grand. It doesn't matter.
Yeah. I think when that's what you're drinking and.

[8:57] Even if he says I like this, then I just think it's hard. It's hard.
How do you go from, once you adjust to that, it's the same way now. I mean, I think about bottles that I tried a couple of years ago, six, seven, eight, 10 years ago, and I didn't know what to do with it.
Now I try them and they're delicious. The palate evolves. Your tastes evolve relatively quickly.
So I think it's hard for somebody like that to back up and then go pick a five-year-old local whatever and actually find something that the people that don't have his palate or the luxury of drinking what he drinks to really enjoy it. And that's what I found.
I just can't. I want to support. I need to if I take up a spot in that club. I just can't.
I can't do that. The other thing I think buying smarter or being able to pick, I guess, is that it frees up money to buy bottles I know I like.
And, you know, I know you, you're out of Booker's at, at a hundred or 90 or whatever you decided was your number. Even though I just paid 110. Yeah.

[10:03] But shh, shh, shh. Don't say anything. But you know, for me, I like Booker's, I drink Booker's, you know, if in the,
hundred range, I'm still okay buying it 110, I'm on the fence, 120 I'm out for sure, but like, you know, if I'm not buying these bottles I don't want and spending $60 a month on something I don't want.
That to me is like, OK, if I see it on the shelf for $110 and I'm kind of like, oh, but I haven't, well, OK, if I haven't spent $60 on something else.
I think we all have that.

[10:33] I don't know what you call it. There's this band of pricing where we're, it's not no man's land, but we're in this area where we know we should be thinking more clearly.
$90 all day long, $120 no way. It's $30. It's $30. I mean, come on. It's like half a tank of gas. It's not nothing. It's money.
How does $30 stop that decision?
But if there was a handle a while, a turkey that was $30 instead of $40, you wouldn't flinch. You throw that on. Yeah.
I mean, I don't even think it takes that much of a disparity. I mean, I don't know if you saw it today. Metallica just launched a new single.
And it sounds like their old Metallica. And I'm like, yes, I'm going to buy the vinyl. I'm going to pre-order the vinyl.
It was like $33. I was like, okay, that's in my range. And then you add on shipping and then you add on tax. And I'm like, no.
Yeah. Yeah. But I think it's a good point. If you're not committed to something like a club where you're buying things that you had a poor track record with,
if I'm not watching the Sunday special and buying stuff that's on sale just packing it in the closet.
It seems like I should not worry quite as much about that. If the result of it is, I end up with something that's never disappointed me, like a bottle of Booker's, and maybe I paid more than,
you know, if 90 is still a no-brainer for me for Booker's, and I pay 110 or 120,
isn't that okay if I know how much I'm gonna enjoy that?

[12:00] Sure. Well, the other thing too is, I mean, of all the bottles between you and me, we drink together at least once a week, right?
Between the two of us, how long would it take to actually drink all the stuff we already own?

[12:14] Well, we still have a good supply the next time the summer Olympics start, 2024. We'd probably still be okay at the next winter Olympics.

[12:24] I'm thinking it's quite a ways off. We're probably at the point where all the car companies have promised to be all electric. So 2030 or so.

[12:34] We could drink for a good long while. Yeah, at the pace we're on, sure. So there's no reason to, I guess that validates my decision.
It was a good decision to stop buying the pedestrian whiskey till I drank all the pedestrian whiskey.

[12:48] I still hadn't drank it all. And the thing is I do the same thing with that stuff. I sip on it. Sometimes I just feel like whatever that is, I make cocktails with it.

[12:58] But I will still make a cocktail with the 60 or 70 or 80 dollar bottle of whiskey too. Because you know what happens when you use really good whiskey?
You get a really good cocktail. I don't feel like that's wasting. I feel like that's getting a really high quality cocktail. By the way, that I would never pay for in a bar.
Right. I would absolutely never. I mean, I'd be $150 cocktail. You could buy the bottle for that. Yeah.
Well, so here's another question. So we predicated our, so we do our monthly whiskey night with our friends where we all, the original concept was we buy an expensive bottle, pitch in, everybody pitches in,
we buy something we would never drink, because it's so expensive.
Where does that put us now, right? I don't know. Because last time we started discussing that for this month, like, we could spend $100 on a bottle.
And you and I looked at each other and went, we do that all the time. Yeah, exactly. What's special about that? And so I said, let's spend 300. And then the other couple were like, ooh, we can't spend 100 for our share.
Like, well, where does that leave us? We'll just bring what we got.
So I mean, that's the thing, right? So now we're at a point where have we ruined those pedestrian whiskies for ourselves? and have we basically priced ourselves?

[14:07] I mean, because we talk about practicality, right? Like we talked about, for years we've talked about practical to practical still. Like what bottles are not expensive that you can buy, they're attainable.
Have we priced ourselves upward?
We have, but I don't think we've priced ourselves upwards to the unobtainium stuff. Again, I'm not talking about only drinking $100 bottles of whiskey. I'm talking about having Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbons open all the time.
They're not treats, that's what's open all the time. And I don't think I dislike the pedestrian whiskeys. There's just, there is a little bit, I mean, there is an improvement in my mind over as much as I like Wall Turkey 101.
There's a significant improvement in that and a Kentucky spirit.
There's an improvement to a Russell's Reserve single barrel.
I want that improvement. It doesn't mean I won't drink the other ones. I'm just not gonna stockpile them. And when I need them, when I feel like I wanna handle a little of 101 for making old fashions and stuff and sipping over ice in the summer, I'm gonna buy it.
I'm not suggesting I never will.
It's just that I wanna focus more on what I really wanna drink rather than trying to save a few bucks.

[15:19] Yeah, and I guess the other question is, now we're looking at bottles that, our thinking is let's spend $300 on a bottle for our whiskey. That's a treat though.
Right, and that's a treat, right? But is there a point of diminishing returns? are we going to get that $300 bottle and then say, I could have gotten something else for $100.
That's usually been my experience. I haven't bought many $300 bottles, maybe three times, that I paid that for it.
And one of those times I paid for it, it was $120 bottle of whiskey. It's just they don't make it anymore. So you can't get it for $120 anymore. So one of the times I did that was Kentucky Owl Batch 8 Bourbon.
It was really good. It wasn't worth $325.
I would not do that again. But yeah, we're going to have that. And we're going to have the same experience.

[16:09] I mean, every $300 bottle of whiskey is not a good $300 bottle of whiskey. Some of them are just bad whiskey.
They just aren't tasty. Or they don't fit my profile. I think if I love Whistlepig 10, but if I bought that Whistlepig 18, it's got a high component of malted rye in it.
I don't typically like malted. I'm sure I'd be disappointed in that.
So the same things exist. It's just the stakes are higher. It's a much sadder event.

[16:33] When you spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle that's no good versus, you know, spend less on a bottle that's no good. Right, right.
The Cream of Kentucky was a bad experience. At least it was a $75 bad experience and not a $150 bad experience.
If you watch our Friday live stream, Friday Sips Live, every Friday at 2.30 Mountain Standard Time, you'll know that the Cream of Kentucky Bottled in Bon Rai was foul.
It's awful. It was just awful. And it was my least favorite bottle of the year. So bad that I keep it on the shelf as a reminder. It keeps pulling it out. I mean, why you keep it here? I'm not drinking anymore.
I think that's dangerous. That seems like that could really cause health issues. In vibing that?
Yes. Well, having it on the shelf, just seeing it and making myself viscerally angry.
But that's a good point. I mean, that's exactly the price point I'm talking about. I want to spend more time there. And I do think that's a practical thing, because I work hard.
I don't work that hard. It takes a lot of effort to get the money to buy that stuff.

[17:37] I'd rather spend 75 and really be excited about what I'm going to sip an ounce of on a Wednesday night than not.
But it doesn't guarantee anything. Moving up that notch, that's a perfect example. That bottle was $75 and it was undrinkable.
I mean, that bottle was my least favorite of the year. And that one made me angry that I spent $75. Usually, if I buy a $70.5 bottle and I don't like it, that's one thing.
This made me angry. This was a bad product. I felt similarly with the Hidden Barn Series 1, the very first one.
Yeah. I've never.

[18:15] As much as I've had a very few bottles that I really don't like, I've never thought to myself, I want my money back. I've been done wrong. There's no way the people involved in Hidden Barn tasted that and released it and thought that was good whiskey. I don't know what they were thinking.
They weren't thinking that. There's just no way. Right. Yeah. So I mean, I guess the takeaway is just be more purposeful about what we're buying this year. This coming year. So I'm staying on my train of, I'll buy, we'll call it pedestrian whiskey.
When I need it for something. Other than that, I'm gonna buy, and I guess by default that means I do not intend to stockpile whiskey.
And I have some examples of what was pedestrian whiskey at the time that I bought, not a lot of, six or seven bottles of that I have now that are now priced double that.
Henry McKenna, Bottle and Bond is a good example. You don't like that, I like it.
I like it a lot.
But my average cost on those eight or nine bottles is probably 30 bucks. And now, I mean, you hardly ever see them.
Some people are paying 100 for them. They're at least 50.
I'm going to start shopping here. Can I get a loyalty program here at your house? I think you already have one. But that does mean I'm not going to stockpile stuff. And I'm OK with that.
Frankly, I'm sure there are whiskeys for sale today that in 10 years will be like old wild turkey is now. It's very valuable.

[19:42] But there's not that many of them. I think we're experiencing a change in the whiskey based on the change in the crops.
I don't think the grains as flavorful as it was 20 years ago.

[19:56] I don't think there's a bottle right now that you're going to buy for 25 or 30 bucks that somebody's going to pay you $1,000 for in a few years.
I could be wrong, but I also know I can't time the market. I've proven that in multiple ways over the years.
So I just choose not to try and guess those. If I like something and there's a chance like the Stillers cut, I really like that. They said it was going to be a limited thing. It was a limited thing.
I have a handful of them left.
That's nice, but how often is that going to happen that you buy $20 bottles that you really wish you'd bought a pile of? Right, right. I mean, you got to invest in every $20 bottle that comes out to hit that big one. Yeah, or just have some kind of inside track that I don't have.
And I don't, I mean, I'm not much of a stockpiler except for Bookers. I mean, and even the Bookers, I drink them, you know.
So I don't have that, I get anxious when I see multiples on my shelf, except for Bookers, because I drink Bookers. Well, the only thing I really have now is the distillers cut, some McKenna, Bottle and Bond, and some Eagle Rare, and some Weller Special Reserve, and some Weller, some OWA.
This could go on for a while.
No, that's it. I think that's it.

[21:08] Yeah. I got a handful of Lagavulin 8s that when they first came out, they were always on sale and they're delicious.
It's funny. I brought it a Bottle of Eagle Rare to Thanksgiving this year and I opened it and everybody's like, oh, you sure you want to open that? I was like, yes. It's like a relief for me to open that. I have two more at home.I don't, like this is why I bought them.
Well, that's another good reason to not stockpile stuff. And again, I guess if I had the budget to go after things that really are valuable, that's different.
But it's the same reason I don't have beautiful art hanging in the house, cause I don't have that budget to do that.
So I think the best thing, the most practical thing to do is to focus on the whiskey that is very enjoyable.
It's just what we've been saying, that whiskey you can buy today on a shelf, pretty much any store, it's 80 or 90% as good as the stuff that seems unobtainium.
I still think that's true in a lot of, not always, but it's often true.

[22:05] But also, I mean, another key point here is that we went through this multi-year journey of tasting everything, you know, and that was useful for us.
Sure, it was enjoyable. Yeah, and so it's not to say that we did that and we're like, oh, you know, it was all Terrapin? No, I mean, that was a very purposeful journey for us. And we got to taste everything.
And now we know, you know, we know what our good investments are. We know now. Yeah, we know at this point in time, we believe those things. And even that said, we did a podcast a long time ago, the desert island brand. There's only one brand you could drink forever.
And I picked wild turkey.

[22:43] I'd stand by that. Yeah. Even if something happened and I couldn't buy $85 and $90 and $75 bottles, if I had to drink wild turkey and that was it, 101 even, I'd be pretty happy with that.
It's not the worst thing in the world.
I think I picked bean, but I think I would switch now to turkey. You didn't pick bean. You picked Barrell. You cheated.
Did I?
Yeah. I don't remember that. It was a good thing, but you know. It was a long time ago. We did say brand, not distillery.
Oh yeah, because he was putting out a lot of good stuff at that point. He still does. Yeah, but I haven't, I actually haven't bought a bottle of that in quite a while.
Well and that's that thing where maybe that 20 or 30 bucks has got me, but I found so many happy drinks at 50 to $80.
I'm having trouble spending a hundred, 110 on the regular basis. Now maybe in 2023 when I fully adopt this idea of let's just buy the stuff we enjoy, because I would sincerely love to have another bottle of Dovetail.
Yeah. That was delicious. Mm-hmm.
I see those occasionally. Yeah. And that seagrass is supposed to be tasty. There's a bunch of them.
I've only had half a dozen of those regular bourbon releases.
I love those. Some people don't, because there's usually a high Tennessee component to it, i.e. Dickel.
Yeah. But we like that. I like that. In fact, I opened a Dickel 15 for the first time in a long time, getting ready to share with some friends and it smelled really good. And so I guess it was.

[24:13] Saturday or Sunday at 11 a.m. I was almost sipping on a little, I haven't sipped bourbon before noon. I don't know if I've ever done that. I sure did that day. Yeah. Well, it wasn't bourbon,
Tennessee whiskey. Right, right. Yeah. It smelled good. I had my Dickel bottled and boned. I was drinking last night.

[24:31] In fact, yeah. Well, so better bottles, bottles we choose. I've never liked those box programs.
Yeah. Yeah, when you sign up and crap shows up at the house. So I'm with you on that.
Better bottles, bottles we choose.

[24:47] Don't stockpile stuff that's on the shelf that doesn't deserve to be stockpiled. Focus your efforts.

[24:53] That's the practical thing to do. And you open your damn bottles. Open your damn bottles. Yeah.

[24:57] We should make that a T-shirt. We should do that now. Let's do it. OK. This has been good. Thanks, Dan. Cheers.

[25:05] Music.