The art of collecting is one that has engaged humankind for centuries, whether it be coins, stamps, art, fine wines or indeed whisky. Many of us will have indulged in buying whisky over the years, but have you ever really collected it? For some their love of whisky came at first sip, for perhaps more it came on the second or third, regardless once the spell is cast it’s hard to shake.
For anyone who may think that whisky collecting is just related to buying the very oldest, rarest or most premium of releases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whisky collecting is about buying whisky to satisfy a collecting goal. Whether as simple as collecting every release, past and present from your favourite distillery or searching out whiskies that are the same vintage as your birth year - collecting goals are absolute. Over time that goal might change or become more nuanced as you explore and learn more about whisky and the history of the industry. A collection can also satisfy more than one goal - bottles you secret away for special occasions, go-to sipping drams you share with friends and bottles that you mark as ready to appreciate the long game.
Taking the plunge from whisky enthusiast to whisky collector isn’t as daunting as you may think. Below we have compiled a few pointers for beginning, and getting the most out of, a hobby in whisky collecting.
WHERE DO I EVEN START?
Take every opportunity you can to expand your knowledge and learn about whisky. Read books, online blogs, visit distilleries or attend whisky festivals, the more you immerse yourself in whisky, the more it will open your eyes to discovering the enormous number and variety that is available to you. That is the exciting thing about collecting whisky, the avenues and opportunities are endless as the vastness of expressions, past and present unfold before you.
A lust for learning is one of the most common traits amongst collectors, alongside an all-consuming dedication, enduring passion and personal connection to their collections.
A BUDDING WHISKY COLLECTION…
Starting off a whisky collection is simple and beginning with your favourites can be a great place to start. Add whiskies to your collection that you know you like, you probably already have a few of these in your drinks cabinet anyway. Your budding collection is also the perfect way to explore new whiskies that you haven’t tried yet but are interested in tasting - collecting and drinking are not exclusive pursuits!
If you’re looking for some inspiration on collecting goals, here are a few ideas:
- As mentioned previously, collecting expressions from your favourite distillery can be a good starting point but if you want to refine your goal further you could focus on single cask examples, limited editions or distillery exclusive bottlings.
- Seek out specific vintages, perhaps that have a special meaning for you or even look to collect consecutive years from the same distillery range that could offer a fascinating comparative tasting opportunity in years to come.
- If you’re looking for something a little quirkier, collecting independent bottlings offer the chance to discover whiskies which we would likely never of had the opportunity to appreciate otherwise
- Closed distilleries are always a popular whisky collecting avenue as they offer the chance to experience liquid produced from a bygone era. These bottles can also be extremely rare and can pose an exciting challenge to chase down.
Of course there are no shortage of interesting bottle series from various distilleries that can provide a straightforward and satisfying collecting goal. The most important thing is do not limit yourself. At the beginning of your collecting journey it’s important to embrace the diversity that whisky has to offer and explore its many facets. Collect broadly to begin with and allow your collection goals to evolve as your interest and knowledge develops.
STORING YOUR COLLECTION
Find somewhere to store it, you can keep your whisky preserved in these optimal storage conditions:
Rule #1 Keep your whisky away from bright light
Avoiding light (especially sunlight) is critical for whisky storage, ideally whisky should be stored in darkness to prevent light from affecting its quality over time.
Rule #2 Minimise temperature changes
More important than achieving the perfect °c, is ensuring no rapid temperature changes. Big swings in temperature can negatively impact your ageing whisky. The ideal temperature is said to be just below room temperature (15 – 18 °c).
Rule #3 Store your whisky standing up
It’s important to store your whisky bottles upright to avoid contact between the alcohol and cork. Contact can cause the cork to degrade and impart unfavourable flavours to your whisky.
KEEP A CRITICAL EYE
As your collection grows it is worth taking the time to cast a critical eye over its contents. The difference between impulse whisky buying or hoarding and a collection is curation. Consider if the bottles in your collection meet your original goal, or whether that goal has in fact changed over time. Ask yourself what do you want to hold onto? What do you want to drink? You might end up with multiple different collections, as you deem one complete and start on another. At this point, it can be helpful to categorise your collection or collections as they grow, recording information that might be forgotten over time. Where did you source the bottle? Did it come with any provenance? How much did it cost? Does it have an interesting backstory? This information can help enhance your collection over the years and can be useful if you decide to sell part or all of it in the future.
This point of your collecting journey is about self-reflection. If you want to constantly improve and enhance your collection it is important to reflect on your goals and curate based on your unique tastes (these will likely evolve over time). A collection should be authentic to what you love, a reflection of your personality and passion for whisky.
ENJOY THE PROCESS
Embarking on a whisky collecting journey requires time, effort and dedication but it’s worth it. More than anything the most important point of collecting is to enjoy the process. Find your passion, take your time, and hold on – a whisky collection is not built overnight. Remember to explore as much as you can, try different things and learn from every whisky you sip and every person you meet. It’s a journey of discovery, and in time each bottle will hold a special story that chronicles your journey through whisky collecting.