Friday, January 19, 2018

When Do We Have Enough?

One of the questions I see asked very infrequently in the spirits community is "Do I already have enough?" The almost unquestioned assumption is that more is always better. When individuals are receiving literal pallets of whisky, it's time to serious ask ourselves where the line should be drawn.

There seem to be a number of factors driving this unrestrained acquisitiveness, but social media is a major piece. Before ubiquitous internet connectivity someone who accumulated a significant collection might be able to impress friends or family after a fashion, but beyond a certain point they would have seemed, at best, eccentric. With the advent of spirits blogs, forums, Twitter, and Facebook groups, the bragging not only reaches a wider audience, but makes it possible to show off for a selective audience who will appreciate and validate increasingly large collections. During my time participating in online spirits groups, I have almost never seen anyone asking how people with vast collections will manage to drink everything they have bought, even when they reach a level where it becomes infeasible for the owner to consume everything during their lifetime. We're talking about collections that go beyond the hundreds of bottles and into the thousands. Many of those bottles owned by serious enthusiasts will be cask strength, representing upwards of 50-60% more alcohol than the standard 80-proof spirit and thus far more units of alcohol.

These online groups seem to create a cycle of validation where people convince themselves that their own acquisitiveness is justified by praising others who are doing the same thing. I have witnessed this go to astounding and genuinely harmful lengths, as some folks purchase spirits in volumes that negatively impact the rest of the life, all the while being praised by their peers. And much like the social pressure to omit negative opinions, there is pressure against questioning the volume of those purchases, even when they are clearly pathological. While some of it is the general caution of calling people out, it is also difficult when so many of us are following the same path to one degree or another.

Another major driver is the fear of scarcity. People hunt down 'limited' releases or buy cases of expressions they believe will change or become unavailable over time. But for many it's not enough to buy one bottle and enjoy it, they have to get as many as possible. For some that's to resell to the highest bidder, either to make money in general or to fund their habit. For others it's creating a 'bunker' to ward off the possibility that they will never again be able to buy good spirits at reasonable prices again. For others it's simply the ability to gloat at the 'suckers' who weren't bright enough or lucky enough to stock up.

The question we all need to be asking ourselves is how much we're really going to be drinking. Can we consume what we're buying in a reasonable timeframe without putting an undue burden on our livers? Do we host enough events to share our purchases with likeminded friends? There will always be more that you want to drink than you have time, money, or liver for.


  1. 2017 was the first year for me, since going pro in 2010, when I bought less than I drunk (both in number of bottles and $$). I'm planning to keep this path, so that in about 20 years I bring my stockpiles down to zero. My liquor expenses are down to 25% of their 2012 peak. I've been concerned for the last couple of years with this issue of not accumulating more than I can drink. Keep these sanity checks coming, thanks!

  2. Well said! Let's see how small I can make my collection this year. I'll either drink it, serve it, or give it away!

  3. What you've written is the psychological behavior of a "collector" independent of whiskey. However, because whiskey is consumable and perishable, the behavior deviates from collectors of non-perishable objects such as a guitars.

    The "joy" here is the ownership of an object (a bottle of whiskey) perceived as highly desirable by others driven by "expert reviews" and "limited releases". It's a tragedy. But I never contribute to the comedy via

    As my father taught me: if no one buys stolen goods, then people will steal because they "need" it (not accounting for aberrations). Don't patronize

    I drink and do mourn the ones I **LOVE** but can no longer acquire. My cabinet of 60+ bottles of whiskey is a side effect of NOT drinking the ones I don't like. So I throw a party and have old fashions for all my guests. Then back to square one.