Reid Mitenbuler Part II: Bunkering, Weller 12, Barrell Bourbon & Unicorns

Part II of my phone conversation with Reid Mitenbuler:

NBD: So what is your special occasion bottle, hidden in the back of the bar, so your friends don’t drink it when they stop by?

MB: For that kind of stuff I have the Stagg, the special stuff from Buffalo Trace. Thomas Handy, the old Hirsch, that kind of stuff.

NBD: That’s a pretty good collection.

MB: Yeah, but I don’t bunker though. I have a lot of friends that have dozens of bottles just filling up a closet. I went through a phase where there was a lot of stuff I wanted to try. So I had a million kinds of bottles that were half full, but then as prices started to get a little crazy and people started hoarding bottles… I’d be talking to certain store owners and they’d say that people would walk into the store and as soon as something would get released, they would buy a case. And that is the kind of thing that is causing a shortage. There isn’t a real shortage, bottles are just sitting unopened in the basements and closets of all the whiskey geeks.   Just sitting there, unopened, the shortage isn’t real.

NBD: I know exactly what you mean. I tried to get Weller 12, and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the area, I had to trade someone for it on Craigslist.

MB: Right, because people are hoarding it. Speaking specifically about Weller 12, I went to a few liquor stores and the owners would say that when they would get it in stock, some people would just buy all of it. It’s annoying. It feeds on itself. People have this mindset that when the good stuff comes in, it’s gone. It never used to be that way. A lot of old time whiskey geeks complain and talk about the old days. The Van Winkle Lot B used to be my Friday night drink, but I used to get it for $38 a bottle. And when you were finished with it, every liquor store had it. So what I did was stopped buying booze for a long time and just was drinking down my open bottles—plus we were moving so that helped. So I no longer have a huge collection. I fee like I disappoint people sometimes when they ask me for my favorite, as if I’m going to reveal some big secret. I’m not trying to be cute, but stuff like Old Grandad and standard Buffalo Trace is very good.

NBD: I tend to prefer cask strength stuff these days. Speaking of standard stuff, I had the Maker’s Cask Strength and I thought it was really good.

MB: I tried that shortly after it came out and it is really good. It has a pretty heavy punch to it, so I would definitely bring it down with a little bit of water.

NBD: It seems that most of the special release cask strength stuff is the hardest to find, like the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and I’ve seen another one on the shelf, Barrel Bourbon.

MB: Yeah, I’ve tasted a couple different expressions of Barrel Bourbon that I had at a tasting. I thought Batch #004 was great. It has the wine thing going on with the different batches like vintages.

In Part Three Reid will let us know whether he thinks Bourbon is in a golden age or a bubble….

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