Whiskey Hunting: A Passion or Obsession?

The answer to the question in the title depends on whether you ask me or my wife. Because Star Wars 7 is being released this week I do not feel bad about quoting one of everyone’s favorite Jedi Masters, Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

My view is that if I have the time, and I like it, it’s fun and enjoyable.  I do admit that I have too much alcohol in the house, but I don’t plan on drinking every bottle… A lot of hunting involves finding multiples of rare or great bottles to use in trade.  My wife’s view is that I get more excited about scoring a great bottle at the retail price than most other things I am doing.  She may be right about that, but when nothing at home is good enough, being able to find a great bottle at well under the bottle-spot price, is a tangible victory.  The truth probably is somewhere in the middle, and I probably need to pare down the collection a little bit.  It’s too bad she doesn’t enjoy them.  I probably should also cook dinner tonight, make sure the house is clean, ensure our nine month old has a clean diaper and maybe even buy some flowers… but enough about my problems…

Off to my hunting finds… I was in San Francisco for a couple days last week as my wife had a business trip and I decided to take advantage of the free hotel room and come out a day before her trip ended, see a client, and spend the afternoon going to different liquor stores.  We also had an amazing day in Napa the following day, where we visited Checkerboard Vineyards (Amazing Vineyard, email Ingrid to set up a tasting!), Ovid and Joseph Phelps (join the club, great value) in addition to having the best lunch of our lives at Keller’s French Laundry.  Worth the price in every way.

In San Francisco, I had almost no luck in the Financial District, as I did find a bunch of pappy, but when retailers are trying to sell their ORVW for $500 a bottle, I know I needed to find a different strategy.  I did find a Scottish shop selling all sorts of Scotch and Indian whisky, so I bought a bottle of Amrut cask strength, as I really enjoyed that bottle in DC when I was there a month ago–maybe I will re-rate it in a couple months.  My luck changed when I moved to the seedier neighborhoods south of Market St on 6th St.

I’ve noticed that although liquor stores in bad neighborhoods generally have lesser stuff, more often that not, you will find the one store that has some amazing items sitting around because their clientele won’t pay the price.  At a couple stores like that I managed to get a few BCBS Ryes, Barleywine, one Rare, a 4-pack of KBS and 3x EC18s.  I also found a couple dusty pre-merger Suntory Whiskys in the original box–no clue about their value, but I’m sure it’s a lot more than I paid.  I also found a handle of Canadian Club with a 1980 tax stamp on it–not an amazing bottle, but 1980 is my birth year, so I’m always partial to distilled dates or tax stamps bearing the number.

While in Napa we did buy a few bottles of wine, but at a little grocery mart I was able to find a few more bottles of BCBS Rye and 2x coffee.

So below is a photo of my proud stash.  More beer than whiskey on this trip, but amazing beer aged in Bourbon barrels, and not easy to find.

So… do I have an obsession?  Probably.  Is it a passion though?  Definitely.  I do realize that wanting to go into every liquor store I ever drive by may not be the healthiest of instincts, but you never know when you might uncover than amazing bottle that you don’t have.  If you don’t go into the store, you’ll never know.  May luck and the Force be with you.

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