Comhrá Fuisce: Q&A Series 2nd Edition

Welcome to comhrá fuisce. For those unfamiliar with the Irish language it’s translated to Whiskey Conversations, pronounced ‘co-raw’ ‘f-wish-kah’ and it’s a place where we discuss everything whiskey. This series focuses on various topics in the whiskey industry posted as questions or statements. Myself and Larry will provide our views on the statements and we encourage everyone to get involved, and who knows maybe you’ll be on the next one! 🙂

Statement: Whiskey is meant for drinking, not collecting, and certainly not for the feckin’ flippers!

There are strong words exchanged between collectors and drinkers.  I suggest they are brothers (and sisters) of the same family.  How many collectors  get into the pursuit of bottles without ever enjoying a dram? None that I know, anyway. How many professed drinkers have a special bottle, unopened for a special occasion, sequestered in the closet or proudly displayed on their shelf?  

Eventually all bottles are opened (or sadly broken, evaporated) or they may be sold to another to open it or not.  While saving is likely for old or expensive bottles, the opening is inevitable.  I can say this now, and you would have a difficult, if not impossible, task to prove me wrong because the future is, well, the future.   The argument is on my side and here’s why; consider how many bottles you have seen from 100 years ago, even 50 years.  There’s really not that many left and the number goes down every year.  There may be a chain of sales of a bottle and then someone generations later will have the benefit of this chain of stewardship.  There just aren’t very many old bottles left and I would say it is just a matter of time until those are opened or sold or evaporated. 

ALL BOTTLES ARE OPENED, EVENTUALLY

Larry

This has to be one of the most common phrases used in online whiskey communities. It’s there whether people are posting about their collection, asking what people think of their purchases, or what they should drink that night. 

There are times this gets heated, and honestly almost popcorn worthy, and it’s usually when there’s a new highly anticipated release and it’s either a high priced whiskey, or sold out quickly. The funny thing is, when you keep an eye on multiple releases you’ll see some of the same people giving out about people flipping whiskey on releases they don’t obtain, and go ahead and flip the ones they did that make a huge return. 

Ultimately, I think that the whiskey community and economy needs drinkers, collectors, and flippers. Drinker’s are of course the first line of feedback for the producers, if you don’t have drinkers, you might have a shite product, because nobody has tasted it! Drinkers also contribute to the sustainability of the company, as they could repeatedly buy the whiskey if they enjoyed it when they finish a bottle and will recommend it to friends and family when they’re sharing a drink with them.

Collectors are also part of the sustainability aspect of the brand. One, they will buy every release to keep their collection complete, or will search for those on different groups or auctions, which spreads the name and may pique curiosity from others about that brand/release. Often times the collection will also be displayed proudly in the home, and any visitors to the home will know that brand going forward giving it a sense of prestige and something to aim for with whiskey.

Now, for flippers, why do we need them you ask? That answer depends on what your definition of flippers is, whether it be people who buy anticipated releases for the sole purpose of selling within the next x days/weeks or if there’s a certain amount of time after buying that is acceptable to sell without being deemed a ‘flipper’. Or perhaps its people who find whiskey in the wild that they know is rare/sought after and then ultimately sell that on to a collector or drinker that really wants it but can’t find it. They offer another outlet to collectors and drinkers to get tough to find whiskey and make it more accessible to them (in the second scenario). 

The way I see it, buying any whiskey is going to be a risk if you are in it for the money but it’s not as black and white as the phrase makes it out to be. That’s why I’m a firm believer in buying whiskey with the intention of drinking, because if you go to sell in 3 months, a year, 5 years, who knows what it’ll be worth if anything, but at least you’ll enjoy drinking it! Why not be a drinker, collector and a ‘flipper’ in one swoop?

Carl, The Whiskey Companion

The collectors that I know both sell and open bottles.  There are a very small few who refuse to ever personally sell bottles. Those bottles will be left to their heirs. The recent “perfect” collection from Mr. Gooding has generated record online bids.  His entire collection is being sold online although I suspect his heirs may have either opened a few or at least enjoyed a couple of the bottles at his private bar.  I will say again
ALL BOTTLES ARE OPENED EVENTUALLY

When we buy a bottle we are reserving the right to have it in the future and open it in the future.  Or our proxies or heirs get to open it.

Now let’s bring up the elephant in the room.  The producers or distillers.  The largest in Irish Whiskey is certainly Midleton.  While the core range products ship millions of cases this discussion is about the rare and limited bottles that make the fans and collectors crazy.  The best example of this would be a fairly recent release, the “Dream Cask” of the last three years.  The producers can do a lot to reward their fans by various ballot schemes. The first 2 Dream Casks were sold through a member only website, which was fine but the second release sold out in a couple of minutes, leaving all involved angry about the process. They tried to rectify this by having an open ballot, where everyone who signed up to the site could enter the ballot, no pre-requisites needed such as length of time being part of the birdhouse (which was used since the first release), or previous purchases.  I have wondered why wouldn’t some sort of previous purchase of a bottle be a good prerequisite for a ballot entry?  If anyone has an idea to make the sale of limited release bottles a better proposition for all concerned please comment below.

I feel that the disdain for bottles not immediately being opened comes from is grist for another day.  I believe collectors and drinkers are mostly one and the same.  Trying to divide them is a red herring.  Helping collectors to make good purchasing decisions aids the drinkers too.  Flippers are merely arbitrage that can occur anywhere in the economic system.  Consumer education and transparency in the market will help keep that profit margin small, if that’s what you’re worked up about.

Larry

Interesting point about the producers Larry, definitely a huge part to be played by them. The rarer the whiskey, the more attraction garnered by whiskey fans is how I’ve seen it and as long as the release is as fair as it can be for fans, they are doing their job for these releases.

So, there you have it, do you agree that all whiskey will be opened, eventually? Are whiskey ‘flippers’ a pet peeve of yours? Or do you think there’s a need for all 3 of theses type of whiskey consumers? Let us know in the comments your thoughts.

Sláinte

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