Deciding if a Bourbon is "Worth it"
Consumers will always debate whether certain bourbons are "worth it." It's a legitimate question. Every time you buy a bottle of whiskey, you give something up. Is Very Old Barton worth $11? I think so. Is Michter's Celebration worth $3,000?
While the determination is ultimately a personal one, below are the factors that go into our "whiskey worth" calculus.
We wouldn't write reviews if taste didn't matter. When you stand in a liquor store and google "Yellowstone Limited Edition review," it's because you want to know if it tastes twice as good as Yellowstone Select. You want to know if it's well-made and aged. When looking at straight bourbons and ryes, balance is key. For unique offerings, like bourbons finished in wine, beer, or rum casks, balance becomes less important than yumminess. If a blogger we trust says a whiskey tastes good, it's well on its way to "worth it..."
Prices have increased dramatically in the last 6+ years. KDA still defines the "super-premium" category as $30 or more/750mL bottle, which is clearly outdated. The new "worth it" threshold is about $70-$100. For bourbons in that range, we obviously look at secondary prices. For example, Parker's Heritage Collection Wheat Whiskey had an MSRP of $100. Secondary prices crept into the $400s. We found it for $215. Worth it? Based on aroma, flavor, and price, we'd say hell yeah.
3. Product Information
Most companies understand that transparency is good for business. Unless prohibited by contract, why wouldn't you tell consumers where you sourced a whiskey, what its mash bill is, where it aged, and what a blend may consist of? Many consumers want to know those details. For those who don't care about product information, they probably only care about factor #5, below.
Nothing is more annoying than when a new NDP claims their sourced bourbon was inspired by some centuries old family recipe or a dead relative who surveyed the Oregon Trail. It's one thing for Jim Beam to exaggerate Basil Hayden's role in developing a high rye bourbon recipe. It's another thing for a 2-year-old distillery to bottle 3-year-old MGP and market it as if it's based on a 100-year-old family recipe. When you consider that many of the products that fit that description are $60...they're not worth it.
5. Wow factor
Instagram is cool. Some $100+ limited editions whiskeys are very photogenic. As all of the g.d. flippers say, "the value is in the collectible container and not its contents."
6. Shelf space
I don't bunker or hoard like some of you weirdos out there. I don't have room for 45 bottles of Elmer T. Lee. When deciding whether Uncle Bob's Root Beer Flavored Whiskey is worth it, I have to consider what it'll bump on the shelf.
7. Relationship capital
Happy wife, happy life. She understands when I drop $400 on a bottle of Pappy 15. She would not understand if I dropped $4,000 on a bottle of Pappy 15. I recently picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. She pointed to the fact that I already had that bottle. My response was that I had Batch 7...and I needed Batch 9. Call that a withdrawal from the marriage bank.
What other factors go in to your calculus?