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Sample Roulette

Posted on by Eric Burke

There was a time, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, that I fell victim to a touch of hoarding. Whiskey hoarding to be exact. I had the urge to make sure I never finished a bottle. I had some vague thought that I might never have that whiskey again. And if I never actually finished the bottle, I could still have it anytime I wanted. 

Yes, I imagined the nostalgia I would have in the future for the time I was currently living in. If that is confusing for you, try living it. As part of my need to deal with my, then undiagnosed, anxiety disorder I decided that I was worrying too much about what was still in the bottles. And so I came up with the plan to set aside two sample bottles from each bottle of whiskey I opened. I told myself it was for the blog. It was for posterity. It was long term research to see if things changed over time. But I was really trying to put off that future regret and nostalgia. 

Since that time I have dutifully put aside two samples or more of each bottle I open. Unless of course, I already have samples of that in the library. I mean how many samples of Maker's Mark do you need?

Of course, after a while my worry about the future nostalgia waned. I've had a lot of different whiskies over the course of putting up two posts a week for the last five years. And, well, after a while you notice that there will always be good whiskey, and there will always be bad whiskey, and though the particular good whiskey you are drinking today might not be available in the future, another one will.

And so, after a while, I started forgetting to pour the samples. Or if I poured them, I decided to give them to friends instead. I used to fill two to three boxes per year. Last year I filled one, and hadn't yet started a 2017 box when a startling question popped into my head. What the fuck am I doing? Do I really need to take up all the space in my house with all these little sample bottles? I had eleven boxes full of bottles at this point and was working on the twelfth. 

So I decided to drink them. Initially, I just decided to do it roulette style. Open a box, pick a bottle, and whatever it was I would drink. This plan lasted until the first engagement with the enemy. My wife and I had agreed that we would share each one that we pulled. But that, for the first time, we would each pull our own. She pulled a sample of a Four Roses barrel proof, single barrel, gift shop release. I pulled Fleischmann's Rye. I believe that the words that came out of my mouth were: "I'm not drinking that shit!"

And so I immediately changed the rules. I decided that we were going to keep one sample of each for the blog, at least if there was the possibility of an interesting "now vs then" post. I mean I went through all the trouble to save them, I might as well keep the ones that might be interesting. At the same time, I'd pull out all the single barrel whiskies, the limited release whiskies, all those whiskies that I couldn't imagine a need to write about, and I'd set them aside to drink. I'd also go through and pull out all the shit whiskey too. I dumped those out. I mean there are good reasons why I might want the first batch of a craft whiskey to compare to the future. There is no good reason to sit on multiple samples of Old Crow. 

And to answer the question that my wife immediately posed...no I probably wouldn't have changed the rules if she had pulled the shitty rye and I had pulled the tasty bourbon. Sue me.


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