You must be here for one of two reasons; you are a budding whisky collector or you know someone who is. In truth there are probably many other reasons you’d want to read a post about starting your whisky cabinet but I took a punt.
I’ve been collecting whisky since 2007 and have amassed around 200 bottles, 75 of which are still either full or in progress, the rest have been consumed, enjoyed, savoured, shared and now archived to be used as some kind of decoration later in life. But that’s another story.
In that time I’ve informally advised friends and colleagues on where to begin so have put together these five top tips for when you are starting your whisky cabinet.
1. Start small, see how you like collecting
I started just picking up a couple of bottles here and there whilst on my travels, assembling the bottles on a shelf in no particular fashion apart from that they were lined up together. Since those fledgling early months and years I have graduated twice, first to a second shelf and then, more recently, a hidden whisky cabinet built into a wall hidden behind a mirror in our bedroom.
2. Invest in top quality glass wear
I’ve dabbled in various ‘preferred’ whisky vessels over the years from a gorgeous steel mug that I thought was a bit special at the beginning, then a pewter whiskey tankard from the Bushmill’s Distillery in Ireland to the ever-popular Glencairn glass and now I only drink from a lead crystal whisky tumbler that used to be my dad’s.
Personally, at the beginning, I would recommend getting a few Glencairn glasses as, not only did the design win the Queen’s award for innovation having taken seven years to develop and design but it really does allow you to enjoy whisky with all the senses.
3. Don’t be afraid to open your bottles and enjoy
It took years for me to bring myself to open a few of the marquee whiskies in the collection as I perceived them to be too special to open, then I had a bit of an epiphany that there was no point collecting them without knowing how awesome (or rancid) they are. So nowadays they are all to be consumed, although the higher tier ones typically stay sealed but I will buy a half bottle to open and try so at least I’m conversant if asked about it.
4. Don’t be selfish with it
Whisky is great. Fact. You, or one of your nearest and dearest, loves it and the likelihood is that friends, colleagues and even clients do too so don’t be afraid to crack a bottle of the good stuff open if you have people round or give an interesting bottle of something to someone you think will enjoy it.
5. When you get more serious, make a point to keep a dedicated space
Just as with my cabinet built behind a mirror, when you get to the point where you have 20+ bottles of whisky you are going to need to be a little more serious about where you store your precious amber nectar as by now you will have spent a few hundred pounds on your collection so it makes sense to look after your investment.
BONUS TIP: Don’t stick to your tried and tested.
Make a point to try new things, new tastes, new brands and don’t discount anything. Some of the best whiskies I’ve tried have been unexpectedly great. Try not to form perceptions about whiskies you’ve not tried, they could end up being your favourites.
People tend to remember the people who opened their minds to different malts over the years, especially if the dram in question ends up developing into their favourite tipple. I can still remember who introduced me to Laphroaig 10, who I was with when I discovered Bushmill’s 12 for the first time and who I drank my first 30 + year old whisky with.
More than these five tips though, make sure you enjoy collecting whisky, try lots of different things, mix it up with blends and single malts and let us know how you get on.
What other tips would you impart to those getting into collecting?
What did you learn from starting your whisky cabinet?