The "Store Pick" Fallacy
It should come as no secret that we here at Bourboneur, and by "we," I mean "I," are...or rather, am, really into bourbon. Bourbon kind of snuck up on me from what feels like out of nowhere! One day I had a couple bottles of fairly unnoteworthy bourbon hanging around, interspersed with a bunch of other random liquor and the next I had a whole garage bar full of bourbon. Part in parcel with that giant buildup of brownwater comes the desire to buy more brownwater. Hello, my name is Nick Owens and it's been fourteen days since I've bought bourbon. THAT'S TWO WEEKS!
The fact of the matter is that I love trying new bourbon, dissecting what it is I'm tasting and taking in a dram with whoever happens to be bellied up to my bar in the garage. Bourbon is a community spirit, a drink that is by its very nature meant to be shared and from which conversation naturally flows...and the more you drink the more conversing happens. So, let's chat about store picks...
What is a Store Pick Bourbon?
I got a text last week from Bob, a liquor store owner of a small joint down the road from me alerting me that his Elijah Craig barrel proof store pick was in. The store pick concept is such that in this example, Bob's liquor store approaches the distillery or distributor of Elijah Craig wanting to provide their customers (me) an exclusive bottling and buys a barrel after either travelling to the distillery to sample, tasting samples through a distributor for purchase, or less common, simply buying a barrel outright without sampling it. Store picks usually have some form of identification, usually in the form of a sticker on the bottle or identifying labeling that signifies the uniqueness of the bottling.
Are Store Picked Bourbons Better?
In my garage bar "bourbon library" is a store picked bottle of Eagle Rare. It's a somewhat special bottle to me, as it's a store pick from my hometown liquor store which is about a fourteen or so hour drive away, having moved away some years back. The joint is a drive through liquor store in a college town, but it's where I got my first, second, and third bottle of Pappy - all at retail - and for that reason it will hold a special place in my heart - not the best pour I have on the shelf, but one of the more difficult to come by. I digress. So, I think that many folks will agree that for the money, and if you can find it, Eagle Rare is a solid bourbon and there isn't a ton of things that compete with it at 10 years in the wood and that price point. So, my store picked Eagle Rare has to be "plus, plus" right? All the nos. It's a terrible pour, and I've limped along drinking that bottle. It bares little resemblance to the Eagle Rare I know and love, this dram is spicy and harsh and stays with you like your shadow midday. Not all store picks are created equal and if you find someone who does it well and their taste in bourbon aligns with your taste, you may be onto the start of a beautiful relationship. You may end up however with a dust collector or a future mixed drink "elevated rail" bottle. It's a roll of the dice sometimes on store picks.
What has your experience been? Put your thoughts in the comments and share with other Bourboneurs. Not a Bourboneur yet? Navigate back to our blog page and sign up for our weekly email by clicking here. While you're there poke around and find all you need to know (and then some) about popular bourbon brands, bourbon knowledge and more. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for updates, contests, and special bourbon features.