Up-Level Your Bourbon Collection Like a Pro

April 30, 2024
Up-Level Your Bourbon Collection Like a Pro

It wasn’t but a year or two ago I watched as a gentleman who was keen to get a bottle of pappy take to the secondary bourbon pages on a mission, to trade up.  I watched as he took from quite humble beginnings, and with more than a few friendly trades over the course of weeks had taken and turned a bottle of Buffalo Trace into an Old Rip.  I want to say there were north of twenty moves in this chess game of bottles sailing across the country in 1:1 trades, all benefiting the gentleman on a mission.  This had the same look and feel of a meme driven stock hurtling upwards purportedly with no real basis, but it was fun to watch and is probably not going to be something I see repeated anytime soon but it’s great to see the bourbon community come together to do good things.  Since you’re not magically going to put together twenty very lopsided trades and find your way to an Old Rip, this article is dedicated to how can you take what you have today and find yourself somewhere north of that tomorrow.

Step One Consider Your Goal

Bourbon is sought after the world over and it's important to think about your specific reason(s) or rationale for going on the hunt as this information will play an important role in informing your next steps.  Are you looking for the missing Parker’s Heritage bottle from your lineup?  Are you an investor and you see these bottles as a future opportunity to cash-in?  Or are you simply looking for something that you expect will be tasty and have your sights set on trying?

Trying new bourbons provides a great opportunity to expand your horizons and possibly really, really enjoy some good bourbon.  The price you pay for a bottle isn’t however always an indicator of whether it will actually even be something you’d enjoy.  I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointment a time or two back in the day for foolheartedly thinking price equates to quality.  You can turn to the web to read reviews from various talking heads of whiskey but what’s to say their palate is the same as yours?  If you’re looking for the most comprehensive and unbiased view in terms of finding something you’ll enjoy, you should consider joining our members only section where we have analyzed over 500 different bourbons based on their flavor intensity to help Bourboneur’s narrow down bottles they will actually enjoy based on the fruitiness, earthiness, spiciness and sweetness of any particular dram.

If you’re looking for the opportunity to cash in on what you see as a future boon in bourbon pricing, understanding more about the market and the drivers behind pricing is probably a smart move.  This year has started off frothy with the overall secondary market down approximately a bit more than seven points based on the Bourbon Blue Book™ Index.  If you’re going to use a crystal ball to predict pricing, you may be better off guessing at what’s currently cheap and may be more sought after in the future.

Either way, landing on a goal and a reason for the pursuit is key to charting your course.

Get Social

Much like drinking bourbon, the pursuit of leveling up your collection is best facilitated in a social setting.  You aren’t going to decide you want to get a bottle of Heaven Hill 18 and have it magically show up on your doorstep.  Similarly, the Google isn’t going to help you much either.  Countless Facebook groups and forums dedicated to the love of brownwater on social media do however provide a ripe opportunity to sow the seeds that bear fruit.  At the very least you have a whole community at your disposal who, like you, will be able to commiserate with the fact that hard to find bottles are so damn hard to find!  In truth however, these groups get you in the conversation.  You may hear tips about when a rare bottle pops up at a local store, find a great Bourbon article from Bourboneur you hadn’t seen previously, and increase your chances of landing a good bottle – maybe it will or won’t be what you’re after, but a score is still a score.

Make Some Trades

online trade safe exchange parking space

I have a lot of great bourbon, but I’m always looking to up-level or in other words to take two great bottles and turn them into one even better bottle.  There’s almost always someone you can find who has something that maybe they don’t love or have a duplicate of that is willing to let it go for the right trade.  Trades like two E.H. Taylor Small Batch bottles for an E.H. Taylor Single Barrel or two Blanton’s for a Weller Full Proof are easy enough and provide an equitable value to both parties.  Make sure you utilize resources like the Bourbon Blue Book™ which is updated weekly and captures what the current value of over 3,000 bottles of coveted brownwater are trading hands for on the secondary market.  If you’re going to make some moves, it’s best to do them in a way that’s whiskey wise!

Make sure if you’re meeting up with a random person you find a place that is public, visible and presents the least risk.  The last thing you want is someone running off with a prized bottle of bourbon finding yourself empty handed in the process.  I tend to try to make trades in local liquor store parking lots…added bonus, you can scope out the shelves and see if there’s anything exciting to be had.

Roll the Dice on Lotteries

Many distilleries and liquor stores offer lotteries, allowing you to put your name in the hat for a random chance at the opportunity to purchase allocated bourbon.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the more of these you have access to sign up for the higher your chances of landing something worthwhile.  Maybe you hate Four Roses – you should still sign up for their raffle however as there are plenty of people who love their bourbon and will be more than happy to trade a pile of different bottles for the one you were lucky enough to get hands on.  Pay close attention however, as many of the lotteries from distilleries require you to collect your prize in person.  A cross country trip to pick up a bottle may not be in the cards for everyone but could be a welcome opportunity to plan that trip to bourbon country you’ve been contemplating!    

Head to the Source

There’s not really a better spot to find good bourbon than the actual distilleries themselves.  The Heaven Hill Gift Shop, Buffalo Trace Gift Shop, etc. are well known for dropping a variety of hard to come by bourbons that can be purchased directly on site, and some exclusively so.  If you have the opportunity to put checking these out in your rotation, you should.  There are a number of Facebook groups stood up that are dedicated to keeping tabs on what’s being offered at various distilleries stores/gift shops, join the masses and make sure to subscribe to these pages to keep in the know.

Be a Little Greedy…But Only a Little

When you have the opportunity to land something exciting and you’re not limited to a single bottle, double down on your purchase and get two.  It’s not going to happen often, as most stores have strict policies in place generally that seek to maximize the number of folks who are able to access allocated bottles, but having a spare to either drink or trade off is a hugely valuable commodity.  Don’t be a typical tater however and buy out what the store has, being a little greedy is one thing but take that up a notch and you’ll get some genuine hate from what is truly a friendly and welcoming community.  But, if you want to catch some shade, by all means, buy it all up.

Remember, bourbon is meant to be drank.

Access Taste Data for Nearly 500 Different Bourbons

Unpackage complex flavor intensity data on nearly 500 different bourbons to find a pour you’ll love in our Members Only section, where you can sign up and then pin/add our site to your home screen where it will function much like an app, often referred to as a “web app.” The new web app will incorporate all the existing features available on Bourboneur as well as an expanded offering of tools and resources to help Bourboneur’s everywhere become whiskey wise. Want to keep up with Bourboneur, bottles drops and more?  Join our community of thousands by scrolling down and subscribing to our weekly email list – you can also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even TikTok.  Show us some love and give us a like on your favorite platform, or all of them and keep up with all the Bourboneur happenings!

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