Building your own whisky library

Whisky sample library
(Whisky samples from the shop for illustration purposes)

We all know the feeling: We’ve gone down to the dregs of a great bottle of malt and we wish we could preserve it. Well, why don’t we? It’s actually really simple to do so and there are two ways:

1: Some people always buy three bottles (or more). One to drink, one to keep and one to swap. This is the best case scenario but obviously doesn’t work for everyone given the massive investment, money-wise and in storage space required.

2: Just decant some into sample bottles and build your own archive.

Let’s explore the possibilities of option number two a little further:
Every time you open a new bottle of whisky, decant some into a small sample bottle. I recommend using fresh, quality glass bottles with tight caps and of 2-5 cl in volume. If you want to be double sure, seal them with wax, paraffin or Parafilm and store them in your own personal archive space. Do not forget to label them properly including the year the bottle was bought/filled in as they could end up being stowed away for decades. I really recommend filling the samples from fresh bottles because of the oxidation going on, especially once it’s been opened multiple times over the course of a few months or even years.

Well, now that we’ve filled our sample bottles, what do we do with them?
Well, I think anybody who’s been enjoying whisky for a number of years knows the discussions about whisky having been better way back when or about cask and batch variations and so on. While this doesn’t allow you to sample older whiskies right away it will present you with plenty of opportunities in the coming years and decades.
You’ve got the feeling the 15-year-old standard expression from distillery XYZ was much more fruity 10 years ago? Well, just pull that old sample from your archives and double-check. You want to taste five different single cask drams from one distillery side by side? Check your sample archive. You want to share the great malt you had to celebrate the birth of your child 18 years later together with your offspring? Pull it from your archive.

Building your own archive takes time, dedication and a bit of space. But I’m sure you’ll be rewarded in the long run. What’s your opinion? Do you want to build your own archive? Have you already started? Let me know in the comments section below.

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4 Replies to “Building your own whisky library”

  1. Hi Klaus,

    an interesting proposition, and one I’ve thought about too. So far, a decade into my mania I have not done any of this. Usually it’s nice to keep a sample around when you’re afraid of finishing the bottle. But in that case I think you’re just postponing the inevitable.

    When you want to do the comparison 10 years down the line, you still face the dilemma of finishing the sample or not. Tricky stuff, this!

    So far, I’ve decided to save the ends of bottles for a couple of months or a year or so and then have a kick-ass night with friends and end the bottles all in one go.

    1. Hi Sjoerd,

      thank you for your comment! I’m sorry it took a wee while to approve it – my mail server thought it was funny to mark the notification e-mail from my own domain as spam…
      I have to agree with you on several of your points. You can only prolong the inevitable with keeping a sample, that’s true but for me having one (or two) sample(s) for the future is better than having none. I’m thinking about Serge in this regard. He must be hoarding one of the world’s largest collections of whisky samples. He keeps them until one day he decides to use several for a comparison. Granted, we’re talking about samples here but if you look at how old many of his whiskies he reviews are, they seem to serve the same or a similar purpose as I am suggesting here.

      Keeping the dregs of bottles and finishing them off with a circle of friends sounds like a heck of an idea as well!

  2. Hi Klaus,

    Good article – would you have any recommendations on particular bottles best used for saving samples and where to find them online?


    1. Hi Darren, I got mine from a German supplier – the particular model was called “Marasca” – maybe this’ll help you track them down…

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