Collecting Spirits for the Bottle Rather Than What’s Inside
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Collecting Spirits for the Bottle Rather Than What’s Inside

More enthusiasts are buying spirits collectibles for the keepsakes themselves.

Thu, Jan 20, 2022 11:15amGrey Clock 4 min

Collecting spirits is by no means a new pursuit. But these days more enthusiasts are buying spirits collectibles for the keepsakes themselves, as opposed to the liquid delights held within.

There are collectible decanters and unique bottle designs, limited-edition labels and artwork, and partnerships with fine purveyors of all manners of crafts. From the lovers of kitsch and those who enjoy completing hard to find sets, to the loyal aficionados of particular beloved brands, more people are collecting beautiful bottles and collaborations than ever.

An Old Trend Is New Again

Old Overholt, a classic rye whiskey brand, teamed up with Steinbach, a German manufacturer of fine wooden crafts, to produce a unique, highly limited run of nutcrackers. Fashioned in the likeness of Abraham Overholt, who founded the brand over two centuries ago, the nutcracker is standing behind a whiskey barrel and a sack of rye grain while holding a bottle of whiskey. The collaboration was tied to the holiday season this year, as a means of buying a whiskey-centric gift for a loved one that isn’t merely a bottle to drink.

“A collectible piece of craftsmanship like this offers whiskey drinkers an entirely new way to celebrate and display their love for the brand beyond a rare bottle,” says Bradford Lawrence of Beam Suntory, Old Overholt’s parent company. “To my knowledge, no other whiskey founder has been immortalized as a nutcracker like this, and so we’re thrilled to be able to offer a fun, new item for enthusiasts to seek out, get excited about, and show off to friends and fellow collectors alike.”

While an affordable brand might seem like an odd match for a premium collectible, it’s actually somewhat of a tradition within the world of American whiskey. Ceramic decanters of bourbon were all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s, with Wild Turkey and Jim Beam in particular releasing a litany of them. As journalist Aaron Goldfarb explained, the original idea behind them was to create an avenue to increase sales in the face of whiskey’s waning popularity in an era which saw vodka’s meteoric rise.

The tides have turned in recent years, and there are certain whiskey brands that have the opposite problem, a dwindling supply that can’t keep pace with fervent global demand.

That’s the case for Hibiki, the much sought-after blended Japanese whisky produced by Suntory Whisky. With several of its age-statement labels removed from the market due to that supply issue, one way it remains at the forefront for collectors is through the release of limited edition bottles. The 2021 limited edition of Hibiki Japanese Harmony features a flowing floral design, with 24 different blossoms depicting the 24 micro-seasons of the Japanese lunar calendar, atop the brand’s signature 24-facet bottle face.

Glenmorangie, meanwhile, released a limited edition of its 18-year-old single malt with a design from flower artist and botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto. He was inspired by Glenmorangie’s floral flavor palate and interpreted that taste into a piece of art with 100 blooms, including specific aromas from the whisky. The sculpture, dubbed Dancing Flowers of Glenmorangie, was photographed and featured on the label and gift box of the special edition Glenmorangie 18 Azuma Makoto bottle.

It seems like every major brand wants to get in on the fun. Angostura teamed up with specialty leather goods purveyor Clayton & Crume for a special cocktail kit in the form of a stylish leather dopp bag, with a number of handy accessories included. Standout cocktail bar Death & Co. teamed up with Jameson for a Cocktail Courier holiday kit which includes the Death & Co: Welcome Home cocktail book, bottles of Jameson Black Barrel and The Glenlivet 12 year old, and ingredients for several signature drinks.

Craft Goes Collectible

While large, global brands have a built in fan base that collects special-edition offerings, even smaller and craftier brands have been getting into the collectible arena. Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin released a limited edition ceramic bottle r with a style which reflects the oriental botanicals used in the spirit, such as gunpowder tea.

“With this bottle, our founder PJ Rigney wanted to pay homage to the traditional Chinese pottery that would have been used in tea ceremonies for hundreds of years—it was at one such ceremony that PJ first came across the gunpowder tea that sparked what ended up as the recipe for Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin,” says Conor O’Brien of The Shed Distillery. “If you look closely at the bottle you can see some iconic scenes from the village of Drumshanbo, as well as The Shed Distillery itself.”

With regulations for selling and shipping alcohol direct to consumers loosening up in many parts of the U.S., partially due to the pandemic, Westward Whiskey launched a first of its kind national members club. The Westward Whiskey Club was launched in 2019, but was extended across 30 states this year thanks to that shifting legal landscape. Members, who can opt to receive one or three bottles per quarter, receive exclusive club-only whiskeys with unique cask finishes, and bottles adorned with eye-catching metallic plaques.

“For some time now, we have received requests from Westward enthusiasts to engage with our brand and team on a deeper, more personal level, so we’re excited to offer them a platform to join our community,” says Thomas Mooney, Westward’s founder and CEO.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: January 15, 2022.


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Nothing stays these brokers from the swift completion of their appointed showings

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What is the worst weather you have ever had to contend with while showing a home?

Justin Fox, broker/owner, Re/Max Professionals, Cottage Grove, Minn.

In the summer of 2011, I was driving some buyers—a mother from out of town with her two young daughters, each under 6—to look at homes. The first two showings were uneventful, but as we headed to the third, we encountered a giant wall cloud on the road. I see wall clouds all the time, but for those not familiar with them, it’s a giant tower of clouds, and it’s very dark and ominous-looking, so it can be scary. My buyer, who claimed to have been some sort of weather watcher, started freaking out, saying things like, “That’s a wall cloud! It’s dangerous! We’re going to have a tornado!” That in turn caused the daughters to start screaming and crying hysterically. They were kicking so much in the back that they caused the threading of my leather seat to come loose. I did my best to calm them down, but then the torrential rain and thunder started, and that led to more screaming from the kids. Thank God we made it to the next house within 10 minutes. I pulled my car into the garage to avoid the hail, and we sheltered in the basement for 25 minutes until it lightened up outside. Then we went on with our showings like nothing ever happened.

Victoria Rong Kennedy, associate broker, the Corcoran Group, New York, N.Y.

I wouldn’t say this was the worst weather, but it was definitely the weirdest. On June 7, 2023, I had three private showings lined up at 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to show my listing on the Upper East Side, which was a duplex penthouse with three terraces listed for $3.3 million. That morning, Canadian wildfire smoke was blowing through the sky of Manhattan. They were telling everyone on TV and radio to stay home all day, and I kept watching my emails and texts, hoping that all three groups of buyers would cancel their showings, but no one did. By 1:30 p.m., the sky was really dark. There was almost no visibility, but, still, there were no cancellations. At 2 p.m., I searched for an old Covid mask, put it on and walked out like a hero to go on the combat field. I could barely see anything a half block away, but I walked 11 blocks and two avenues and managed to get to the building. Well, all three groups of buyers and their brokers showed up on time. We all chatted about how strange the weather was. We put our masks back on when we stood on the living room terrace, which overlooks Billionaires’ Row, but we had no visibility. The sky was red and black, and all we could see was a small circle of light in the sky. It looked like the moon behind heavy clouds. It was like a scene from a movie.

Jeffrey Decatur, broker associate, Re/Max Capital, Latham, N.Y.

Living in upstate New York, I have experienced all kinds of bad weather—snow so deep it was up to my thighs and rain so hard that I wished my shower had that much pressure. However, the worst took place in April 2017, when I was showing a home in Waterford, N.Y., a suburb of Albany. It was during a late-season blizzard that came on fast, and there had to be about 2 feet of snow. The home had a normal-size driveway, but it was a foreclosure and was not shoveled. So, my client and I trekked up the crunchy, snowy driveway and eventually got into the house. As we were walking around, complaining about the Arctic blast and blizzard, I heard the sound of babbling water. I thought it was a fountain, so my buyer and I continued to walk around the house. As we moved toward the garage and family room, the babbling got louder, and as we headed for the basement, we saw that the pipes had frozen. The basement ceiling had fallen, and water was pouring in from the ceiling and the walls. The floor had about 3 inches of water and ice. I called the listing agent and left a message, but I couldn’t just leave the water running, so I waded through the freezing cold water in the basement and turned the water off. I didn’t really think that through, because I was drenched and then had to make my way back through the house and out into the blizzard again. When I opened the front door, I nearly froze immediately, and by the time I got to the end of the porch, I was crunchy and icy. When I got to my car, parked at the end of the driveway, my hair was frozen to my face, and I could barely bend my legs or feel my hands. I was walking like the Tin Man. It took me several hours to thaw out.

——Edited from interviews


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