Store Picks 101
Let’s face it, we have all been there. You walk into a liquor store and you are browsing the shelves filled with bourbon. After an undetermined amount of browsing, the store owner heads your way and asks if he or she can find something for you. In my early years of bourbon hunting, I would usually reply with “What do you have that is good?” In quite a few cases, the store owner will start their pitch of selling you their “personally selected bourbon” they have on display. They possibly even offer the same bourbon that is not a “personally selected bourbon” which puts us, the consumers, at a decision point.
Let’s assume we have no previous experience with store picks and we are then put on the spot to make that decision: “Personally selected bourbon” or the tried and true regular version? Below is basic store pick information that may help you choose wisely.
What is a store pick? – A store pick is a private barrel whiskey selection made by the store owner, staff, or outside group (think bourbon club or Facebook group) of a single barrel of whiskey. Offerings that normally are blends of different barrels (1792 Full Proof, Old Forester 100 Proof) then become single barrel offerings.
How can I look at a bottle and tell it is a store pick? - All bottles from the barrel are labeled with an identification tag on the bottle, in addition to the manufacturer’s labeling. Often the group selecting the barrel will also name the offering a creative name. The default is to use the store name but recent trends show creativity in naming the selection. Recent bottle names I have seen include Glazed Donuts, Big Poppa, Rickey Bobby, to name a few.
Are single barrel picks better than regular bottles? – It depends on a number of factors including maturation of that single barrel and the flavor profile from it, palette of the group choosing the barrel, and as always your own palette. In a future article I will discuss tips on vetting store picks and stores offering them.
How much more expensive are the store picks? – Price usually depends on the store you purchase the bottle from. Typically, the bottles range from $5-$10 more per bottle. In some instances, the price does not change. It is a rare occasion that I have seen a store pick with an outrageous price tag compared to its normal counterpart.
Where can I buy a store pick? – Store picks are becoming increasingly popular. Allocated bourbons are harder and harder to obtain for a fair price and the hunt for those become exhausting. Bourbon drinkers are now seeing the value in finding and requesting solid store picks. If your local doesn’t offer store picks you can ask the owner if they have attempted to obtain barrel picks from their reps. You may also search other stores in your area. There are select restaurants and bars that carry a package liquor license who also have started selling their barrel selections at the restaurant. Bourbon forward bars and restaurants is where I look.
In a future article, I will explore the tips and secrets on how to ensure you are purchasing a solid store pick and will answer any questions from this article.
Store picks and barrel selections are popping up at liquor stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, and bourbon clubs and we would love to review your barrel selections in this column.
If you have a sample you would like me to review here, please shoot me a DM on Twitter (@BourbonWes) or email me at email@example.com