I have been involved with barrel picks from multiple distilleries: Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Willett, Bowman, Smooth Ambler, High West, MB Roland. One thing they all have in common is you are almost always picking someone else’s reject barrels. Let me explain. The typical process is samples will be sent or if in person barrels rolled out. It varies but typically from 5 to 10 barrel samples are tasted for your pick. The barrel you select is then marked and set aside for later bottling. A new barrel is rolled in and the next group gets in on the process, picking from your reject barrels, just as you picked from the prior group’s reject barrels.
When you walk into a liquor store and see a private pick of a bottle on the shelf, sometimes the store owner/manager was directly involved in the pick by tasting samples. But plenty of times it is nothing more that the store telling the distillery to send them a barrel pick of xyz. In this case, someone at the distillery selects the barrel. Pulling and moving barrels from a rickhouse is lot of hard work; I’ve moved my share. Since barrels have already been pulled for the barrel picks, my theory is if a barrel has been rejected multiple times by groups doing tastings, those are the barrels that become ‘store’ picks.
As they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Whiskey Tater Reason:
51. You believe all barrel picks are superior to standard bottle expression.
3 thoughts on “Private picks vs store picks”
So do you think after each onsite barrel tasting they replace the old bung with a new one? Wouldn’t that be a subtle indicator as to the ‘recycled’ nature of rolling out the same reject barrels. . .just thinking and typing. . .cheers!. . .carry on
The replug the barrels with the old bung. Bungs can be reused.
I agree about the “picking other people’s rejects” point as well as the the fact that many stores will have the distillery select and bottle a barrel for them. But what you neglect to mention is that at most or all of those distilleries you mentioned, barrels available to be selected in the first place have passed a tasting panel, many times including the master distiller, before they are even eligible. Everything that doesn’t get selected is typically batched into the regular product, so there’s a better chance than not at a single barrel being more unique, different, or maybe even “better” than the batched version of the same whiskey. YMMV based on the people selecting and your taste buds.