When I was thinking about starting this website I knew that I wanted to get the voices of other whiskey and spirits lovers in the mix, but I didn’t want to just have a mishmash of random articles written by just anyone. So I instead decided to do interviews with other whiskey collectors I have met while immersing myself in this hobby.
First up is Mike from Whiskey Nowadays (bourbon and whiskey reviews and musings). I started following Mike on Instagram a couple months back and he does these live videos late at night where he’ll do tasting notes and chat about different bottles, and I just hopped in and started watching one evening. From there we started commenting back and forth and since he had recently completed a trip to Kentucky and become an Executive Steward of the Brand through Stave and Thief I knew he would be the perfect first interview.
First things first, so everyone knows where to find you, what is your Instagram handle and any other social media handles you may have?
I’ve been wondering what your handle meant, how did you come up with the name?
Whiskeynowadays is my fiancée and I’s favorite cocktail at a bar here in NYC. When deciding what to name our website we thought that it had a nice ring and I just added my name for social media purposes.
How did you get into whiskey, and what was the first bottle you ever bought?
I was always into whiskey going as far back as college. Vodka, rum, and especially beer never agreed with me, so I always brought a bottle of whiskey with me to parties so I knew I had something to drink. I got serious about my interest in whiskey when I started working in finance and needed something interesting to talk about over dinner and client meetings.I was always into whiskey going as far back as college. Vodka, rum, and especially beer never agreed with me, so I always brought a bottle of whiskey with me to parties so I knew I had something to drink.Click To Tweet
Most people talked at length about wine or craft beer which I still didn’t like so I took my love of whiskey to the next level. Now I work at a distillery, as a brand ambassador, run a website about whiskey and consult with bars as well as wine and spirits shops. The first bottle I ever bought was a bottle of Jim Beam white label.
Any fun bottle hunting stories? I hear New York is a tough place to find good bottles at a decent price.
When it comes to bottle hunting the easiest explanation would be Pappy Pappy everywhere yet not a drop to drink. By this I mean that we have access to all the rare and allocated bottles and they are all so plentiful (5 stores in walking distance with Pappy and BTAC) but everyone prices them so high they might as well be the Hope Diamond.
My best bottle score was two years ago when I got a bottle of the Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 year Lot B for MSRP and found out it was an old college professor of mine that owns the store. Since then he has become my connection for rare and allocated bottles.
If you had to give up all but three bottles in your collection, what would those three bottles be?
That’s really tough as I really do treasure a lot of my harder to get bottles and have a lot more I never let go completely empty.
I would have to say I would keep my first Van Winkle 12 bottle as it was the first allocated bottle I ever bought and is what I consider the bottle that started the obsession (hoping to get it signed by Harlan Wheatley at an event this month).
Second would be the bottle of William Heavenhill I purchased at the Heavenhill Bourbon Heritage center as it was the best bottle I bought on my trip to Kentucky and as a gift for passing the stave and thief executive steward of the brand course.
Lastly would be the bottle of wild turkey rare breed I got signed by Jimmy Russell while on my trip to Kentucky.
What bottle is your current favorite?
I’ve been really impressed with the 1792 225th Anniversary Edition. It has this amazing balance of caramel, vanilla, rich butter, and dark cherries.
What is one bottle you consistently find yourself recommending?
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. It shows that a bourbon can be really great even without an age statement. It demonstrates that you can have high proof without an excessive amount of burn that overtakes the flavors.
What is your favorite cocktail?
The Old Fashioned. It’s the epitome of a classic cocktail and can easily be modified to match the season, food it’s being paired with, or individuals taste.
What whiskey do you order when going out?
Four Roses Yellow Label or Rittenhouse Rye. Both are cheap and plentiful at bars here in NYC. I prefer to save my money for bottles I want to buy than to spend excessively at the bar.
I know you became an Executive Steward of the Brand through Stave and Thief recently, what is that program all about?
The program is all about learning more about bourbon and refining your sense to be able to better evaluate whatever whiskey you are tasting. It stresses bourbon history, regulations, lore, as well as working on the still and making the heads and tails cuts using the gauges to tell when to make the cuts and orienting your sense of smell to know how close you are.
The sensory training aspect also applies to critical and analytical thinking about whiskey. Evaluating what is in your glass what you are smelling, tasting, etc. but also the conceptual thinking of how you would work that into a flight or who would you serve that particular bourbon to.
Stave and Thief also has a lot of industry professionals attending the classes, and in my class alone I met employees from Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, Rabbit Hole, multiple bar owners and a few other bloggers and independent operators.
You just took a trip to Louisville and visited some distilleries, what was your favorite distillery tour?
That’s a toss-up between Buffalo Trace and Barton distillery. Buffalo Trace was great because of how iconic it is, and you get to see a distillery that is truly a titan of the industry and knows it.
Barton was great because we were the only ones at that time and got a completely private tour and were treated really well it was the biggest surprise of any of the distilleries and I’m glad we didn’t cut it from the schedule.
Any favorite bottles you picked up on the trip? Did you hit up any liquor stores, or was it purely distillery gift shops?
I bought a lot of bottles while I was down there but got most of them from local stores. Bourbon hunting is pretty tough down in Kentucky, and you seemingly have to go waaaaay off the beaten path to find some decent bottles.
From the distilleries, I bought the William Heavenhill 14-year-old bourbon and Elijah Craig barrel select from the Heavenhill Bourbon Heritage Center which are both amazing and right up there as numbers 1 and 2. The other great bottle was Joseph A. Magnus that I got from a local store out in Bardstown.
Everything else was KY only releases like Heavenhill 6 Year Bottled in Bond or Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond.
What is the one bottle you would add to your collection if you could, regardless of price?
Either a bottle of Blanton’s from the first year it was produced, or a bottle of Bookers from 1988 (the first year it was produced). If it wasn’t for the ingenuity of Elmer T. Lee and Booker Noe and these two products, bourbon might never have started to regain favor with consumers and bourbon as we know could be completely different.
Final question, would you consider yourself a collector or a drinker?
Both. I love to collect hard to find whiskey and add new and interesting bottles, but it is always with the knowledge that one day those bottles will be opened and enjoyed. At the end of the day, these are bottles of whiskey and are meant to be enjoyed not paintings meant to be looked at.
A special thanks to Mike for agreeing to be interviewed for the blog. Please take the time to go check out some of his posts on his blog, here are a couple of my favorites: