As I've said before, I'm sort of a newbie bourbonista. I love the stuff, and am learning about it rather quickly, but not without loads of help. You guessed it, I've got a bourbon sensei, Dominic from Tippins Market, or, as I like to call him, Captain Dominic. It really wasn't too hard to strike up a friendship with him. This is how I did it, step by step:
1. I didn't try to.
2. I liked bourbon, and chose to shop at Tippins for it because they have a great selection.
3. Every time I went in, I decided to try something new - and asked tons of questions. After all, there are so many bourbons to choose from! All of the Tippins guys were very knowledgeable about the products and helped me pick some great whiskeys.
4. After peppering them with questions, Dominic noticed that I came in fairly regularly and was adventurous about trying new things. He asked if I'd like to get a call when some of the expected barrel selections came in. Um...yes!!
5. I tried every barrel Tippins bought.
Bingo! I'd made a friend by this time. Captain is very good at remembering what I bought the last time and always asks me what I think when I come in the next time. He says he believes in bourbon karma, which amuses me, and would give me samples of things he thought I'd like. Smart move - I wanted all of them.
It's been fun knowing him - and the other great people who work there - because I always get the hot tips on what's coming in, what's coming to Michigan, and Dominic sends me endless articles to read so I can learn more. He has hooked me up with a few national and local bourbon groups. Through them I have learned even more.
What might interest you most is this - not only do I have this great friend, but the reason I have been able to get my hands on Pappy 20, Four Roses 125, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and Angels Envy Rye aged in Carribean Rum Casks in the past few months - without even trying - is because of this relationship. Dominic has just let me know what's coming and asks if I want it. He has offered me other things that I haven't been able to buy because, well, I'm not rich. I can't have everything.
People come in to the store who are far more knowledgeable than I to buy bourbon. People also come in who have heard of Pappy, for example, and want to buy it. Well, the truth is that unless you're nice, you might not get those rarer bottles you want.
Recall that I said I wasn't trying to get an "in" when I shopped there. I sincerely wanted to learn more. I think I'm pretty friendly and I always try to be kind to people. Certainly I'm not going to act like I know more about the products than the people who buy and sell them. And I make sure to say thank you. I thanked Dominic for the Pappy 20 and Four Roses 125 with samples of each. Karma? Perhaps. :)
Another way to get to try some of the hard to find pours is to make friends with someone in a whiskey group, like the ones I mentioned I've joined on Facebook. Plenty of people love talking bourbon and get to chatting about their collections. Next thing you know, they're meeting up to trade samples or taste them together. Win win!!
Cheers until next time! Remember bourbon peeps - be nice. It just might pay off!