The Good Life: Saving and savoring

Steve Palec on Bourbon

Steve Palec

Have you ever heard the saying that there are two kinds of bourbon drinkers?

There are actually π kinds of bourbon drinkers. Or there are ∞ kinds of bourbon drinkers.

That first symbol is pi. The second is infinity.

I can grasp the concept of infinity. But pi, math equations, black holes and alternative universes give me a headache even on days I only drink water.

If I exist in an alternative universe, I don’t understand how I would know what to wear without my wife telling me. And while the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may have great acting, fighting and impressive effects, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

But I do know a lot of reasons people say there are two types of bourbon drinkers.

For example, some people like bourbon neat while others want a splash of water or some ice. Some folks are bourbon snobs who gravitate only to certain marks of distinction, while others will try anything.

There are bourbon aficionados who search for the unicorn bottles that are rare, special, expensive or as elusive as a Milwaukee Brewers World Series appearance. Their counterparts, on the other hand, will only spend a set amount that may limit them to the least expensive bourbon at Walgreens or CVS.

Some people can only drink their bourbon from a hand-blown crystal glass of specific proportions, while others could care less if you pour it into a red Solo cup.

What I struggle with is my belonging to one of the following two groups of bourbon drinkers: those who will polish off a bottle like there is no tomorrow, because they may never possess that particular bourbon again, and those who will not finish a bottle because they may never possess that particular bourbon again.

I think the first group’s strategy sounds very healthy (quantities of consumption aside). There are a lot of things to admire about people who seize the day, living for the moment, live each day like it is their last. Despite the elaborateness of certain bottles and the way the light glistens off the caramel-colored beauty of the liquid inside, what is the point of having a fine bottle of bourbon if it is not going to be consumed and enjoyed? While I can admire the nimbleness of a hoarder navigating their apartment in which newspapers are piled to the ceiling, I can’t disagree that there is something illogical about holding on to something just for the sake of holding on to it.

So, which category of bourbon drinking do I fit into?

The latter. When I find a bottle of bourbon that I think is exceptional, and I can’t imagine I am going to replicate that stroke of luck again, I am very, very, very hesitant to finish the bottle.

I’m not proud of it and I’m not sure why I have developed this trait.

I do know it is not about selfishness. I will gladly share a drink or two with whomever I am with…as long as there is enough to go around. But just like nobody watching a game on TV with friends wants to be that person that boorishly grabs the last nacho, I can’t bring myself to finish off a bottle that I am not confident is on the shelf somewhere I can easily find.

The proof is that you’ll see that my bourbon collection includes a lot of bottles with one or two pours left. Actually, you won’t see the ones with only a single pour left because I can’t leave it to chance that you wouldn’t be tempted to finish it when my back is turned. I’m firmly one of those two bourbon drinkers.

Steve Palec is chief marketing officer of Milwaukee-based commercial real estate development firm Irgens. ‘The Good Life: Steve Palec on Bourbon’ lifestyle feature appears regularly at

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