Some Bottles go to Heaven. Others Don't.

This article originally appeared on Bourbon & Banter on October 19, 2016, and can be found it its entirety here.

You’ve poured yourself that last little bit of whiskey from the bottle. Now that you’ve savored that final drop, the empty bottle is standing on the table next to you. What do you do with it? Most people might look at the empty bottle and toss it in the trash. Wait a minute; you’re a responsible citizen. You don’t just throw it in the garbage; you put it in the recyclable bin, right?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know whiskey is enjoying a huge resurgence and boom, particularly with American whiskeys. Big-name labels that sat on the shelves forever just a couple years ago are now almost impossible to find. There’s an extensive black market out there to “assist” in redistributing wealth – meaning, some areas of the country see a more significant number of these precious bottles. Others won’t receive much if anything at all.

Try to find Elmer T. Lee, Old Weller Antique, or a handful of other labels, and you’ll leave the store disappointed. Want BTAC or Pappy? Give me a minute to stop laughing. Go online, though, and you’ll see many people offering to trade or sell these bottles.

This brings me back to your empty bottle. There are bad people out there who make a big business selling counterfeit whiskey, whether that’s Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, or whatever. It all starts with your empty of what was once bottled liquid sunshine. Those bad people I mentioned search online for the necessary components to “rebuild” that bottle. For example, this is from a very cursory eBay search just as I’m writing this:

Now, if you look at those and think to yourself, “That’s $128, nobody is going to invest that,” prepare to be shocked. Pour some caramel-colored water into these components and a few others. According to a quick search at, you can then sell one bottle of Pappy Van Winkle for $1200 (or more).

Suppose you think you’re smart enough to recognize a counterfeit. In that case, hopefully, you’re also smart enough to know exactly what to look for. Most people don’t discover they’ve been had until they pop the cork because the counterfeiters are that good.

Remember, I’m not suggesting that people buy these components only to “create” and sell counterfeit high-dollar Bourbon. But, like identity thieves, whiskey thieves are searching recycle bins and the Internet for your old bottles.

Assuming you don’t want to contribute to criminal behavior, a few options that involve reclaiming the bottles come to mind.

If you’re crafty, some people make lamps from their bottles. I’ve considered doing this with my empty Willett Pot Still bottles, which are artwork by themselves. You can go online and pull up YouTube videos that show how to create drinkware or vases from empty bottles. You can spice up your evening by taking some taper candles and simply sticking them in the neck. After all, what spouse wouldn’t find that romantic?

You could set the empty on the top shelf of your bar and reminisce about those moments you shared together.

Finally, you can bring out your inner John Wayne, find yourself a fence post, stick the empty on it, and use it for target practice.

This brings us back to the original question: What do you do with your empties?

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.