A Blanton's Journey
Pictured left to right: Kris (also at the York shop), Tony and Jimmy.
Released in 1984, Blanton’s bourbon was the first single barrel bourbon on the market, kick-starting the trend of premium, luxury bourbon. It is crafted at the esteemed Buffalo Trace Distillery, where Colonel Blanton served as president until 1952, and has become massively popular in recent years. The horse and jockey stoppers are a reference to the kinship between bourbon and horse-racing - the twin pillars of Kentucky. A completed set reveals the whole journey of the horse and jockey during the race, and spells out BLANTONS - with each stopper emblazoned with a single letter.
Our journal writer Charlotte spoke to Tony, a customer on the difficult quest to finish the set, and Jimmy, sales assistant at our York store who teamed up with him to locate every last bottle!
Charlotte: Firstly, congratulations! Tell us a bit about yourself and where your love of whisky began.
Tony: I'm from Tampa, Florida and I moved to the UK in 2021, to work for the US Government as an analyst supporting US Forces at RAF Molesworth. My love for whisky started in 2015 with The Glenlivet 12, and from there I started pairing my cigars with Scotch. A year later, I had a bottle of Four Roses Bourbon whiskey and since then I have been a whisky connoisseur.
Charlotte: When did you first taste Blantons?
Tony: My first taste of Blanton's was in December 2018. A friend of mine in Tampa was talking about it, saying that he was in search for a bottle but couldn't find one. This led me to the path where I started searching as well, until we had a chance at a local bar in Ybor City, Tampa. They served Blanton's at the overpriced amount of $25 for single pour, but nevertheless, I decided to order four glasses for the group of friends. From that moment on I was hooked on Blanton's.
Charlotte: What inspired you to collect every bottle?
Tony: I started my search for Blanton's at every bar I visited, and even tried to buy my first bottle at a local Liquor Store! I soon became aware of the hunt for the eight stoppers representing the name B L A N T O N S, and with the jockey and racehorse in the different stages of the race. This became an obsession for me, as I became more involved in the whiskey tasting scene in Tampa. I had also joined several Facebook groups of whiskey and bourbon fans, and learned how the hunt for Blanton's was a must for many of them. What also inspired me was the fact that a bottle of Blanton's was very difficult to find in the state of Florida, as the demand was far greater than the supply. Therefore, I made it my number one priority to get a hold of Blanton's no matter the cost.
Charlotte: How was your experience partnering with Jimmy at The Whisky Shop York to complete it?
Tony: I first visited York last May and as I was exploring the city and the sites, I found The Whisky Shop. As I was making my way around the store, I was greeted by the team, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the American Whiskey shelf. I immediately approached the display and saw a bottle of Blanton's Gold edition. I asked Jimmy if they carried Blanton's Original Single Barrel and he responded yes!
I explained to him that I was a big Blanton's fan and that it was my favourite bourbon, but that it was nearly impossible to get a bottle in the States because many fans are willing to pay double the price just to get a hold of one. Jimmy was very interested and offered to help me achieve this milestone, to which I immediately said 'yes, let's work together to make this happen.' He provided me with his business card, and from that point on the search was on.
I returned home to Cambridge and emailed the shop with the letters I was still missing - five letters. During the beginning stages of the pandemic I was able to get my first bottle of Blanton's through a contact at the Tampa Bay Whiskey Society - I paid double the retail price in order to have my first bottle. Fifteen month later, I was boarding my plane to move to the UK, and to my surprise found several bottles at the Duty Free shop next to my departure gate. Each bottle was a bit overpriced as well, retailing for $99 each, but I was only able to purchase two due to the two bottle per person limit. Because of Jimmy, Chris and Kris at the York Whisky Shop I was able to acquire the remaining five bottles in less than 9 months to complete my collection of Blanton's stoppers.
Charlotte: What will you do with it now you have them all?
Tony: I shared the photo of my home bar (seen above) with four different whiskey groups that I'm part of to claim the bragging rights that only a select few Americans have. As competitive as I am, this meant more than just a simple competition for me. To me it means that when you set your mind and wallet on something you are passionate and committed to you can achieve it. I know for certain, this wouldn't have been possible in the US with the speed to which it was possible here and is because of the great customer service, assistance and ensuing friendship between Jimmy and I. I'm so grateful to the entire Whisky Shop at York for helping me achieve this endeavour that I began in 2018.
Charlotte: How did your Blanton's journey with Tony begin?
Jimmy: It started out like any normal interaction in the shop, I'm a big bourbon fan so I love to talk about it with customers. In fact, my love of bourbon is how I ended up working for Glenkeir Whiskies in the first place! At first Tony was just a normal customer, but when he said he wanted to go for it and push for the collection it was an experience I wanted to share with him as I could never do the set myself, so Tony's collection hunt, in all honesty, became mine as well.
Charlotte: Have you tasted Blanton's yourself?
Jimmy: My first bottle of Blanton's was when I was attending university; it was also my first experience of trying a more premium whiskey. I can't remember it being as popular then as it is now, but now it's become John Wick's drink of choice. Over time, I have managed to try nearly all of the Blanton's range, with the Special Reserve being my favourite.
Charlotte: What kind of moves did you pull to secure the collection for Tony?
Jimmy: What is really fantastic about this company is how all the stores really want to help you out. I've rang and sent emails to try and find the last letters needed, and every store has cared. We really are a company that cares for its customers. The Metrocentre store in Gateshead have helped us out before, but the last letter (B) was more difficult to source and we were stuck for some months. I then sent out a company wide email, and Manchester had the last bottle we needed. They supplied me with it, meaning we completed the collection within the time frame we aimed for.
Charlotte: Did you share a Blantons when he came to visit?
Jimmy: At the end I decided to share some Blanton's gold with Tony as I felt it was the right whisky to celebrate with.