Food & Drinks

The Whiskey Infinity Bottle Needs to Chill | PUNCH

Last spring, just in time for Father’s Day, online whiskey club Flaviar released a hand-blown premium glass decanter for $350. It featured a zinc alloy logo atop the stopper, with a lemniscate design in the center symbolizing eternity; color-filled hand-etching surrounded the bottle’s neck. Dubbed the Infinity Bottle by Flaviar and described as “the ultimate intro to the infinity bottle movement revered by whisky geeks,” the product is among the most upscale attempts to commercialize what was, just a few years ago, a homespun pastime for whiskey geeks trying to thin out their collections.

“An infinity bottle can basically be made in any bottle, but our idea is legacy,” says Grisa Soba, co-founder of Flaviar, who sees the decanter as an ideal wedding gift. “With Flaviar Infinity Bottle, you get a product that is the star of your home bar.” He notes that the first run sold out immediately and a second edition is already on the way. “This Infinity Bottle kit is our contribution to make the concept more mainstream.”

Back in January 2017, when I first reported for Punch on the practice of adding leftover whiskey to a continuously evolving blend, it was a novel pursuit, still on the upswing. Infinity bottles (or “fractional bottles” or “solera bottles”—no single term was canon just yet) had yet to escape the occasional mention on Reddit or other whiskey message boards. Though I wasn’t the first to detail the concept—popular whiskey YouTuber Ralfy Mitchell released a video on the topic in 2012—soon after publication of my article, sites big and small reported on the trend. InsideHook. Paste. Wine Enthusiast. Even The New York Times.

Not long after, commercial enterprises began clamoring for their slice of infinity.

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“We were inspired by the infinity bottle concept, but wanted to recreate it on a larger scale,” says Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits. In February 2018, the Louisville, Kentucky–based independent blender and bottler of sourced spirits released its first edition of the Infinite Barrel Project. The brand began with 100 barrels of American whiskey, some with unique finishes already, and blended a portion of them in a larger vessel. Over half of the liquid was removed for the initial bottling, replaced with whiskey from 60 to 100 of the remaining barrels, an ongoing process that ensures the flavor profile changes with each release.

New Infinite Barrel Project releases have hit the shelves at least 16 additional times in the years since, each highly anticipated by collectors as a rare example of a commercial infinity bottle done well.

“While many of us have infinity bottles at home, I’ve yet to see a[nother] producer turn the concept into an ongoing release,” explains Nick Beiter of Breaking Bourbon, a popular industry blog. “But unlike many evolutions of my own infinity bottle, the Infinite Barrel Project tastes good.”

But there is no shortage of endeavors trying to align themselves with the infinity bottle concept. On Amazon alone, there are 755 results for the search term “infinity bottle,” many of which are different versions of personalized infinity decanters, all trying to add a certain loftiness to this once homemade, hand-labeled activity. There is also the Infinity Bottle app—“Make every bottle live forever”—which is able to track the contents of your blend and continually update its proof. On Etsy, there are countless infinity bottle decals and metal infinity symbol (∞) tags meant to be draped over the neck of the bottle. There’s even a man cave–friendly shelf on which to display your ongoing bottle while listing each component on successive chalkboard plaques.

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Some of these ventures, however, haven’t quite grasped the essence of the infinity bottle. In 2019, Uncommon Goods, a popular e-commerce boutique based out of Brooklyn, sold their Infinity Whiskey Bottle Kit, which came with a blending handbook and wax for sealing—rendering finite what ought to be infinite.

The infinity bottle has spread to the bar scene as well. In early 2020, beverage director Frank Caifa offered a house infinity bottle at The Stayton Room in Midtown Manhattan. Stayton’s Infinity, as it was dubbed, cost $20 for a two-ounce pour composed of 20 straight bourbons. It got solid reviews—and was even mentioned by the Times—but many pedants were quick to note that it was not a true infinity bottle; it was a baroque, but static, blend.

“People can do whatever they want, of course, but if you want to call it an infinity bottle, it probably should have something infinite about it,” wrote Chuck Cowdery, the esteemed bourbon historian, in a 2020 blog post on the phenomenon. “It’s not an infinity bottle unless you are constantly drinking from and adding to it. Which means it’s constantly changing.”

This fundamental misunderstanding of the concept, coupled with an overzealous effort to capitalize on the zeitgeist, has led brands to unintentionally accelerate the demise of the very thing they hoped to profit from. The same way an indie band might be deemed a sellout after finding commercial success, the ubiquity of the infinity bottle has translated to a certain loss of stature in the whiskey collecting world. In part, this stems from the fact that it was never meant to be fetishized in the first place; infinity bottles were just one of the many nerdy things hardcore whiskey collectors did. While many users on Reddit or private whiskey groups on Facebook still maintain infinity bottles, the blends have become less an object of reverence, and more an object of derision or in-joke mockery.

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“It’s fine to have one but realize no one on social media wants an update every time you add something to it,” cracked industry agitator Wade Woodard on a recent Facebook post, in which he also suggests that buying a purpose-built infinity bottle makes you a whiskey tater—in other words, a neophyte.

As more publications pile on to the infinity bottle bandwagon, offering tips on how to build a better version, it’s hard to disagree with Woodard. The infinity bottle, after all, was never meant to be prescriptive. It was never meant to be a commercial enterprise, nor beautifully packaged, nor a $350 luxury item. In fact, it was never meant to be all that interesting. It was only ever meant to be a drinkable dump bucket. As one Reddit user once summarized: “[It’s] a much fancier name than leftover booze.”

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