In every bar in America, a bartender will eventually face the exact same problem: A stubborn bottle of liquor that just won’t sell.
It’s a universal hurdle that owes its inevitability to the simple fact that liquor isn’t particularly perishable—it can sit on a shelf for months, or years, and still be passable to drink. Not at its best, perhaps … but are you really going to throw away that weird bottle of whiskey, when you can still technically sell it? After all, who knows when someone is going to walk through that door and order the one thing on the menu that nobody else has touched? Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do but wait.
That’s where Collecting Dust comes in. This new YouTube alcohol series is focused solely on those moss-gathering bottles that have been repeatedly ignored by the patrons of New York City bars. In each episode of this new web series, hosts Rick Kiley and Jeff Boedges stop in at a new watering hole with the sole purpose of killing a bottle of booze covered in dust. For the sake of their livers, they’re joined by mixologist Elayne Duff of Bar Rescue, who helps present each spirit in a variety of ways, as well as special guests who can soak up a bit more of the booze. And that’s it—this is a series dedicated to giving these unloved bottles a moment in the spotlight.
Kiley and Boedges come from marketing backgrounds, having run numerous campaigns for various liquor brands via their own agency, SoHo Experiential. Collecting Dust, though, isn’t meant as some kind of cloaked advertorial. In fact, Kiley and Boedges never really know what they’ll be drinking next, and the spirit brands aren’t informed that their products will be featured. The hosts simply ask the participating bars—which also contribute their name to each episode—to provide a bottle that they’ve been having trouble selling. The rest of the show follows naturally, as the hosts and their mixologist dissect the spirit, the brand’s marketing, why it might not be working at that bar, and decide whether or not they’d retain the spirit at that bar. In Kiley’s own words, which we exchanged via email:
The premise of the show is built upon the fact that at every bar, there are bottles that don’t move. So, for discovery minded people (like ourselves), we use this as a hook to tell a story about brands that are either new and unknown, or long forgotten. Our hope wasn’t to build a show that is editorializing about the flavor profile of the product, unless that conversation arises naturally. What we look at more are the marketing aspects of the brand. We try to answer the questions, why has this brand sat here so long? Why is no one drinking it? Is it good? How should people drink it? And is it the right fit for this bar?
Part of the charm of Collecting Dust, then, becomes the mystery: What random bottle is going to be pulled out this week? What cocktail will they make with it? How obviously tipsy will they get consuming it? In the spirit of such alcohol shows as the inimitable Three Sheets, there’s a certain air of drunken revelry to each episode, although nothing too fratty. You’d be surprised how quickly a bottle can disappear—even when it’s an entire bottle of limoncello that a bar is desperate to unload. The tone is less “liquor geek,” and more “avid bargoer.”
“We sort of like to think of ourselves as the Ghostbusters, but for dusty bottles that are taking up shelf space,” Kiley said. “We come in and perform an important service for the bars we visit by finishing the bottle that’s Collecting Dust. The biggest surprise for us so far has been that all the products have been pretty good, and just as often as not, they’ve exceeded expectations.”
Of course, that’s only after four episodes, so surely Kiley and Boedges will run into some true rotgut at some point, which I must admit I look forward to watching. So far, the episodes have tackled four products that are about as different as they could possibly be: A rye whiskey; a huckleberry vodka; a gold rum; a bottle of limoncello. It makes one wonder what the boundaries of the concept could be. Will the pair find themselves downing an entire bottle of Fernet Branca in a sports bar at some point? Drinking an unbearably sweet 750 ml of some sort of cheap schnapps? Or will they luck out into polishing off a beautiful single malt scotch in some dive where that kind of thing never gets ordered? The possibilities really are endless.
Four full episodes of Collecting Dust are currently on YouTube, and can be viewed here, each averaging around 10-12 minutes in length. According to Kiley and Boedges, they hope to shoot another slate of episodes at some point this spring/summer for a late summer or fall release. In the meantime, check out episode four, in which the gang polishes off a full bottle of (surprisingly decent) J. Wray Jamaican Gold Rum.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.