Soon to hit shelves is Buffalo Trace’s latest whiskey, Van Winkle 25. From the folks who brought you Pappy-mania, Van Winkle 25 will come bottled in one of 710 glass decanters, feature a certificate of authenticity signed by Julian Van Winkle, and be packaged in a box hand-made from the oak staves of the barrel which originally held the bourbon.

Oh yeah, it will also retail for $1,800.

Honestly, sometimes it seems like it might be a cheaper to collect classic Porsches than whiskey. It can be disheartening to see certain acclaimed bottles on the shelves, or high-end bar menus, and calculate that enough drams to get you buzzed might cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. But many of the most coveted bottles—your Van Winkles, your Buffalo Trace Antique Collection—rarely even make store shelves, instead selling for ludicrous sums on the so-called secondary market (like that Van Winkle 25, already moving at around $10K!).

What’s an aspiring whiskey geek supposed to do?

Well, I’m not going to lie—today is not the best time in the world to finally consider picking up a whiskey hobby. Especially if you don’t work for a hedge fund. Still, even if you don’t have the means or connections to immediately start reeling in old bottles of Willett rye, you can still enjoy great whiskey despite being cash-strapped. You just have to know the loopholes. 

From understanding the value of barrel-proof, to scoring big at your local dive bar, here's how to navigate the whiskey world without a fat wallet.