An on-and-off member of the PGA Tour since 2012, Jason Kokrak had never won a tournament prior to walking away with the win at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek last October.
Now ranked within the top 25 in the world, the 36-year-old followed up his CJ Cup victory by winning the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas at the end of May. To celebrate his win on the Tour, Kokrak indulged in one of his major interests away from the golf course: bourbon.
A bourbon fanatic who started to get serious about collecting good whiskey after his younger brother got him into it, Kokrak toasted his win at the Charles Schwab Challenge by cracking open a pricey bottle of Double Eagle Very Rare from Buffalo Trace, one of just a few unopened bottles in his collection.
“I have to say that it was some of the best juice that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting,” he tells InsideHook. “I shared a pour with one of my close friends and it didn’t lack anything. It was incredible. Hopefully, I’ll maybe knock off another win soon and we’ll see if we can crack that bottle off. I’m not afraid to open anything in my collection.”
Housed in his basement alongside a practice putting green, Kokrak’s bourbon collection is currently about 250 bottles strong and, thanks to the time he spends hunting for new bottles while playing on the Tour, it is growing — rapidly.
“After I started having bourbons with my brother, I kind of got that itch and started hunting it myself and seeking out different bottles,” he says. “The most fun thing is to seek it out and get it at a retail price. The bourbon market has gotten so crazy that it’s very tough to find anything at a relative price these days. I stumble across some of the Buffalo Trace stuff, a Weller 12-year or a George T. Stagg. Elmer T. Lee and Rock Hill Farms are some of the ones I’ve picked up on the road. Some of the best juice in the world comes from Buffalo Trace, but I’m always up to try new stuff and see what it tastes like and put it up against some of the best stuff I have. Having a hobby I can do while I’m on the Tour, not just golf, has added a new level of enjoyment for me while I’m on the road. Doing a little bourbon hunting is just kind of a fun thing. I don’t necessarily always know what I’m looking at, but my brother is an encyclopedia of bourbon knowledge.”
Once, based on a recommendation from his brother, Kokrak spent big on a bucket-list bourbon at Vegas auction.
“I don’t go into hunting for bourbon with a definitive price. If it’s really good stuff, I’ll spend a little bit more on it,” he says. Or if I finished off the last bottle that I have in my collection, I might splurge. But most of the time, I want to bargain with the guys a little bit. I have paid quite a bit for a few bottles. The most I spent was on a bottle at auction I had never seen before. I paid just over $2,000. I just knew it would be a bottle I would never see again. I called my brother and he was like, ‘This bottle will go for $4,000 to $5,000 all day long. If you can get it for anything less than $2,500 I would consider that a steal.’ I’m like, ‘All right. Let’s see if it happens.’ Needless to say, it was incredible.”
In addition to talking bourbon with his brother, Kokrak has a couple of colleagues on the Tour who are also into the brown.
“Scott Stallings is a big bourbon fan. Some people have told me that he’s got a couple of hundred bottles in his collection as well,” Kokrak says. “Jimmy Walker is a big bourbon fan. I’d say between the three of us, we’re fairly even with the bottles we have and the passion for the bourbon itself. It’s something some of these guys and I can relate to and have something in common to talk about while we’re on the golf course for six hours a day. Every once in a while, we’ll try to get together and share a spirit or two. But a lot of the time, it’s tough to sit down and have more than a pour at a tournament. This stuff is high-proof and you need to be on your toes for some of these courses we play, and especially as hot as it is. But definitely, I’ve shared some spirits. I’ll have it on the rocks, no problem, but I drink most of my stuff neat.”
It’s rare for Kokrak to overindulge, but his bourbon education has also taught him what to do if he ever does.
“I do hold my alcohol very well and I’ve kind of gotten away from drinking more than one or two during the course of the week. I think it’s hard to perform your best if you’ve had too much to drink,” he says. “If I do, I need a little bit of water and maybe one of those liquid IVs or some Pedialyt. It definitely helps out with the hydration. A medium McDonald’s Coke and a sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin will also get rid of that hangover real quick and put me right if I’m out on the road, but I’m very blessed that I don’t get hangovers that bad.”