Buying Premium Bourbon

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Scott E.
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Buying Premium Bourbon

#1 Post by Scott E. »

Pretty bummed that the "good stuff" is so hard to acquire these days! I live in a relatively low population state, so we don't seem to get allocated much of the premium bottles locally anymore - although I imagine there is a small stash in most store manager's office... If I was to make a trip to specifically purchase premium bourbon at something less than astronomical prices, where should I go? State, City and Liquor Store name please! I'm within 4 hours of the Bay Area.

I'm serious about this approach. I'm less than 2 years out from retirement and I will not be able to continue to purchase and cellar the fine wine I have been collecting and drinking. Bourbon sure seems to be a better deal overall (QPR) for me when my income flat-lines and I really do enjoy it, so it seems like the logical thing to do is drink out the wine cellar and build a decent whiskey bar. Thanks for the input. Cheers!
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#2 Post by Bob W »

Store managers may have bottles sitting in their offices, but they know what they’re worth because they had to buy a bunch of crap wine and vodka from their distributor that they’ll likely never sell just to get that one case of Blanton’s or one BOTTLE of Pappy. I got pretty deep into the bourbon world for 3-4 years and when you start getting the story from store owners about how the distribution and allocation is run, one starts to wonder if the mafia is behind it. I think the days of randomly finding a dusty unicorn bottle on a shelf are sadly over. I mean hell, McKenna was $20/bottle a year ago. Nowadays shops have it at $100. Elmer T. Lee was $80, now it’s $300. I could go on and on. It’s insane. There’s plenty for sale on the secondary market if you know where to look and have deep pockets. Me, I’m out. I actually have some BTAC for sale (THH and GTS). I’m on the opposite trajectory; selling rare bourbon to support my new wine habit. :)
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#3 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng »

K&L wines in the Bay Area will sell the allocated bourbons at retail when they get them in but they’ll sell out online in minutes. If you keep paying close attention to their site you can find them when they go on. If they don’t ship to your state you can have them held for pickup and go get them. I’ve bought a ton of blantons from them as well as super rare stuff when it came out like EHT 4 grain.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#4 Post by ClarkstonMark »

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 3:28 am K&L wines in the Bay Area will sell the allocated bourbons at retail when they get them in but they’ll sell out online in minutes. If you keep paying close attention to their site you can find them when they go on. If they don’t ship to your state you can have them held for pickup and go get them. I’ve bought a ton of blantons from them as well as super rare stuff when it came out like EHT 4 grain.
curious what K&L charges for Blanton's (to compare to local, now $150+). When was your last purchase and how much was it?
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#5 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng »

https://m.klwines.com/p/i?i=630018&sear ... archRank=5

The last one I got there was 2019 but I’ve bought probably 2-3 cases from there over the years.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#6 Post by ChrisR »

One thing I would recommend before going after premium bottles is to identify what type of profile you like. This can help you to focus your attention on things you enjoy to drink. I do agree that relative to wine, it can offer a good value, but I have found that if you only chase after the hard to find bottles, you will miss other good things.
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#7 Post by Bob W »

ChrisR wrote: January 24th, 2021, 1:44 pm One thing I would recommend before going after premium bottles is to identify what type of profile you like. This can help you to focus your attention on things you enjoy to drink. I do agree that relative to wine, it can offer a good value, but I have found that if you only chase after the hard to find bottles, you will miss other good things.
Agreed with this 100%. I have 50-60 bottles of hard-to-find, very rare and highly sought-after bottles, and yet I enjoy Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig and High West every bit as much as any of the unicorn bottles.
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#8 Post by ChrisR »

Bob W wrote: January 24th, 2021, 1:57 pm
ChrisR wrote: January 24th, 2021, 1:44 pm One thing I would recommend before going after premium bottles is to identify what type of profile you like. This can help you to focus your attention on things you enjoy to drink. I do agree that relative to wine, it can offer a good value, but I have found that if you only chase after the hard to find bottles, you will miss other good things.
Agreed with this 100%. I have 50-60 bottles of hard-to-find, very rare and highly sought-after bottles, and yet I enjoy Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig and High West every bit as much as any of the unicorn bottles.
Yeah, I have found the same thing in a lot of cases as well and that the the premium/secondary pricing does not justify what is in the bottle if your only concern is drinking it versus collecting.

The only other thing I would ask is what is considered premium bourbon as far as price point as what I may look at as premium might be not be for you or vice versa.
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#9 Post by Ken Leiter »

Bob W wrote: January 24th, 2021, 1:57 pm
ChrisR wrote: January 24th, 2021, 1:44 pm One thing I would recommend before going after premium bottles is to identify what type of profile you like. This can help you to focus your attention on things you enjoy to drink. I do agree that relative to wine, it can offer a good value, but I have found that if you only chase after the hard to find bottles, you will miss other good things.
Agreed with this 100%. I have 50-60 bottles of hard-to-find, very rare and highly sought-after bottles, and yet I enjoy Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig and High West every bit as much as any of the unicorn bottles.
I agree with this advice as well. I am curious what the OP considers to be premium bourbon. I personally believe that the bourbon boom will end soon. Of course I have incorrectly predicted it will end every year for the past five years and the market has only gotten crazier. The distilleries are massively expanding production to meet demand. See: https://imbibemagazine.com/the-bourbon-boom/ . They do not like having to allocate their bottles. They would much rather sell as much bourbon as they can. And there is nothing particularly special about “premium” bourbon these days in my opinion. Pappy Van Winkle is no longer Stitzel Weller bourbon. If you consider Blantons or Old Weller Antique or Elmer T Lee to be “premium” I would reconsider as these are non age stated whiskeys that are not particularly special (although I will gladly drink all of them) and Buffalo Trace will continue to make more and more of them until demand is met. I don’t think they are worth trying to stockpile now as it is most likely they will be less expensive in ten years than they are today. And there is nothing particularly special about what is in the bottle today. The truly special bottlings, like Four Roses LEs and BTACs are just not possible to find in any store and the OP would have to seek them out on the secondary market.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#10 Post by JulianD »

ClarkstonMark wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 12:26 pm
Mich@el Ch@ng wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 3:28 am K&L wines in the Bay Area will sell the allocated bourbons at retail when they get them in but they’ll sell out online in minutes. If you keep paying close attention to their site you can find them when they go on. If they don’t ship to your state you can have them held for pickup and go get them. I’ve bought a ton of blantons from them as well as super rare stuff when it came out like EHT 4 grain.
curious what K&L charges for Blanton's (to compare to local, now $150+). When was your last purchase and how much was it?
They sell them for $54 currently - actually sold some this morning (sold out in like 15 min though)
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#11 Post by Doug Schulman »

Scott E. wrote: January 22nd, 2021, 7:40 pm Pretty bummed that the "good stuff" is so hard to acquire these days! I live in a relatively low population state, so we don't seem to get allocated much of the premium bottles locally anymore - although I imagine there is a small stash in most store manager's office... If I was to make a trip to specifically purchase premium bourbon at something less than astronomical prices, where should I go? State, City and Liquor Store name please! I'm within 4 hours of the Bay Area.

I'm serious about this approach. I'm less than 2 years out from retirement and I will not be able to continue to purchase and cellar the fine wine I have been collecting and drinking. Bourbon sure seems to be a better deal overall (QPR) for me when my income flat-lines and I really do enjoy it, so it seems like the logical thing to do is drink out the wine cellar and build a decent whiskey bar. Thanks for the input. Cheers!
The demand and pricing of the bottles you're probably asking about inherently mean there is no answer to your question. Try as many bottles as you can that are easy to find on store shelves. Some are very good. Don't pay stupid prices for things that used to be cheap. They aren't worth it. Also, Scotch and Irish whisky are looking like very nice values these days, compared to domestic. Most of my buying has shifted there. One can get a really nice bottle for ~$100 that doesn't require being a top customer and having excellent timing, which is really the only formula for getting the unicorn Bourbons at reasonable prices. I would start buying as much as possible at the largest store in your area. Low population means small allocations but also small demand. Some places still sell the trophies to their best customers at reasonable prices. Even that is becoming rare these days, though. There's really no loyalty in retail, and an extra few hundred or couple thousand dollars of profit is often seen as more valuable than making a tiny number of people happy who will likely flip the bottles anyway.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#12 Post by Doug Schulman »

Bob W wrote: January 22nd, 2021, 11:44 pm Store managers may have bottles sitting in their offices, but they know what they’re worth because they had to buy a bunch of crap wine and vodka from their distributor that they’ll likely never sell just to get that one case of Blanton’s or one BOTTLE of Pappy. I got pretty deep into the bourbon world for 3-4 years and when you start getting the story from store owners about how the distribution and allocation is run, one starts to wonder if the mafia is behind it. I think the days of randomly finding a dusty unicorn bottle on a shelf are sadly over. I mean hell, McKenna was $20/bottle a year ago. Nowadays shops have it at $100. Elmer T. Lee was $80, now it’s $300. I could go on and on. It’s insane. There’s plenty for sale on the secondary market if you know where to look and have deep pockets. Me, I’m out. I actually have some BTAC for sale (THH and GTS). I’m on the opposite trajectory; selling rare bourbon to support my new wine habit. :)
Elmer T was $35 just a few years ago. It probably still is at a standard markup. I don't think it's worth any more than about $40. I'm out too. I have tried almost all of the unicorn Bourbons and Ryes. Some are great, some are pure hype, IMO. Even Pappy 15 is wildly complex but extremely hot. MANY Bourbons have far better alcohol integration. I'd love to be able to buy a bottle for $100, though. Current pricing is nonsense.

Edit: I should say that I have tried almost all of the current release "unicorn" domestic whiskies. There are a lot of famous old bottlings that I haven't had.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#13 Post by David H. »

I've heard people having luck by learning when the shipments come in to Costco and lining up at their liquor store an hour so before opening. Get in with the staff and you'll get tipped off on what's coming in.
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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#14 Post by Aaron Zwicker »

Speaking from the retailer's perspective I would suggest finding a store you enjoy shopping at and become a regular customer. Many stores, mine included have rewards programs, ours is a weighted lottery based on dollars spent on a rolling 6 month basis. We hold raffles every month and sell the whiskey at retail i.e Blanton's for $55, Col Taylor for $35 etc. Basically we want to support the people that support us.

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Re: Buying Premium Bourbon

#15 Post by Kris Patten »

Go to Oregon or Idaho.
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