The Revolution Blog

Rare bourbon scarcity inspires price gouging and grifters

Thursday, Apr 27, 2023

Where has all the good bourbon gone?

That’s what bourbon aficionados everywhere have been asking themselves (including our President, Mark Lippert, who is partial to Weller). Apparently, the high-end bourbon boom we’ve experience in the last 15 years has pushed demand to the brink, making scoring that illusive bottle of Blanton’s synonymous to a Sasquatch sighting in the forest. And it’s made price gouging and even flipping bottles on the black market commonplace.

Apparently, a growing cartel of firewater fanatics is willing to pay a hefty premium for the increasingly scarce bourbons disappearing from shelves. Although distilleries have upped production to meet the insane demand, the whisky needs to be aged for decades before reaching shelves. Plus, each state only gets a limited supply. Oregon, for example, received just 22 bottles in 2022.

Want a bottle of a 2020 Pappy Van Winkle 15-year? The normal retail price of $119 has been inflated to the $2,500 range. In December, a single bottle of Pappy 23-year (the Holy Grail of bourbon connoisseurs), which retails for $299.99, sold at Sotheby’s for an astonishing $52,500. In states like Utah and Pennsylvania, they use lotteries for limited-edition bourbons.

But people have also been getting busted for trying to re-sell their coveted spoils to other rabid fans without a liquor license. In Oregon, there’s a criminal case against several high-ranking state liquor officials accused of using their clout to obtain scarce bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old. Similar criminal investigations are underway in at least three other states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania.

With the Kentucky Derby coming up next weekend, what’s a self-respecting bourbon drinker to do? Take a deep breath and remind yourself, these are first-world problems we’re talking about. There are less expensive bourbons, right? Just like there are thinner steaks and smaller cars.

Stay thirsty, friends.

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