So many people are in love with the fall season. You hear it all the time..."if I had to vote, fall would be my favorite season"...."fall is number one with me"..."omg, fall, PSL's, the leaves, it's the best!" In reality it's the prelude to a long winter of bitter cold for many and a bout with seasonal affective disorder for some. But for all the negatives, it does provide some hope and opportunity that perhaps, just maybe, with some luck that the bourbon gods may bestow upon us the opportunity to purchase some allocated brownwater at a reasonable price with all the big drops that are happening. The phrase "reasonable" of course seems to have a varying definition, and the phrase "MSRP" is all but out the window in many stores (sorry, museums) across the country. That said, the wilds still offer opportunities for the average Bourboneur to pick up some good bottles.
Last week on a family trip I managed to sneak away to visit eight different liquor stores spread across several small to medium sized towns. Two of the stores I stopped at upon entry were clear non-starters, the type of store where reality seems inverse, and the bottom shelf is the top shelf. One store was a loyalty location, which I'm all about, but it appeared I'd need to spend three thousand dollars before I'd have a chance to purchase something of interest and I didn't have the appropriate placards to haul around that volume of flammable material. Three of the stores were wanna-be-museums, they had some allocated bourbons, but the pricing was obnoxious to say the least.
Now we get to the final two locations...one was a drive through liquor store where whilst I was looking around the owner or manager asked if I liked E.H. Taylor...upon saying "yes" he asked me to follow him to the back, which is perhaps one of my favorite experiences in a liquor store. Upon entering a back office, he slid open an old cabinet at floor level revealing a trove of various allocated bourbons. The experience was akin to Christmas, but unfortunately there wasn't any real unicorns hanging around, but some great allocated bottles, nonetheless. He opined that they continue to get good bottles from their distributor as they don't gouge people on pricing. He asked what I'd like and happily sold me one of each of the things I was interested in.
The last liquor store had a display with no prices but lots of interesting, allocated bourbon. As I queried the various pricing, bottles were generally WAY over even secondary prices. As I continued to probe, I ended up finding a Parkers Heritage bottle from 2019 that was enough below secondary that it was worth a snag. Sometimes you need to temper what a "win" is, and I felt like this was one of those situations.
Hunting bourbon can be a frustrating pursuit and is often a game of chance where you're searching for what feels like an ever-shrinking slice of the pie. That said, as demonstrated by our random drop-in's this past week, bottles can be found, and it involved zero relationships and zero secret passwords. That said, you may want to increase your odds by first, reading our Guide to Rare Bourbon Hunting and second by bookmarking the Bourbon Blue Book™. Much like my situation this past week, referencing what I expect as the average on the secondary - which should be top dollar - helped me to make a decision on the fly when confronted with some top tier bottles.
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Bourboneur Glencairn Glass