There’s a handful of folks out in the world that think the bourbon boom is done. A report this past week loosely attempted to make this point, noting that Brown-Forman saw sales of its Jack Daniel’s whiskey fall one whole percent in the first half of this year (of course, they also rose nine percent last year). The report further went on to note that other popular brands such as Woodford Reserve and Old Forester saw three percent and five percent drops respectively. That’s all with a backdrop of having risen thirty nine percent collectively in the preceding year. Although sales may have softened in what feels like an inconsequential way for these brands, it’s highly unlikely that consumers are taking the dollars they may have spent on bourbon and spending those dollars on some other spirit like tequila or scotch or even on anything else as far as that goes. The fact of the matter is that there is a load of good bourbon on the market with new brands and expressions popping up all the time and folks are likely just reallocating their dollars towards other great brownwater.
In the last few weeks, Old Forester (also owned by Brown-Forman) released a limited edition twelve-and-a-half-year-old bourbon in a custom decanter in celebration of its 150th anniversary which, by the way, occurred in 2020…They originally were slated to be served at special tastings and events but, there was of course that little pandemic thing that threw off their plans, and long story short the 150 decanters that had been held in storage finally made their way out into the world. Priced at $2,500 per bottle, they sold out in fourteen minutes. Another 500 were given out to family and partners, and they’ve already been hitting the secondary with the latest Bourbon Blue Book pricing putting them at just shy of seven thousand dollars. Frankly, I’m surprised it took fourteen minutes for these to sell out, but I think it goes to show that even for such an expensive offering the demand remains ridiculously strong.
Bolstering the underlying demand for allocated bourbon, in the past two weeks alone we’ve seen just over thirty thousand searches on the Bourbon Blue Book for pricing information on coveted bottles of brownwater…of course, the average consent rate for accepting cookies which allows us to understand user behavior is about thirty percent, so the number is probably closer to one hundred thousand by that logic. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using the upper or lower bound, that’s a lot of Bourboneur’s out there making sure they have the latest and most accurate pricing data on nearly 2,000 bottles of coveted brownwater, be that bourbon or rye. That metric only grows each month as more and more people catch on to the fact that good data is valuable and that it’s saving a lot of people a lot of money.
In another more anecdotal line of evidence, trolling through the multitude of bourbon related Facebook groups, there’s still plenty of pictures of people camped out in front of store x, y or z, sometimes overnight even, waiting for a purported bourbon drop or opportunity to buy an allocated bottle. I received just this week an email alerting me that I would have the opportunity to buy a bottle of Weller 12 from a regional chain. There are a whole 35 bottles up for grabs they note and they’ll be offered on a first-come-first-serve basis to their members who’d achieved status with the store. Although I enjoy Weller 12, I can almost guarantee that there’s going to be a hundred folks lined up at the crack of dawn in hopes of landing this bottle at the forty some odd bucks it retails for.
It’s abundantly clear that America’s native spirit is still in demand, despite small pull backs on pricing for some allocated bottles on the secondary market. This isn’t exactly a bourbon only phenomenon, and is in line with a reported decline more broadly in luxury goods as a whole. At the end of the day, allocated bottles that commanded a premium on the secondary market are still commanding a premium, and sure maybe a few bottles have dropped ten or twenty bucks in price. The demand for those bottles and the appeal of bourbon overall, however, have not decreased. Consumers scrutiny over how they apportion their hard-earned dollars however continues to be strained by a backdrop of economic factors that put buying that E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof that drinks like a dream against other more pressing purchases like chicken for dinner, with chicken prices now hitting record highs due to inflation and other market factors.
At the end of the day, it’s all meant to be drank, savored, and shared. If you’ve got an unopened bottle sitting around, perhaps this week it’s time to pull it down, open it and enjoy it with some friends or neighbors. Cheers!
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