Liquor Store Avoids Selling to Pappy Van Winkle Flippers


November 12, 2014

There’s a trend in American whiskey. People buy up all the special edition bottlings and they resale the Pappy, LE Four Roses, Buffalo Trace Antique, etc., in their respective markets at ridiculous prices. Meanwhile, some liquor stores set the prices for limited editions beyond the reasonable pricing structures. You can read about that in my blog post, “Who is to blame for $6,000 Pappy Van Winkle?”

The high-end bourbons are becoming harder for the common man to find let alone buy.

Apparently, liquor stores are tired of this phenomenon and some plan to take note of customers buying caseloads of product. One major liquor store told me that they will not sell limited edition bourbons or Pappy Van Winkle to known flippers, people who intend to earn a profit in the secondary market. The store requested it not be identified, but said they have a list of known flippers in the United States.

I asked Brad Williams, the spirits buyer for Louisville-based chain Liquor Barn, about flippers and whether they plan to limit quantities sold. These are his comments:

At this point, we have no plans to {ban flippers} but only because we have not taken the time to research the exact individuals who are flipping the bottles.  We typically limit everyone to one bottle anyway, so if we did, it would be hard to monitor the thousand bottles that went out of our stores on Pappy day, for instance.

I hear more about our customers acquiring limited release bottles and then trading them on bourbon forums and blogs for bottles they could not get.

I suspect a little more flipping goes on out of state because  a lot of the out of state accounts do not sell out in minutes to hours like the stores in Kentucky do.  I imagine a flipper might be able to get in on quite a few rare releases before out of state accounts know what hit them.

Again, at the sheer amount of bottles we release as a chain, it would be hard for us to monitor that especially since we just let them line up and go first come, first serve.  Hardly any of the bottles are held under names.

I don’t expect the bourbon interest to stop anytime soon, and there are hundreds of consumers joining the bourbon bandwagon every day. Brands will continue to drop age statements, such as we’ve seen with Very Old Barton and Jim Beam Black, and limited editions will continue to draw dozens to a hundred of people standing outside waiting in the cold.

Now, we see liquor stores trying to somewhat regulate the craziness caused by damn good bourbon. I guess, like it or not, this is just all part of the bourbon evolution.