The Whiskey Neat Newsletter: September 24th, 2021 - Pappy Lotteries Are Starting!

Hello Reader,

That's right. I told you in week's prior that whiskey season would be beginning soon and what better way to kick things off than Pappy, as in Pappy Van Winkle, lotteries starting. I was in my local store when they flagged me down to ask if I'd like to be on this year's list. So I put down my top three options, and now can only hope that when they make the lottery decisions that I've been a good enough customer.

I say "lottery" because that's how most stores do it anymore with Pappy, but my specific store still factors in the level of customer just a bit. While I've built a relationship with this store, I just relocated not too long ago so I'm not getting my hopes too high. However, I did try and choose my three strategically - everyone wants Pappy 23, but it's a wasted pick in my opinion unless you're entering into a true random lottery system.

Here's what's up for grabs this year in lotteries as far as it was told to me:

- Rip Van Winkle 10 year
- Van Winkle 12 year (lot B)
- Pappy Van Winkle 15 year
- Pappy Van Winkle 20 year
- Pappy Van Winkle 23 year
- Sazerac Rye 18 year
- William Larue Weller
- George T Stagg
- Eagle Rare 17 year

All of these will usually be at retail if you are chosen, but double-check with your stores on what the prices are. It should be anywhere from $70 to $300, with most being around $99.

So check with your local stores if they are doing a lottery this year, or if they think they will be allocated any bottles. Fingers-crossed for myself on the drawing that takes place in late November.

With that, let's get into some additional whiskey news from the past week!

The 11 Best Single-Barrel Bourbons for 2021

Not a lot to add to this - pretty good single-barrels at pretty good prices. The nice thing about these is they are also readily available, except for a few. I've also done a tasting of the week on a couple of these before!

Watershed Distillery Barrel Strength Bourbon Batch #2

I've seen several good reviews of this release lately. If you live in Ohio, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Lexington, New York City and Tampa, it looks like a somewhat limited run for $89.95.

A little pricey for the 6 year age, but the reviews and barrel proof have me interested.

Limited Edition Whiskey Releases To Keep an Eye Out for This Fall

This is definitely a small portion of the much larger list that I'm personally keeping an eye out for, but I'll always flag these articles as I see them.

For me personally, it's Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C921, Wild Turkey Master’s Keep One (possibly), and High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram, Act 9. I know this year's Elijah Craig BP coming in at 120.2 proof is going to disappoint some as again being too low versus what we are used to seeing from the release.

For Maker’s Mark Lovers

A fattier, full-bodied, mature expression (dubbed FAE-02) is about to hit stores, if it hasn't already. It's bottled at 109.1 proof and has a suggested retail price of $60. Interesting!

Buffalo Trace Distillery Warns of Online Scams

I saw this throughout the entire week in various articles. Be vary wary of online sales right now.

Personally, I only buy direct from the stores themselves. It looks like scammers are targeting Blanton's and Eagle Rare specifically, but make sure to only buy from names you trust. It probably goes without saying, but if the price seems too good to be true in this market, I'm sure it probably is.

Why Every Bourbon-Head Should Have a Bottle of Knob Creek on Their Bar

A quick 3 minute read, but I absolutely agree with this. Knob creek has several different expressions and because of this is extremely versatile to drink neat or as a base for cocktails. The standard 9 year or rye variations are great for Old Fashioned's, and the 9 year single barrel - barrel proof and 12 year small batch expressions are perfect bourbons to drink neat.

Knob creek has something for every occasion and drinking style preference and remains one of the best whiskey values out there across their entire lineup. They have done a great job remaining true to their enthusiasts during the industry's issues with supply and prices the last year.

No Tasting of the Week this Week

No tasting of the week this week, but on the off-week I did want to make a few comments on the state of the whiskey market. It may be worth noting that the situation is probably a different experience just based on luck and probably based on region-by-region supply/demand as well.

So let’s not beat around the bush. The market for whiskey is pretty tough right now. The bourbons you want you can’t find, and the bourbons you can find are generally up in price considerably from where they would have been a couple of years ago. While supply is down, aftermarket prices are becoming more and more standard. However, I think it's an exciting time to be interested in whiskey. Why? The hunt.

But back to the bottles you want, but you can’t find - I think this is probably where most people’s frustration lies. It's super annoying to go in day after day, week after week to the store and not find the names you want, or the names you were used to being able to get easily in years prior.

So what are our options?

  1. Relationships. Who do you know at your liquor store of choice and how “good” of a customer are you (based on years of being a customer and how much you spend). I try not to get too discouraged on that last point because while I think being a "good customer" definitely still comes into play (see pappy "lotteries" that are less lottery and more favoritism), but it's maybe a little less of a factor than before.

    Let’s put it this way, my store doesn’t put out the good allocated stuff on the floor. It’s always behind the bar or in the back. Now they don’t hold product for anyone, even top customers, but they also don’t tell just anyone who walks in what they got in that day… the standard customer has to ask. However, if you’re a "top customer", they’ll tell you every time you walk in exactly what they got in that day.

    I'm not a top customer in $'s spent by any means, but after enough times of asking “did you get X, Y, or Z bourbon in today?”, they got the picture and started letting me know as I walked in. So from the relationship side, that’s what I’ve had to do in order to make sure my store keeps me in the loop.

  2. Store selection. I think this varies region-by-region, but I had to figure out who actually gets shipment allocations in from the various distilleries. Let's use Buffalo Trace because it's the easiest example. Just ask the store "when was your last Buffalo trace distillery shipment?" And make sure they aren’t counting Buffalo trace whiskey itself, and instead make sure they are referring to the Blanton's, EHT, Eagle Rare, etc.

    I’ve had really bad luck with the smaller stores, with still low, but existent, shipments going out to the larger chains. I’m sure some small stores get certain allocations, but certainly none around me. The small stores that do get a random bottle around me instantly mark it up 50-100%, which defeats the purpose.

    Moral of item 2: There’s literally no reason to be constantly checking a store that hasn’t been allocated anything you want in 8+ months.

  3. Figure out what days of the week your store gets product in and when. This probably sounds like overkill, but goes along with store selection. Get as close as you can to the regular time that your chosen store gets products delivered. I’ve had zero luck with calling over the phone ahead of time because stores seem to have no idea what’s going to be on the truck. That’s not a knock on them, it seems to be a whiskey thing. Most of the time, things just appear on the truck without warning. Surprise!

    So I’ve figured out the days and times and go in as soon as my schedule allows each one of those days that I’m free. This builds back to item 1, relationship building.

  4. Trading. I’m reluctant to put this on the list because I have very mixed thoughts on it. That is, trading bottles with people in your area.

    On one hand, I think trading perpetuates the supply problem we have in the world of whiskey right now. If we go in and buy bottles that we have no intent of drinking, but know it has a high aftermarket price and therefore can trade if for some things we REALLY want, we are creating the same supply problem for someone who wants that same bottle we are using to trade.

    On the other hand, trading has been around since literally the beginning of time and that's what it is: You have what I want and I have what you want, let's trade.

    It's a grey area, but is definitely a good way to get the bottle you've been after. It's also far and above reselling. Buying a bottle just to resell on the aftermarket is hurting us bad right now.

    All of these points assume that you're apart of the "hunt" for some of these whiskies. However, there's plenty of people who just like good whiskey that's moderately priced and readily available. Absolutely nothing wrong with that and half of me is devoted to just that. However, I know a lot of the readers are interested in the harder-to-find aspect and I wouldn't be a very good newsletter host if I didn't try and share what I've learned along the way.

Score of the Week

There's no tasting, but there was certainly a score. I managed to pick up a bottle of Blue Run earlier this week. It's a 14 year old small batch that won the Best Small Batch Bourbon – 11 Years & Older award at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, along with a Double Gold Medal. Blue Run was launched by a group of Bourbon lovers: a Nike designer, Facebook’s first director-level employee, a hospitality executive, a politician, and a philanthropist.

It's also an absolutely gorgeous looking bottle. It's one of the more expensive bottles I've ever purchased so I'm guessing it will be quite some time until this turns into the tasting of the week.

With that, I think we'll call it a week. Until next week, stay well!



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