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This raffle season, it has became apparent that there is less allocated bourbons in the state of Indiana. And this is not just an opinion either.
Together, my friends and I have looked at various social media pictures of allocation tables at raffles as well as raffle print-outs of bottles that were available last year in the various raffles around town and have noticed a decrease by maybe as much as 25% fewer Tier 1 and 2 allocated bottles (see the Bourbon Brown Book for what I mean by Tier 1 and 2 bottles).
For reference, we checked Chilly’s Liquors (Greenfield), Superior Liquors (Greenwood), Rural Inn (Indianapolis), SoBro Wine and Spirits (Broad Ripple) and Big Red Liquors (Indiana) and found less desirable allocations existed. S
ome of these stores padded their allocations with store picks or even Eagle Rare and Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond in an effort to find a way for every person to be able to walk away with something special.
The Current State of Bourbon
All of this leads me to worry about the current state of bourbon in and around Indianapolis. Have distributors received less allocations from the distilleries themselves? Or are more stores in Indiana requesting their fair share of allocations?
The former may seem more plausible to me because of the internet rumblings that Sazerac (in particular, Buffalo Trace) doesn’t have enough product to stock all 50 states equally.
But as they ramp up production and have started to expand their juice into new states, they typically make sure that those new states get a nice slice of their most lust-worthy bottles.
Their new hotspot that they’re currently saturating the market in is up north around the states that border Canada (think: Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and maybe even Idaho).
No State-Run Liquor Stores
These states (with the exception of Idaho) do not have state-run liquor stores or pricing and although the population is less dense than other areas, they may be more able and willing to welcome new alcohol products during the long, cold winters and general lack of lots of choices for retail shopping.
Wyoming, in particular, seems to have Stagg Jr. just setting on the shelves in most stores. Also, this year Montana was a hotbed of 1792 Aged 12 Years bottle sightings.
I know of numerous people that had hookups sending them boxes filled with bottles to be flipped here in Indiana. Those are just 2 examples, but they are good examples that show that when other states grab more, we typically get less.
There is not much we can do about all of this to help our chances of getting a bottle of BTAC or Pappy around the holidays, but one thing that’s probably not helping as much is the large amount of liquor stores that our area has per capita.
If you’ve ever looked into the business model of liquor stores though, you’ll realize it’s almost impossible to lose money by owning one. This is why this state is drenched with them.
Now that Total Wine is set to open one or two locations now in the Indianapolis area, our favorite stores’ allocated selection is about to get even smaller.
Total Wine does not have a distributor that only serves them, so they’ll be getting their bottles from the same distributors that the other stores do.
Total Wine: A Blessing & Curse
Perhaps the only shining light about Total Wine coming here is their fairly massive pull with getting store pick single barrels.
This is a blessing and a curse, though, because although Total Wine does have dedicated teams that go and sample through different distillery’s barrels, a lot of times they just let the distillery choose.
This means that cool store pick you see of Buffalo Trace or Russell’s Reserve will pretty much taste like… just how Buffalo Trace or Wild Turkey is supposed to taste like.
Conversely, most local store picks are usually unique because the people selecting them gets to pick something new and exciting or maybe just something good with a twist.
Of course, the problem gets even worse when you factor in the bevy of other new liquor stores in the area, not just Total Wine. Stores such as Market District or WestClay Wine and Spirits (to name a couple) are also absorbing the share of allocated bottles that the state gets.
This isn’t to say that new stores are inherently bad, but with all of this competition growing, the solution to the allocated bottle problem is hard to solve.
Possible Solution to Allocated Bottle Problem
I may have stumbled upon an answer to the allocated bottle problem, though. And it’s one that store owners are already informally starting to put into action.
This involves whittling down the number of bottle raffles to just two weekends out of the whole year (usually the first two weekends in December) to where all of the stores have their raffles on the same day and at the same time.
We saw that this year when Rural Inn and Superior Liquors held their events at the same day and time and most interestingly, this was the exact plan that the owner of Superior had wanted it to be.
He knew that the roughly 500 hardcore bourbon hunters in the city would have to choose one store or another to support, leaving more of a chance for everyone to walk away with something.
At first, I was put off by his response because I had planned to hop from one event to the other. But as I put more thought behind it, the more it began to make sense.
If this state is not going to get any more allocated bottles, or the amount of bottles is going to keep going down each successive year, then the logical step for these stores is to force the customers to pick which store to show their patronage to and attend their raffle.
Some will choose a store like Superior where it doesn’t matter how much you bought during the last year. Everyone gets one ticket.
Others will go big by going to raffles like Rural where each bottle that’s bought earns a ticket and the more tickets you have, the better chance you have of being drawn.
But this is a solution because the core of the problem is that the more raffles people attend and the less bottles (or less desired bottles) they win, the more angry they get at allocated bottles in general.
The point of bourbon isn’t to collect as many of these bottles as possible or run the risk of feeling like you’re failing at “living your best bourbon life.” The point is about the great taste and memories of sharing with friends.
Allocated bottles suck to obtain and there’s no shortcuts to getting them, but at a minimum, it’d be better to keep the events synchronized so that it begins to weed out the people that are in this solely for the profit of getting as many of these bottles for retail just to turn around and flip.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the state of Indiana’s allocated bottle availability this year and also hear your thoughts on what you’d do to solve the issue of how to fairly and equally make sure that those that want these bottles can find them.
Drop us a line in the comments section.
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