Monday, January 8, 2018

My Vintage Spirits Wish List



There is something new to do when you visit Kentucky, drink vintage spirits. Kentucky's Vintage Spirits Law is just a few days old, but I've been working on my personal wish list. These are all whiskeys I have had at some point and would like to have again.

Where I have indicated a label, that wording identifies the distillery where the whiskey I tasted was made, to distinguish it from other versions of that brand made at other distilleries.

"What is vintage?" is still a wide-open question, until the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control Department issues some regulations. All they have released so far is the following, elaborating on the new law's notice provision.

"Effective January 1, 2018, a retail licensee selling vintage distilled spirits purchased from a non-licensed person must give the Department prior written notice of the proposed retail drink or package sale, which includes the following information:  (1) name and address of seller; (2) the quantity and name of the alcohol product being sold; (3) the date of the sale; and (4) name and license number of retail licensee."

I will here express again my hope that Kentucky will be truly conservative and regulate this trade as little as possible. So far so good. Let's hope they continue to let the market work its magic so millions of bottles now gathering dust in attics and basements can soon be liberated, freed to fulfill their noble destiny, all nice and legal like.

Back to my list. I believe these qualify as 'vintage.'

Antique Bourbon, Athertonville label
Henry McKenna Bourbon, Fairfield label
Very Very Old Fitzgerald 12-year-old
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond, DSP-16
A. H. Hirsch Reserve Bourbon
Old Grand-Dad, Frankfort label
Parker's Heritage #6, a Blend of Mashbills
Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, 1994

Before anyone contacts me with offers to sell any of the whiskeys on my list, don't bother. Transactions between non-licensed people are still illegal everywhere. If, however, you are a licensed Kentucky retailer engaged in vintage spirits reselling, and you have any of the above to sell, let me know.

Although the word 'vintage' suggests age, there is nothing in the new law that requires the bottle to be old. Mainly, the product cannot now be available in Kentucky through normal channels.

My main interest is American straight whiskey, but Kentucky's new law encompasses all distilled spirits, so scotch, cognac, rum, Chartreuse; it's all in the game.

So much remains to be seen. This isn't just bars, remember, selling by the drink. Package stores may buy and resell whole bottles. Not every retailer will participate. Many will wait until the rules are clearer, but some will jump right in. Most of the risk is on them.

If you have some vintage spirits you might want to sell, is now the best time to liquidate your collection? Maybe, but probably not. If the whole thing goes bust (a possibility), now might be your only chance. Otherwise, it probably makes sense to at least put a toe in the water, if only to find out who is buying and how much they might be willing to pay. Pick a few bottles you can part with easily. Keep your gems in reserve.

If you do, please remember that the buyers are businesspeople. They expect to make a profit, so they will price the bottle they bought from you at price higher than what they paid you, possibly a lot higher. That's how it works. I regret that it is necessary to explain this but from experience I know it is.

I can't emphasize enough what a big deal this is, potentially. It could be huge. It might even be the first wave in the ultimate legalization of the entire secondary market.

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