Now that serious whiskey enthusiasm is reaching a wider audience than ever before, the cult favorites that insiders looked forward to every year are becoming even harder to obtain. While there are still a plethora of fantastic single malts flying under the radar, there are no more secrets in Bourbon County. This is partly due to the fact that there are so few actual bourbon distilleries (especially compared to Scotland's single malt producers) and partly because of America's spirit-blogging, food-blogging, Facebooking culture. Everyone is excited to share their latest discovery, their newest adventure, a picture of them standing in front of a landmark, or a photo of them drinking a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. The word is out on the Buffalo Trace Fall releases and they are no longer being snatched up by only the faithful following. The Antique/Van Winkle is becoming known as the "it" thing to be drinking and it only takes a few Google searches and a little bit of browsing to figure that out. Anything that is difficult to obtain immediately becomes more desirable, especially in the spirits world where trophy hunting and Ebay flipping have become commonplace. I didn't need to use the Internet this year however to learn that more people are seeking the BT bourbons than previously were.
Everyday when I get to my desk there are ten voicemails with new customers from all over the country asking when I might get these whiskies in and if they could reserve three of each! Then there are the fifteen emails that I have to answer, all with the same apologetic words: I'm sorry, but I cannot reserve any bottles in advance. All I can do is smile and fight back that nervous feeling in my stomach that knows how upset some people are going to be when they don't get any. On one hand, it seems like people know that these bottles are not plentiful and are doing their homework early, but on the other hand I'm not sure they know how limited they are.
Between both our NorCal and SoCal locations (a luxury that no other California boutique retailer knows) we get two allocations of Buffalo Trace, basically doubling what other stores get. Even with these numbers, we're getting a case or less of each expression. We're only getting six bottles total of Sazerac 18 and the Van Winkle Rye, if that helps give you the idea of what we're dealing with here, so how does that help the 500+ people out there who have been calling me for weeks in anticipation? What if I want a bottle, or Girard, or my manager Alex who loves bourbon? Then we're down to even fewer available with demand through the freakin' roof! The situation is so dire right now that we're no longer holding back bottles for our long-time customers or helping out friends of K&L. We simply cannot play favorites and we have to open it up to first-come, first-served.
My question to any readers out there is this: knowing what you know about the difficulty in getting these bottles, is the Buffalo Trace Fall Collection worth all the trouble? I love these whiskies and find them all to be fabulous specimen of Bourbon and Rye, but are they so amazingly good that you would line up around the corner or set your alarm early to get one? If so, which ones in particular and why? I'm very curious to see what other people think.