Old & Rare Whiskey Auction
K&L is one of the best places in the country to shop for whiskey, but we don’t have an extensive collection of ultra-rare or old spirits in stock regularly. That’s because we decided years ago to be the store that sells great spirits not the store that stores great spirits. Even with the world’s most sought-after and rare offerings are presented to our customers at a standard mark up, no different than the products we sell every day of the year. So when they’re here they’re always be gone in just seconds. You all know the drill. I feel deeply, as a whiskey lover myself, that the feeling of walking into the store (or in most cases clicking into our site) and securing something special for a reasonable price is such a rare experience these days, I should strive to be able to provide that on occasion for my customers. Even if that means we’re making less money on some of these very rare bottles than our competitors.
I stop at nearly every liquor store I drive by. Even the dingiest corner store, covered in rat poison and cigarette smoke, is keen to get into the rare whiskey game. You might see a bottle of Elmer T. Lee or Weller marked up 10-fold. It will likely sit there for years, but eventually someone too dumb or rich to care about the price will come in and not haggle and walk away happy. The guy who owns the shop will probably be pissed to see it go, despite the outrageous margins, because he never really intended to sell those bottles in the first place. But most of the stuff that people are after now aren’t true rarities. They’re regularly released products that have limited production. Take Blanton’s for instance, the only reason we don’t see plenty more Blanton’s is that the distillery who makes it doesn’t own the brand. They limit its production to the contractual obligated amounts because it only benefits them as a commodity sale, not as a marketing opportunity. Now that every bar, wine store and bodega is asking their supplier for them, what seemed like a reasonable available supply 5 years ago is no where close to the demand. But, travel to Europe or Japan and you can see shelves for of Blanton’s in many different flavors.
Occasionally we get the truly rare products. Whether it’s Van Winkle, Parker’s, Vintage Turkey, Four Roses LE or Booker’s Anniversary, there is actual scarcity in many of these products. There are entire markets of online resellers, private and public, who trade these commodities the same way you’d trade any luxury good of limited availability. A semi-closed market with limited supply has pushed prices into the stratosphere. We’ve mostly avoided the sector of the market. While we do occasionally buy rare products at auction and resell them here, if you’re getting one of the ultra-rare releases this year, it would have come through normal channels at a reasonable price. It’s booze retailers dirty little secret. They love to blame their distributors for high prices, but the actual cost of most of these rarities is extremely reasonable.
Other stores might go so far as to buy on the secondary market to resell, which of course is prohibited. A licensed retailer can only legally purchase alcohol from another licensee (i.e. a wholesale distributor). But for one strange exception to that rule, we’d almost never be able to acquire truly old and rare products to sell in the shop that hadn’t been released recently. A little-known stipulation in California alcohol regulations, allow for a single sale of alcoholic spirits by an estate when the owner has passed away. This is probably welcome news to many of the spouses of our best customers, but it also gives us a chance to help some of our great customers in their time of greatest need. Of course, we’re not running a charity here, but to say we’re a fair dealer compared to the vultures scouring the internet for people who don’t know what they have is an understatement.
And that brings us to the incredibly special products that I’m going to introduce to you today. A collection of some of the rarest, most desirable bourbons of the last decade from the estate of one of our very best customers. He purchased everyone at retail and stored them in his cellar in exceptional conditions. We’ve decided to make them available to you via our online auction platform and we will be releasing products of various ilk here over the next 10-12 weeks. It will be an incredible array of some of the rarest bourbons of the modern era. Don’t worry though, no Pappy. Here are the first four lots with many more to come: