You’ve likely heard stories about ‘hyped’ sneakers or watches that, after release, end up going for resale at multiples of their original MSRP. Well, the world of bourbon hasn’t been spared from this trend. Because of internet-fueled feverish excitement and some shrewd business decisions, there are bottles in circulation that are impossible to find and ridiculously expensive when you do. To be fair, it’s not all the fault of forums or distilleries, although they do play a part here.
There’s a three-tier system that controls how liquor is sold in the US: distilleries, distributors, and retailers. At each stage the price is marked up, so although a distillery might set the price of a bottle of bourbon at $20, by the time it reaches a liquor store shelf it might reach $30. The exception here are control states, in which the price is regulated. Some bourbon releases are allocated by the distilleries, meaning that a limited number of bottles reach the market. Sometimes this is because the amount of whiskey is actually limited, and sometimes it might be manufactured scarcity.
There are, however, good alternatives to many unicorn bottles of bourbon. Here are three infamously elusive bourbons, and our suggested alternatives for you to consider.
The Pappy Van Winkle Alternative
Pappy is a wheated bourbon that has been lionized over the past decade. Sure, it’s delicious, although some might argue that expressions aged 20 years or more are on the tannin side. If you want a wheated bourbon that is just as good at a fraction of the price, pick up a bottle of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength for $35 instead.
The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Alternative
This annual series of bourbons and rye whiskeys are older and stronger than most of what the distillery regularly releases, and also incredibly hyped. Instead, consider seeking out a single barrel release from Knob Creek, a nine-year-old bourbon bottled at 120 proof.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve
The Michter’s 10 and 20-year-old & Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Alternative
Both of these bourbons differ each year, and become instant collector’s items. These are great, but so are the much easier to find Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon, Bulleit 10 or Redemption 10 Year Old Barrel Proof High Rye.
Next time you’re at your local liquor store, make special note of how much certain bottles are marked up by comparing them to the MSRP you can find online at useful websites like Overpriced Bourbon. This is one of the best ways you can determine which liquor stores to shop at and which to avoid.
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