Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Throwback Wednesday: Shopping for BTAC in 2007


I started this blog in 2007 while we were still at the tail end of the Golden Age of American Whiskey. Going through some old posts, I was struck by how different the whiskey world was just a few years ago. It's funny to think that many whiskey geeks considered the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (particularly Stagg and Weller) much more desirable than the Van Winkle whiskeys.  At that time, it was still pretty easy to find the Van Winkles; most good liquor stores had a Pappy or two and the 12 year old Lot B was downright plentiful.  By 2007, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection had become a bit harder to find than it had been a few years earlier, but with a little bit of effort, you could find a few bottles even months after its release.

In December 2007, I posted about a new liquor store in town known as K&L.  (This was before the Davids took over as spirits buyers; back then I think those guys were doing Jager shots at college parties or something).  I noticed that this place had a pretty decent booze selection, including the entire lineup of BTAC...in December...for $55 to $65 per bottle.  Nowadays, of course, these whiskeys don't sit on the shelf for more than ten minutes after they're released, if they get to the shelf at all, and they go for $80 to $150 at retail.

Three years later, I was writing about how there was starting to be some frenzy-like behavior around the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release but admonishing readers to take a deep breath and not worry, because with a little bit of searching, they would find the whiskeys.  Reading it now, it sounds like the beginning of a zombie movie ("News reports of a woman eating her grandchildren have startled local residents, but the government has counseled people to stay calm and has said this was merely an isolated incident.")  We all know now that those were just the early signs of the current bourbon apocalypse. 

It's amazing how much the whiskey world has changed in less than a decade. Do you remember the "good old days"?  What's your favorite memory?


17 comments:

Andrew Elms said...

About that same time my brother and I were walking through a Binny's or Sam's in Chicago. I remember walking past a display basket the size of a grocery cart filled with Pappy 15. We scoffed and passed it by, we had it and knew it was good but saw no reason to pay more than $35 for a bottle of bourbon with so many great choices. Wish I had just bought the whole thing and stuffed it in my basement, I could use it to fund a rather nice car about now.

risenc said...

Back in 07-08, there was a store near my office in DC that had Hirsch 16 gold foil for $65 a bottle. About a dozen, and they just say there. Eventually I bought a case's worth, and I'm glad I did. They also had a bunch of Willett Family Estate bottlings, and for most of the year would have the entire BTAC. Wish I'd bought more of those.

Those liquors are now all long gone, and so is the store. Today, it's a Potbelly.

BMc said...

In 2011, the Parker's Heritage wheated bourbon hit the shelves. Nobody wanted it. I got a bottle on the way home from work for my birthday and hated it. I couldn't believe I had sprung for it, when the BTAC William Larue Weller was right next to it for the same price. That's what I get for trying before buying, I thought

Three or four months later, the BTAC for 2011 came out. My local store sat on them until mid-2012 because of the $70 price tag. I picked up two of the Wellers but left the Staggs because I had read that they weren't as good as previous years' releases.

That same year I saw a row of Sazerac 18 years in a store, with the same $70 price tag. I passed them up because Montgomery County, Maryland stores had them for 10 bucks less, and I figured I'd go up there sometime...

PT said...

2003 or thereabouts. A case of the Ardbeg Provenance below cost. Distributer/distillery authorized price drop rather than return bottles which sat on shelf for a long while. Right place right time. True story. Slainte MF!

David D said...

My favorite memory was the one day I worked the floor in the Hollywood store and some jackass harrassed me for fifteen minutes about getting a bottle of Pappy, then try to slip me a twenty dollar bill in an attempt to bribe me, only to eventually hand me a business card to at least give him a call. The card said Steve K. Ury.

Anonymous said...

A couple years back I went into my local store to get some beer, and there was a bottle of Pappy 15, at cost, on the shelf. That's probably not gonna happen again :-((

sku said...

Good times David, good times. But you showed yourself to be a man of integrity that day...I mean you could have just taken the $20.

T Comp said...

2007 Christmas present of two PVW 15s which wife had stored on side and small leakage resulted. She noticed it before wrapping and took back to the local Binny's and they promptly replaced with another two from the shelf.

Adam H said...

I remember when, in order to find out if you would like a whiskey, you had to taste it - possibly even necessitating opening a bottle. Now, you can just go on Facebook and ask everyone if you should buy it, what it will taste like, and if you will like it. And they're right every time! It amazes me that some of us wasted all those millivolts of energy, trying to fire up our brains, in a pretentious and snobby attempt to think a little bit.

sku said...

T Comp, that's a good one.

Harry said...

Back then, the only whiskey I drank neat was Lot B (the older PVW's being too woody hahaha). When Lot B crossed $50, I quit buying it, deciding that no whiskey was worth more than $50. I sure learned my lesson about price and quality. Now, there are dozens of whiskeys I drink neat, most of which I'd have never tried if Lot B were still around. And price is no longer a determinative or me; bottom shelf is just fine sometimes.

Eric said...

I look back on my early/mid 20s and laugh sometimes. I had no compunctions about paying $10-$15 for a bomber of craft beer, but refused to spend more than $25 on a bottle of bourbon (mostly woodford reserve and knob creek . . . On the rocks, cuz I was sophisticated). I currently live in an area that is caught up in the grips of the bourbon boom, with very few special releases lasting more than an hour or two. Retailer markup hasn't gotten too bad, but there is some gouging going on.

Thankfully bad is often good when viewed with the right filter, and the bourbon storm cloud certainly has a silver lining for me: Scotch Whisky just isn't that popular right now here. Special editions sell briskly enough, but we get so much volume that there is almost always a deal to be had. Brora 35 is selling for $499. I know a store that marks PVW up to the $1000+ range, yet sells Lagavulin 16, Springbank 10, and Laphroaig Cask Strength for $49.99. I occasionally find old Ardbeg releases languishing on shelves (Airigh nam beist being my most recent find). Diageo's annual distiller's editions almost always end up discounted by 30-40% before the next year's releases. Laphroaig 18 is still $65 here. Talisker 18 is $85. IBs of Port Ellen occasionally show up on shelves for semi-reasonable prices.

Sure, I wish I could send a message to 21 year old Eric telling him to buy up all the BTAC/PVW in the state, but life could be worse.

Josh West said...

I miss the days of buying a couple cases of each BTAC bottle type. I always went for BTAC over Pappy when given the choice.

Sam Komlenic said...


Here in PA we could get some of the BTAC, Van Winkle Family rye and Lot B off the shelf on an extended basis.

Two years ago I was in a liquor store in NJ where they had three bottles of Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year on the shelf at MSRP ($40).

Jesus! To quote Jerry Garcia, "Where does the time go?"

Anonymous said...

Had a glass of 2007 WLW Saturday before heading out with friends for dinner. Picked it up and another bottle in 2011. That same year at another store the owner sold be two 2010 GTS at 10% off because nobody would pay $88 for a bottle of bourbon.

Anonymous said...

Late 2008, after the credit crisis, a local store was obviously looking to raise some cash. I picked up 4 bottles of Jim Beam Black for $12 each out the door. Not my favorite sipper, but that was a nice run of cocktails!

Tipsy Texan said...

The way I learned about BTAC was by buying a bottle of Sazerac 18, ca 2007, off the shelf at Austin Wine Merchant, for $45. I learned only after an exhaustive search for the second bottle that I'd found something truly special. I have never since then seen a bottle in the wild in my home town of Austin; however, inexplicably to me now, I found a whole shelf of it at Binny's in Chicago a few years later.