The Bourbon Everyone Wants But No One Can Get

Discriminating boozehounds are [figuratively] battling it out at the great cornucopia of booze (i.e., liquor stores) for the last remaining bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in New York City.

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If you're the sort of person who wants to drink and be seen, you simply must have the bourbon that is driving New Yorkers to liquor stores in droves, so that they might buy it and drink. In the New York Post, Chris Erikson reports on discriminating boozehounds and the booze that has them [figuratively] battling it out at the great cornucopia of booze (i.e., liquor stores) for the last remaining bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in the city. It's making people behave strangely! For one, they are using phones:

At Park Avenue Liquor, the phone calls from people asking about it are a steady drumbeat: “It never stops,” says vice president Jonathan Goldstein.

It’s the same story at Astor Wines & Spirits, where workers once counted nearly 50 such calls in a single day. At the Whiskey Shop in Williamsburg, the barrage of people seeking it has gone from “crazy” to “just absurd,” says owner Jonathan Wingo.

It's an age-old dilemma (supply and demand) leading to an age-old marketing dream (a product that can't be kept on the shelves ...  money in the pockets ... bourbon in the bourbon snifters). What's great for the bourbon, though, is bad for the desirer of the bourbon. Pappy Van Winkle is bottled in small quantities, approximately 7,000 cases per year, meaning "it’s gone in recent years from a niche item favored by a cult of bourbon connoisseurs to an object of fervor, hunted by an ever-growing number of devotees the way Paris pursued Helen of Troy." Thus, "people treat it like gold."

Let it be known that the season for the bourbon and bourbon-hunting is now, the late fall, when the bourbon gets shipped to stores from its makers in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is, as you can imagine, a great holiday gift. But don't even think of putting it on your list to give or receive, for disappointment is bound to ensue. Harried liquor store owners have grown tired of telling eager customers who just walk in thinking they're going to get a bottle of the prized bourbon that it's already sold out, or denying those customers placement on a waiting list that's already 9 pages deep and not even going to get fulfilled. This is some bourbon (prices vary based on age: "from $40 for the 10-year to $250 for the 23-year"). The secret, according to Erikson, is that the recipe "substitutes wheat for the rye that most bourbon contains (alongside corn and malted barley), creating a softer, sweeter profile."

Anthony Bourdain adores it! David Chang drinks it! And now that everyone knows about it, your chances of getting this much-coveted bourbon, which were already basically nil, are even more nil. Unless you want to buy the bourbon, the only bourbon anyone wants, on eBay, at $500 a bottle (says Erikson; we couldn't find it and eBay has a policy against alcohol being sold on its U.S. site). Or for $2.99 for an empty bottle, a terrible gift for anyone but the true aficionado. Chris Erikson, you've left us in quite a lurch. Maker's Mark? That's pretty good, right?

    This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.