Right now if you want a George T. Stagg or the much-hyped Pappy Van Winkle 15, you are going to pay a premium and by premium, I mean as much as $1,500 or more on the secondary market for said Pappy.
The history of now with respect to whiskey is forget what you paid last year or 10 years ago. If you want it, start counting Benjamin’s. For the lucky few who are able to find them at retail either through pure luck or lottery, you can get a good deal, if that even exists. In Virginia, the list price for PVW15 is $120 plus tax.
I’ve said for years “it won’t be any cheaper than it is today” has never been more true. Back in 2007 I would shop online and buy whatever I wanted. I purchased PVW15 for $36.99 and Old Rip 10 107 for $26.99. In Montgomery County, MD ABC, I would pick up Old Weller Antique 7 year for $15.99 when it was on sale. That same year, when you could buy booze on eBay, I purchased a 1976 Yellowstone in the box for $35. I remember going into a VA ABC store in March of 2008 and buying the 2007 release of GTS for $44.99.
Looking back in the blog, I wrote about this subject in 2014 noting that PVW15 was going for up to $700. It only took 6 years for the valuation to more than double. As much as things have changed over the corresponding years and we’ve all seen pricing jump and then jump again (Elijah Craig 18 for instance), some things do indeed stay the same. Evan Williams Bottled in Bond and Old Grand Dad 114 are steady offerings at a fair price. Over the years, I have had to reset the threshold of what I’ll pay for any particular offering and that includes lowering the threshold in some cases. Just yesterday, I picked up four bottles of Elijah Craig 94 pf that was a single barrel selection done by a friend. It’s actually a great selection and out the door was $35. On the other hand, they also selected an Old Elk that was $80. I was assured it was very good but I passed since I didn’t think the price was in line with a 6 year old whiskey.
Now in 2021, there is a ton of bourbon white noise out there with a gazillion Non Distiller Producers (NDP’s) and sourced whiskey. There is nothing wrong with sourced whiskey but what I find bizarre is something like a recent Smoke Wagon barrel selection selling for $675 on the secondary. Smoke Wagon is MGP. Years ago, we did a couple of barrel selections from Smooth Ambler with age ranges from 7-10 years and paid less than $50 a bottle. I certainly understand the difference between retail pricing and the secondary valuation but the gap is cavernous in many cases.
The question; is this the new norm? My interpretation of the history of now says yes. Going forward there are some discriminators that play into my decision to purchase or not purchase. I have a sizable collection so that is a factor (do I need to add more and yet more again). I am drawn to certain profiles and I do tend to stick to stuff I know I like and shy away from things I don’t (Blaton’s, ETL). We still do barrel selections so that feeds the need year over year but I find myself being far more discriminating when something new comes along.