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Issue 70 - Too little of a good thing?

Whisky Magazine Issue 70
February 2008


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Too little of a good thing?

Charles K. Cowdery looks at the buzz created by the limited editions market.

Recently, limited edition bottlings have become a staple of American whiskey producers. Many of these releases – such as Buffalo Trace's George T.

Stagg, Four Roses Barrel Strength, Parker's Heritage Collection from Heaven Hill, and Wild Turkey American Spirit – are so coveted by enthusiasts that they sell out instantly, often without ever reaching retail store shelves.

In some cases, demand seems to exceed supply by orders of magnitude. In others, high prices temper demand, at least short term.

Even though many consumers are disappointed when they can't lay their hands on a coveted bottle, the buzz keeps people excited about American whiskey in general.

All of this is pretty familiar stuff to Scotch drinkers, and fanciers of rare wines and brandies, but it is a new sensation for fans of rare American whiskey. We never had this until a few years ago, limited edition annual releases, limited edition one-offs, vintage bottlings, and so on.

Inevitably, there are also reports that producers and distributors are using access to the most desirable of these rarities to induce retailers to buy other goods, merchandise the seller wants to move but the customer doesn't necessarily want to buy.

Again, nothing especially new there, except we're not used to the product being brokered being an American whiskey.

Leveraging of rarities to get other sales occurs openly where it's legal and surreptitiously where it isn't. David Soto, spirits director and specialist at Sam's Wines &S...

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