If set in present day, Jed Clampett would be better off if up from the ground came a bubbling Pappy Van Winkle. Although this would make for a terrible TV show theme song, it’s hard to argue the fact that Bourbon is becoming the equivalent of gold (yes, I am deviating away from oil as it now pales in comparison in value per volume when measured against premium Whiskey). But, you likely already know all of this or why else would you be here in the first place. This allows me to bypass the “Bourbon is booming” speech, and we can also move past the facts and figures detailing its scarcity. You already know that it is rare and it is no longer just the “Premium” bottles are missing on those liquor store shelves (ie. Weller, EH Taylor, Blanton’s, etc...).
Very often we are approached by our members with one of two questions that are directed differently, but ultimately share the same goal, “I have/want a bottle of XXX, how can I go about selling/buying it?” What they’re referring to of course is the Secondary Market, and unfortunately finding “it” isn’t as easy as shopping on Amazon. I’m sure it comes to no surprise that the Secondary Market is not one, but a conglomerate of multiple outlets someone can use to buy or sell Whiskey that is rare, or sometimes impossible, to find sitting on the shelf of the local liquor store.
This brings us to the point of this article as we briefly describe some of the multiple avenues someone could use to sell, buy or trade a bottle of Whiskey.
This applies to Facebook and Reddit, where each contains a multitude of avenues to meet like-minded individuals interested in Whiskey. These are great communities to off-load or procure bottles, but there are a few caveats for anyone who isn’t familiar with them. For starters, they are secret groups, meaning hard to find. Moreover many of them are invitation only, meaning you have to know someone on the inside to begin the vetting process. Most of the popular ones are heavily guarded and any individual making transactions within them are guided by heavily enforced rules, some carrying penalties harsh enough to result in a permanent ban. Since, many of these members from different groups overlap one another, a ban from one group can get you banned from all. So, if you find yourself able to get into one these community marketplaces make sure to read the rules thoroughly and carefully.
One of the safest avenues for those looking to sell a rare bottle of Bourbon or Whiskey is using a specialty broker. Much like brokers in other businesses these groups have access to a network of buyers and sellers. They provide a level of security to a buyer or seller as they are licensed business entities, rather than a stranger you have no personal relationship with. Using a broker makes the process much easier as they typically take care of all the little details. This is a major plus because as an individual UPS and FedEx will not insure your fragile package of liquor unless you carry a license. Also, good to note is shipping companies will generally not ship a package containing alcohol from an unlicensed source. Brokers remove a lot of the hassle and concern of buying or selling a bottle, but you do need to be aware that it’s possible to not receive 100% of the Secondary value because brokers must resell the bottle; however, sometimes a lesser price with an increase in peace of mind is worth the trade off.
A good example of one such brokerage firm is Epic Cellars. The people behind Epic Cellars have been in business for over 20 years and purchase both spirits and wine. Page von Roenn of Epic Cellars has seen the Bourbon and Whiskey markets skyrocket in recent years. What makes Epic Cellars unique is their willingness to work with all potential clients. She says, “Most brokers are not interested in single bottles; however, Epic Cellars will purchase everything from single bottles to large collections.”
Certainly a hurdle faced by many Bourbon collectors is the hassle associated with trading or selling bottles. Negotiating payment, haggling over shipping costs and finding the appropriate packing materials for a fragile bottle is commonplace in Bourbon trading. Something to consider when searching for a good broker is whether or not they will help smooth out the process. For example, Page von Roenn of Epic Cellars says they “provide all shipping supplies, prepaid return shipping and shipping insurance”. They will also ensure that payment is made with 24 hours of receipt and inspection.
Many cities have Bourbon clubs that gather on semi-regular basis to discuss bourbon. Often they have guest speakers as well as regular tastings. These clubs not only provide an enjoyable time but also allow collectors to develop relationships with others in the group to create a local trading network. Try looking for Bourbon meet-ups in your area to get started.
The final option for anyone with any bottle of Bourbon or Whiskey is to simply crack it open with a few friends and enjoy a glass. Whatever you decide, cheers!