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Its this time of year that my buddies in technology take a break from writing SSRS reports, doing forms development in Mongoose, and messing with ERP/EAM entirely and start thinking about all the November and December once a year releases of some of the finest American Whisky (Bourbon specifically) money can buy.   Irish and other whiskeys (think Scotch) are plentiful and available all year long and as long as you have the money, you can likely go to any upscale liquor establishment after you leave the office or manufacturing plant and get a bottle to match your budget.   Sadly, the same does not hold true for Bourbon and that’s why the holiday season is special in more ways than one can imagine.

Camping Out for Bourbon

Just as everyone was camping out for the new Xbox and the Playstation (these are apparently the hot ticket items at the time of writing this),  the lines at the stores waiting for elite Bourbon would make folks think it was a line for the quarterly members only REI gear sale.   Folks from all walks of life would camp out for the chance for a bottle but what makes this long line of customers so interesting is that its filled predominantly with folks in the top 5% income bracket.     Those who scored with Pappy had bragging rights for at least a year and most folks will drink it slowly enough to make it last until next year’s rations.  This isn’t just a top shelf bourbon; this is a private stash only type of bourbon that will only come out if the stakes are high.

In all fairness, I must say that this line of Bourbon has been dramatically hyped up to the level of consumer crazy that is rarely seen.  There are other releases from the same manufacturer and others that also release this time of year that also never make it to the store shelves because they are bought up the second they arrive.  I have no intention of mentioning names but those who follow the releases have a good idea of what other offerings are hot.

This year I was fairly busy with the release of Syteline 9 and going through a half dozen certifications on it and ION so I was fairly excited when I received an email out of the blue from Josh Hiebel from Saratoga Wine Exchange.   While others had left work and were probably eating dinner or relaxing I hear the chime of Outlook telling me I have a new message and the title of it has peaked my interest!

Pappy list

Well here I am all excited because I am actually in front of my PC and see the email and immediately click the button to get on what I think is the waitlist.   My thought was that I was going to be sitting pretty because I knew I was lightning fast to respond and get my name on that list before it became a wasted effort.

Truth be told I was expecting to not hear back for at least a day or two but to my surprise the owner of Saratoga Wine Exchange emailed me shortly after I thought I was putting myself on a waitlist.   Rather than try and summarize it I thought I would simply share the reply that turned my evening from an exciting one to one that made my blood boil


After seeing this, I knew that I fell hook line and sinker for the classic bait and switch.   Somehow the crafty words on his original email that called it an “Allocation List” was strategically ambiguous enough to put readers in the mindset that this must mean waitlist.   This follow-up email was the official kick off of an all out bidding war campaign where the ultimate winner is Joshua Hiebel and the losers are any potential buyers.   This guy not only provides a search engine where you can search up results that only show private individuals selling this product at a huge markup but he does his customers one worse by announcing that he plans to revel the highest offer at the end of the silent bidding war so that people have a chance to pay an even higher premium for the product resulting in more profit to Joshua.   Honestly I think folks would get a far better deal on Craigslist because at least you know that you are going to be paying a premium for the coveted spirit but you know that price upfront and either can opt to buy it or simply ignore.

Joshua did write me back indicating that he sincerely did not intend to alienate his prior customers but did say that we live in a capitalist society where it would be crazy not to try and get top dollar for his goods.   What he does not get is that Buffalo Trace provides this yearly batch as a way to give a great bourbon at a reasonable price while still promoting their brand name for other product lines that are stocked on the shelf year round.   Most of the legitimate places selling it also did not mark it up exponentially to score a huge profit because it was also a huge win for the stores because they got people going to their stores and buying other things and also walking away from the transaction feeling like that store is nothing short of awesome.

Living in Nashville, there was only one time I felt taken advantage of that badly and it was when there was an artificial gas crisis and fuel stations either didn’t have gas or they were selling it at double the price per gallon prior to the incident.   If there is any difference between opportunistic price gouging for gas and having a retailer start a bidding war its certainly very small.   They lost a customer that day but it still hasn’t soured my excitement for this time of year.   In total I have stocked up on four other brands and the silver lining is that I did end up getting called for a true waitlist and was able to buy a 20 year old bottle for $139 which is just about what the retail price should be for this product.  As they say, “All is well that ends well.”   Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday season and look forward to some new cool tips, tweaks, and scripts in 2014.


  December 18, 2013      Comments (0)