Music and bourbon have gone hand in hand since the whiskey itself was invented. Nothing is more enjoyable than firing up your favorite artist and sipping on your favorite bourbon in the waning hours of late summer. There’s something magical that happens when you inundate your senses with your favorite things all at once.
The whole experience becomes even better when you can do this while listening to live music. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’ll be traveling down to Louisville, KY to attend and participate in the 2019 Bourbon & Beyond festival taking place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 20 - 22. Both the artist lineup and bourbon selection look great, and we’re excited to experience it all in person. With the festival only weeks away, we had the opportunity to catch up with Fred Minnick, who has been curating the bourbon portion of the festival since it started in 2017.
With limited releases harder and harder to come by, we get a lot of requests asking for tips on how to find those bourbons at (or near) retail.
The fact is, if you want to get your hands on a bottle of George T. Stagg or Pappy Van Winkle, the time to start hunting is NOW.
No, you’re probably not going to find anything sitting on the shelves in the middle of the year, but unless you live in a control state or bourbon desert U.S.A., there’s a chance your nearest metropolitan area will get an allocation in the fall and some of it will sell at or near retail. To increase your odds at scoring a bottle or two, you need to start laying the groundwork well ahead of time. Imagine how you might react if you were a retailer and a random customer showed up asking for Pappy in October, coincidentally right when you got your allocation…sorry buddy, take a hike!
While there are no guarantees and opportunities will vary geographically, there are some things you can do to better your chances. While this isn’t meant to be comprehensive, here’s a quick hit list of steps you can take right now:
Remember retailers might have hundreds or even thousands of people after the same limited releases you are, so at the end of the day it’s a numbers game. And despite a storefront inventory, retailers are just organized groups of people. Treat retailers how you’d like to be treated: If you go out of your way to patron a retailer who you’ve gotten to know and trust, there’s a better chance they might go out of their way to get a bottle of something special in your hands come release time.
Also, whatever you do, don’t overpay. Few, if any, of the limited releases are worth much more than their MSRP from a drinking standpoint, let alone multiples of MSRP. There are plenty of great bourbons out there that don’t require you to fork over what you paid for your first car. It’s a tough reality to face if you’ve built up a good relationship with a store and shop there often, yet they still try to overcharge you for a limited release. If it happens, make sure you let them know you’re displeased and start the cycle all over again by taking your business elsewhere.
Nick: Is there anything on the horizon that you’re able to talk about at this point with upcoming releases or upcoming experiments or projects that you guys are working on?
Jay: Well we make three what we call “main” whiskeys, by which I mean we make them every month - bourbon, rye, and malted rye. 100% malted rye grain, right? And we only make three fermenters a month of malted rye. We made it very sporadically in the early years...in the early days. At any rate, we make those three. So the next sort of official, if you will, whiskey to come out will be malted rye. That probably won’t hit the market until fall of 2020.
Breaking Bourbon: Little ways off, yeah, I saw that one a little bit, we talked about that one a little bit [when visiting New Riff].
Jay: Yeah, we’re going to give it a little extra time to age and let it be a solid 5 years old, not 4, and kind of make a little exclamation point out of it. So that’s coming down the pipe.
And then as well as that, we make...perhaps you appreciated on the tour...how we have the ability to digest different grains.
We can dump any bag of grain we want to into the process. For one thing, that’s how we make 100% malted rye. We have the ability to go outside of our silos and dump in 2,000 lb. bags of whatever grain we want and then that takes its malted run. So we’ve made a whole bunch of different things. We’ve made wheated bourbon, we made heirloom-grain bourbon, we’ve made heirloom-grain rye, we’ve made chocolate oatmeal stout bourbon where we were inspired by our background as brewers, beer lovers, to make a bourbon so it’s mostly corn, but there’s oats in it and malted oats and things like that. So those things will come out, I don’t know when, but in the future, as special limited editions. And for what it’s worth...but just so you know, those are not accessible for private barrels. And in fact will not be bottled as single-barrels, probably, they will just be Bottled-in-Bond.
Breaking Bourbon: To go forward for New Riff, what’s on the more immediate horizon? What’s on the long-term horizon? What might we expect New Riff to look like in 10 or 20 years from now, all things going as you guys kind of envision them today?
Jay: Well, I don’t think I can say really with accuracy here. But I would say that we do hold that 20-30% of our output every year to become older. That still is not a lot. 20% or 30% of what we made 4 years ago, in 2015, years from now, still is not a lot of whiskey. I hear from folks a lot, I can’t wait until it gets older. And it will get older. I don’t know how old, 7, 10, 8, I don’t know. But there won’t be a lot of it. So I hope that by 10 or 20 years from now, we have simply more whiskey to share with the world.
Furthermore, maybe, more whiskeys to share with the world. Right now we have bourbon and rye. What does malted rye do? What do our specialty, as we call them, for want of a better term, the speciality whiskey do? What is the perception of our version of wheated bourbon? And I’m not necessarily saying it’s the cat’s meow but we have the opportunity to change perceptions in the future with other risks, if you will, that we will do.
For current limited releases, here are a few more tips to help you score your favorite bottles at local retailers:
Bourbon hunting goes beyond current limited releases though. How great would it be to find an old bottle of Wild Turkey? For most, finding a rare dusty might be a once in a lifetime occurrence, but even though odds are quite slim there are ways to increase your chances.
Do you have any other hunting tips? Success stories? We’d love to hear about them! Post in the comments below.
Stay up to date with all of the limited releases by visiting our Bourbon Release Calendar.