Five Tips for Landing Rare Bourbon

Article by Fred Minnick

Over the years, I have answered this question many times: How do I get my hands on Pappy Van Winkle?

My answer was always: “You gotta know a guy.” And silly me, the people asking did know a guy: me. So they would follow up with, “Can you get me a bottle of Pappy?” For a short time, I must have had five requests a day. Then I wrote this blog post, and it became something of a joke that, no, I cannot get you Pappy.

Still, the fact remains that there are many great bourbons you simply can no longer find. Bourbon fans are victims of bourbon’s success.

But don’t give up and go to vodka. Here are five solid methods for obtaining a rare bottle of bourbon, ranked from good to best.

5. Join a club. There are bourbon societies all over the world. And you’ll find that bourbon people love helping one another. Want the next Four Roses Limited Edition? Tell your club members. When you have 50 eyes on the hunt, you stand a better chance of landing a bottle. Just remember to repay the favor. Recommended clubs: Louisville Bourbon Society, Dallas Bourbon Club, Cincinnati Bourbon Club.


4. Get on every liquor store list you can. This is something of a shotgun approach that works for the mid-tier to lower high-end bourbons (i.e., not Pappy). When liquor stores get a nice haul of High West Bourye or Boone County Single Barrel, they want people to know about it.


3. Befriend travelers. If you have a buddy who is a traveling saleswoman, ask if she will walk into liquor stores on your behalf to find bottles. You’d be surprised how many bottles of Weller 12-year-old or 1985 Wild Turkey are sitting on random liquor store shelves in random, middle-of-nowhere America.


2. Go to the “bad” part of town. I know a guy who gets most of his scores in places where there’s a 5 percent chance he’ll be shot. In places with high crime rates, there are liquor stores with metal bars and a pistol by the register. People walk into these places and ask the worker, “What do you have that’s not on the shelf?” Often, collecting dust in the back, are cases of things from five to 10 years ago. High risk=high reward!


1. Be a loyal customer. The absolute best way to get a bottle of Pappy, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or something else super hard-to-get is to shop consistently at one store, befriend the manager and the checkout line attendants and get to know their release schedules. Find out when they get rare bottles and show up in the store then. Since you buy your rum, bourbon, and bubble gum here (spending a healthy amount, of course), the manager will see you and say to himself, “Why, that’s my best customer. Let me just peel off this bottle of Pappy and sell it to him” Liquor store owners need loyal customers to survive; rare bourbons don’t pay the bills. Selling the everyday liquid keeps their lights on. Be loyal; get rewarded.

Still, the fact remains that there are many great bourbons you simply can no longer find. Bourbon fans are victims of bourbon’s success.

Fred Minnick
Official Contributor
Fred Minnick spends a lot of time with rockstars. Minnick headlines the annual Bourbon & Beyond Festival that features some of the biggest names in the music world. When he’s not hanging with rockers, he’s a student of bourbon. His award-winning books include Whiskey Women, Bourbon Curious, Bourbon, Rum Curious, and Mead. He’s also been a featured writer for Whisky Advocate, Whisky Magazine, and Covey Rise.