How the heck do you get your hands on a W.L. Weller, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, E.H. Taylor, store picks, and other rare or limited edition bourbons?
It’s the million-dollar question.
Because if you’ve been into bourbon for any length of time, you know you probably aren’t going to walk into a liquor store and find these on the shelves.
You have to hunt for them. But how do you do that?
I asked this same question right when I became enamored with bourbon and was incredibly frustrated with the lack of helpful information out there.
So, I went around my hometown, Knoxville, TN, and asked local bourbon collectors and liquor store owners how to find rare bourbons. And here’s a summary of what I discovered:
Tips on How to Find Rare Bourbons (Even If You’ve Never Found One)
1. Develop relationships with local liquor store owners.
One of the best ways to find rare bourbons is by getting to know a few liquor store owners in your area. A lot of stores periodically get a limited allocation of rare bottles and keep them in the back.
If you become friends with owners of the stores with the best selection, you can often ask them if they have anything in the back.
If they like you, they could very well say yes. They’re much less likely to show their hidden stash to people who aren’t regular customers.
2. Join local bourbon groups on Facebook.
Searching for some local bourbon aficionado groups on Facebook is also an incredible strategy.
The people in the community often share locations where they found rare bottles and offer advice you won’t hear anywhere else (like what stores in your area have the good stuff and which rare bottles taste the best).
I’m personally in two groups in my area, and the members frequently give everyone a heads up on new arrivals at the local liquor stores.
3. Visit new liquor stores when you travel.
I went on the Bourbon Trail a few weeks ago and ended up finding a W.L. Weller Antique 107 sitting on the shelf at a local liquor store.
...I’ve never seen one in my area before.
Upon investigation in my Facebook groups, others have also found rare bourbons sitting on shelves in liquor stores across the country. That’s why I now plan a few liquor store visits when I’m traveling.
4. Commit to bourbon hunting.
The most important factor in finding rare bourbons is understanding the game and committing to playing it.
If you want to find rare bourbons, you have to spend a lot of time on the hunt.
You have to frequent several liquor stores in your area, you have to become a key member in your Facebook groups, and you always have to have your ear to the ground—ready to jump on an opportunity at a moment’s notice.
The amount of time you spend hunting bourbon will directly correlate to your success in finding the rare stuff.
5. Know what you’re looking for.
The sheer amount of bourbon brands out there is completely overwhelming. When I first got started, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at when I walked down the bourbon aisle.
I had to get acclimated with which brands were rare and which weren’t.
If you want to start hunting bourbon, you have to familiarize yourself with the rare bottles. Because if you don’t, you could end up passing on a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity.
6. Join email lists and enter lotteries.
Finally, some liquor stores have email lists you can join to tell you when they get their allocation of rare bottles.
One of my local ones does this, and whenever you get a text or email, you have to drop what you’re doing and run to have a shot at a bottle.
Some places like Total Wine & Spirits also do lotteries that they announce on via email.
I prefer this because I don’t have to run like a crazy man to get the bourbon if I win (but it’s not often the easiest way to get a bottle since so many people can enter).
Bourbon Hunting Is a Ton of Fun
These tips will help you get started in finding rare bourbon bottles you might never have seen otherwise on liquor store shelves.
And hopefully, soon, you’ll feel the satisfaction of cracking open a bottle that tons of people are dying to get their hands on.
Hunter Branch is the owner of Bourbon Inspector—a blog designed to help you find great bourbons, accessories, and ways to enjoy America’s native spirit.