I haven't spoken about this to many people, let alone blogged about it, but I have a reliable spot for dusty bourbons. Rather, I had a reliable spot.
Many of us dusty bottle hunters have a place that's reliable, usually off the beaten track. And eventually, with new hunters coming aboard every day, that secret place is found by someone else and he or she relieves the store of what remains. That's just part of the hunt. I personally do not believe in hoarding a good find, so I usually leave a bottle or two on the shelf for that next person. Others have done it for me, and I am grateful for it. If I ever do "clean out" a store, I will share the spoils because I believe whisk(e)y is best as a group experience.
The store of interest here, let's call it Tasty Liquors, had five different brands of '80s bourbons. There's one particular brand (to be reviewed soon) in which I have the most interest and have occasionally purchased a bottle, leaving more on the shelf.
On Friday night, I opened a bottle of this bourbon and found it to be enormously enjoyable. When I'd purchased this whiskey two weeks earlier, there were at least 3 more bottles on the shelf. On this past Friday night, as I delighted in the delicious stuff, I decided that I'd get one more bottle for myself and one for a friend. So, first thing on Saturday morning, I drove to the store.
When I got to Tasty Liquors around 8:30am, I noticed that ALL of their dusty bourbon bottles were gone. Not just my favorite brand, but all of the dusties. In place of every old bottle was its new/current version. At first I wondered if the old bottles just went to the back of the store so the newer shinier more familiar looking bottles would take front stage.
(Tasty Liquors is run by a very polite Asian couple and I think they recognize me now since I've been gradually relieving them of their old stuff. The husband had always looked at me oddly as I'd ask for bottles he hadn't been able to sell in three decades.)
More than a little disappointed by the missing dusties, I innocently asked the wife of the couple if they had any of the older versions left, emphasizing that I'd be happy to buy them, not knowing if she would know what I was referring to. But the moment I said the name of my specific brand, she said that "they were discontinued".
"Discontinued", an interesting word choice. The ownership and label had changed 25 years ago, the juice had changed 20 years ago, but discontinued? No. After additional careful polite questioning, I discovered that the distributor rep who restocks this bourbon told her that all of those old bourbons were discontinued and needed to be pulled off the shelf and replaced with the newest versions...
...and he left with all of the dusties. I asked her if he had purchased the bottles. She was confused by that question and said again that he'd said they were discontinued and needed to be taken away.
When I originally wrote this post on Saturday afternoon, I was really f***ing angry. Part of it was grumpiness about someone emptying out the whole stash. Part of the frustration was aimed at myself for not stocking up earlier. But most of it was irrational righteous indignation.
Distributor reps have quite a bit of access to dusty bourbons. Which is fine. Some of them are serious bourbon geeks. I have a buddy who works for a big distributor and he is the smartest bourbon guy I know. He buys the fun dusties he finds and it's not a big issue for him since the bottles are always very cheap. Plus he often shares his spoils. He's the only reason I've been able to try Mr. Van Winkle's bourbons.
But in this instance, if I have interpreted Saturday morning's situation correctly, a distributor rep walked into a liquor store, lied to the owners and then walked out with up to a dozen bottles of collectable (and delicious) whiskey without paying for it. Thus it's very possible that a thief cleaned out a liquor store using his unique position to lie to unknowing ownership; a lying thief who has access to many other prime dusty spots.
Could I be wrong about this? Yeah. Something could have been lost in translation in my chat with the owner. The rep could have bought up the old stuff when he replaced it with the new stuff. And if he didn't, the owners look like complete and utter saps for falling for his BS (though, historically, men have gotten laid utilizing more dubious stories). Or, perhaps the owners finally wisened up after 30 years and realized that there was a market for the oldies (inspired by my sudden purchases) and found another avenue to sell the bottles at a higher price, thus they fibbed to me. Or maybe I totally misunderstood and someone else had bought the dusties before or after the new versions were restocked.
But, I don't think so. Those bottles didn't move for almost 30 years and it's very likely more bottles were needed after my previous purchases. Thus a call to restock. The rep had clearly pushed the "discontinued" angle. And suddenly the dusties were gone, with a somewhat confused owner left in the wake.
I happily welcome this fellow to the LA-area dusty hunt, if he's purchasing his finds. But if he's not purchasing them... I know the region this person works in, the stores he stocks, and the company he works for. I'm not going to spill this info in case I'm completely wrong about what happened. But if, in my hunt, I find this happening again, I will be more than happy to share this information. All's fair in the love and war of a dusty hunt unless you're a g****mned thief.
Yes, this is the calmer version of my post. This sort of experience takes a lot of the fun out of dusty hunting. I've been beaten to a good stash before, a few times. But never by something that seemed so much like a scam. And it didn't have to be that way. These bottles cost, on average, $15. Am I an overreacting sore loser? Let me know. Have you come across poachers in your rounds? Do you believe in "cleaning out" a dusty store or do you leave goodies behind? Or have I just inspired you to hoard even more?