Are we being priced out of good bourbon?
In 2023, it feels like everything is getting more expensive—groceries, gas and even more so, bourbon.
Bourbon pricing woes were getting out of hand long before global pandemics, inflation and a Russian invasion overseas. Between 2016 and 2020, the average price of a 750ml bottle of bourbon, Tennessee whisky and rye rose by $3.49, according to IWSR data.
We appear to be in the midst of a bourbon bubble that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Bourbons ballooning in price can be attributed to many factors. Of course bourbon's popularity continues to be on the rise with no sense of slowing. Demand increase is going to cause price increase. And almost paradoxically, the growth of bourbon production and new producers has never been higher.
In the midst of this bourbon bubble, we're seeing price increases due to numerous factors, but the most pressing appears to be the explosion of the secondary (resale) market and distillers' reaction to it.
The secondary market of purchasing limited or special bottles and reselling them at absurd markups is changing the primary bourbon market in unforeseen ways. Distilleries are becoming wise to it as well, releasing more and more special editions and limited releases to drive sales and, subsequently, secondary markets.
Recently, barrels that survived the 2006 tornado that ripped through Buffalo Trace were bottled and sold in extremely limited quantities. These bottles on the secondary market are now selling for close to twice what Pappy Van Winkle gets. It's bottles like these and consumers' reactions to them that are fueling unprecedented bourbon pricing on all bottles.
It would appear that, as long as the growing number of bourbon consumers get thirstier and thirstier for special bottles, the market will continue to respond—leaving fewer drinkers happy and fewer bottles on our shelves.