Why is Blanton’s Bourbon So Hard To Find?

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If you’re a novice or simply a casual bourbon fan, you might not notice that some bourbons are much more readily available than others. This is because you see myriad names over and over and just assume that’s all that is available. If you take a stroll down the aisle at your local liquor store or scroll through an online retailer, you’ll see names like Bulleit, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, and Knob Creek. You’ll also see some lesser-known, craft options depending on where you live. But with all of these easy-to-find expressions, countless hard-to-find bottles are rabidly sought-after by corn-based whiskey-obsessed fans.

Of course, we’re talking about names like Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, various Weller bottles, and Blanton’s. This leads us to one train of thought. Why are Wild Turkey 101 and Old Grand-Dad so easy to find (and to a lesser degree Buffalo Trace depending on where you live) while Blanton’s specifically isn’t? What is it about these other names (and a dozen more) that demands such unicorn, high-priced fascination?

To figure this out, we need to delve into the world of bourbon. To explain why one bottle is more expensive or hard to find than another is a really complicated matter. While some expressions are readily available and produced in massive quantities, others are small batch, single barrel, and limited-edition expressions. But it’s so much more complicated than this. Keep reading as we attempt to dissect just why it’s so difficult to find a bottle of Blanton’s and why it’s so expensive. But first, a little background into the brand itself.

Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon

What is Blanton’s?

Back in 1984, master distiller Elmer T. Lee (who also has another sought-after whiskey named after him) created the first single barrel bourbon. He made it by selecting the best barrels from the center of Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace. He named the whiskey “Blanton’s Single Barrel” in tribute to Colonel Albert B. Blanton the president of the distillery until 1952, who Lee learned from.

This award-winning high-rye bourbon is still taken from the “center-cut” section of the warehouse. While the recipe is a highly-guarded secret, it’s known to have a higher proportion of rye than most bourbons. This creates a fruity, spicy whiskey with notes of citrus peel, rich oak, brown sugar, vanilla beans, and warming wintry spices. The best part? Since it’s a single barrel offering, the flavor profile and alcohol content (hovering around 46.5%) changes depending on the batch.

If you didn’t know it already, Blanton’s Single Barrel isn’t the only expression under Blanton’s name. Since its inception in 1984, Blanton’s Gold Edition, Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel, and Blanton’s Special Reserve have been added.

Demand Exceeds Supply.

To put it simply, whenever anything is hard to find, you can usually count on supply and demand to be the issue. In the case of Blanton’s, demand far outweighs the supply. This might be a simplification, but while you can simply make more vodka, gin, or unaged tequila, you need to mature bourbon before it can be bottled and sold. That takes years. If enough barrels haven’t been created to meet the demand, there won’t be enough whiskey for everyone who wants it.

Buffalo Trace can only supply so much Blanton’s at a time. The brand has even increased production in the last decade to try to meet the demand, but collectors have been so obsessed with this whiskey that it hasn’t really helped. Buffalo Trace has even added a step in an effort to curb people hoarding bottles. They require people to scan their driver’s license when purchasing a bottle at the distillery gift shop and only allow you to purchase one bottle every three months.

Single Barrel Whiskey is In.

Small-batch and single-barrel bourbons are wildly popular in the contemporary whiskey world. For a little refresher, a small batch refers to a whiskey that’s created by blending a small number of barrels or casks together. A single barrel refers to a whiskey that literally comes from one single barrel. A single barrel bourbon, like Blanton’s, doesn’t come from a random barrel or cask. It’s hand-picked by the master blender or master distiller.

While these two definitions aren’t the same, they are similar and both are highly sought-after. This is yet another reason why Blanton’s and other single-barrel and small-batch whiskeys are hard to find. While you might be the type of drinker who buys one bottle, goes home, cracks it open, and drinks it then and there, others buy bottles to either drink later, collect, or flip later for a profit. These are the people who drive both the demand and price higher for brands like Blanton’s.

Each State’s Liquor Board Has Different Rules.

Yet another reason why it’s difficult to find Blanton’s is the fact that every state’s liquor board has a different set of rules. This means that depending on where you live, there are various regulations and rules on the creation, sale, and distribution of alcohol. Specifically, bourbon in this case. Some states (seventeen states including Vermont, West Virginia, and Oregon) even have liquor control boards that implement even more rules and restrictions. This makes it even more difficult to find in these states.

They Might Be Allocated Bottles.

If you’re a bourbon fan, you’ve likely heard the term “allocated” before. For whiskey fans, this is one of the scariest, most annoying words they’ll ever hear. In the simplest terms, depending on the state, the store, and the availability of the whiskey, some areas get fewer bottles of a particular whiskey while others get more. If you live somewhere that Blanton’s is an allocated bottle, the stores in your area will only get a few bottles at a time. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that if you’re the first one in the door, you’ll get a bottle at the suggested retail price automatically.

Sometimes it means the price will be sometimes heavily inflated to make up for the lack of supply. Other times it means the store will be forced to sell a larger quantity of the particular brand’s lower quality expressions to get more allocated bottles in the future. This also means that sometimes, if you want to buy a bottle of Blanton’s or another allocated bottle, you have to buy a few lesser-quality bottles as well.  Either way, you’ll be spending a lot more cash to get your hands on a bottle of this beloved juice. That is if you can even find a bottle.

Few Anticipated The Whiskey Boom.

As we mentioned above, the most important aspect of whiskey is time. Sure, you can have high-quality ingredients, a seamless distillation process, and a great, flavorful, unfinished spirit. And while it’s white whiskey or moonshine before the aging process, it’s not the caramel, vanilla, oak-filled, corn-sweet whiskey we all know and love until it’s been matured in new, charred American oak barrels. And this takes time. Unless you somehow have a time machine, you have to wait years for the process to reach its finish. And this is a big problem when it comes to ridiculously popular bourbons like Blanton’s.

A decade ago, Blanton’s didn’t have the aggressive following it has today. The whiskey boom of today has hit brands like Blanton’s hard. Sure, they’ve made a swerve and began aging more Blanton’s than before, but it’s still not enough to bridge the gap between supply and demand. Eventually, this sought-after whiskey might be easy to find. So easy you’ll be able to grab a few bottles at a time at your neighborhood liquor store. But not right now.

Where Can You Actually Find it?

Blanton’s isn’t a mythical, ghost of a bottle. It is around. You just have two remember two things. You need to know where to find it and you need to be prepared to spend more than it’s worth to get it. Make friends with your local liquor store owner and ask them when they’re getting some in. Maybe they’ll even give you a bottle for the suggested retail price. Scour the internet retailers like Drizly and Reservebar and maybe you’ll find it – Albeit at an inflated price.

Most of all, a bottle like Blanton’s is most likely one that you’re simply going to find when you’re in the right place at the right time. Or, you can simply drink something from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, or Michter’s and be just as happy and have a lot more money left in your bank account. 

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