There are a few mysteries that endlessly tickle the brain. We’ve all wondered about the alien landing at Roswell, or who was responsible for the Black Dahlia murder. Inquiring minds want to know where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is and who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. Amateur sleuths have done some gumshoeing to find the Zodiac killer. However, for the whiskey connoisseurs among us, the most important mystery of the age is: why is Blanton’s bourbon so hard to find? Here are a few possible answers to this question.
Part of the problem with Blanton’s bourbon, if indeed it could be called a problem, is that it is produced using a single barrel for each batch. This reduces the amount that can be made, because a single bad batch from a barrel can’t be mixed with others to spread it around. It must be discarded. Therefore, the very thing that makes Blanton’s bourbon so unique can also change how much is produced. This is a possible partial cause for its current rarity.
The Whiskey Boom
2010 began a period known as the Whiskey Boom. Increased interest in dark spirits caused many people to begin buying up more standard whiskeys, along with scotches, ryes, and yes, bourbons. Bourbons are the most popular whiskey variety to date, which is bad news for Blanton enthusiasts.
When the Boom dropped, many people began searching for truly excellent or unique liquors. This put single barrel alcohols right in the crosshairs of collectors. Since single barrel bourbons like Blanton’s differ wildly depending on which barrel a batch came from, connessiours, as well as would-be connessiours, and worse, dilettantes began snatching up every single esoteric bottle they could find. Since Blanton’s is known for quality, it was targeted by amateurs and aficionados alike.
This also meant that the demand grew for exceptional hooch, which strained the supply. Good bourbons take years to age correctly, and suppliers like Blanton’s couldn’t predict a decade or more prior that there would be such a sudden call for their product. Only now has enough time passed that they’re beginning to catch up, but the yearning for good bourbon has only grown in the last decade. This means they’re still behind.
When the Whiskey Boom came unto the land, collectors were hard-pressed to snatch bottles of their favorite booze away from neophytes buying whatever the internet told them was good. Then, the vultures descended. Re-sellers who cared only for profit saw a market, and like locust, they carried away all the bottles their evil, spindly little arms could carry. Their goal was to create even more demand, and to profit handsomely by charging excessive prices to the true tippler who knew Blanton’s was the original name in single barrel bourbon. Like anti-Santa Clauses (Clausi?) these monsters lurked in the shadows, ironically sober in their methodical quest to take away joy from whiskey drinkers. As if stealing Christmas so they might buy ever more children’s tears for their grim collection.
The Covid Effect
The onset of the Covid-19 virus and its diabolical variants caused many people to begin hoarding all manner of things. One need only look at the Great Toilet Tissue Shortage of 2020 to see this phenomenon. Good alcohol was certainly not exempt from reservists who feared their favorite firewater shack might be closed down due to the new plague. Many a liquor store was emptied of the top shelf items by those who would not endure disease and sobriety at the same time. Availability of Blanton’s bourbon became a casualty as people sought to stave off the quarantine blues with a dram or twelve of that smooth vanilla goodness.
Sometimes the scarcity of a delicious item like Blanton’s isn’t the result of hoarding, nefarious ne’er-do-wells out to make coin, or insufficient production. Occasionally it’s simply bad timing. Around the holidays, more people buy alcohol for parties or to give as gifts. With the demand already strained from the above factors, shopping for a good single barrel bourbon to stuff into a stocking or lay out beside a menorah is exponentially more difficult. Likewise, summer tends to encourage revelry, which leads to more alcohol consumption. Therefore, buying anything should be simpler in the off-seasons.
The final factor that could contribute to the rarity of Blanton’s bourbon is simply location, location, location. Some regions are thirstier than others, and some have different preferences. Blanton’s seems universally beloved, but different places are more likely to run out than others.
There’s also been rumblings in the liquor business of distributors who hike their prices. This has led many stores to stop stocking certain items, or buying far more limited supply. The way for the average consumer to combat this, as well as fight the parasites trying to profit off Blanton’s, is to never pay anything over the $50-$70 retail price.
Those who work in liquor stores also say that when particular items are being distributed at more expensive prices, they’ll often stop putting them out on the shelves. Which means any treasure hunter on a quest should specifically ask the attendant life-savers at their local hooch hut for Blanton’s by name.
Or, it could just be that people know that a horse-topped bottle of Blanton’s is damn good stuff.