Rare bourbon hits Utah liquor store shelves, but without the promised lottery

One of the 181 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon being sold to consumers in Utah in 2018 (Matt Gephardt/KUTV)

(KUTV) Just minutes after the DABC announced on its website Wednesday morning that a rare bourbon was hitting liquor store shelves, lines began to form. Within minutes of stores opening, they were sold out.

The commotion is all over a bourbon whiskey called Pappy Van Winkle. The folks who make it only distribute to Utah and the rest of the country once a year and they only send a few hundred bottles. Utah received 258 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle this year. Of those, about 30 percent went to clubs and restaurants, leaving a mere 181 bottles up for grabs.

While it was all smiles from the lucky few who showed up in time, many others showed up too late.

WHERE'S THE LOTTERY?

As Get Gephardt investigated last year, Brandon Peay was one of several people who were frustrated that the only way to get a bottle is to essentially stalk the DABC website and then hope that they are available to fly to a liquor store the moment it is released.

The DABC admitted it has struggled with how best to handle the Pappy release.

Last year, spokesperson Terry Wood told Get Gephardt it planned to implement a lottery system in 2018 in an attempt to make the release “as fair as possible.”

It’s now 2018 and that lottery system did not happen, so Get Gephardt went back to Wood to ask, “Why not?”

"Well the lottery, we had it worked out and we thought we had all of our i's dotted and t's crossed,” he said, but alas, there was a hick-up in the plan - state law.

"Turns out there was one word missing from state law that actually allows us to actually have a lottery," Wood said.

Peay got a bottle this year, but he says he is still frustrated that he and others had to literally speed to the store in order to make that happen.

"I think the word lottery in the state of Utah kind of scares people but if they could define it in legislation, I think it would be a very fair way to get a bottle," Peay said.

Wood says the DABC is now working with lawmakers to try and get the exact words in the law changed so that it can implement a lottery next year. In the meantime, Wood defends the way Pappy was released this year as “about as fair as we could do.”

WHY SO SECRET?

The DABC goes out of its way to keep the release of Pappy as secret as possible for as long as possible, including not telling anyone the stores in which it will show up in advance. That veil of secrecy extends to Wood, he says.

“Only seven employees knew that the Pappy Van Winkle had come in and where it was going a few days in advance,” he said.

Ironically, keeping the Pappy release secret is an effort help people like Peay, Wood says. The DABC has had trouble in the past with warehouse workers seeing the shipment come in and tipping off their buddies — or even themselves — creating an unfair advantage.

So, the DABC, the organization with the responsibility of getting alcohol into the hands of consumers, makes the conscious decision to keep its release information quiet.


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