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  • Kevin Gibson

What Will Happen in the Bourbon Secondary Market in 2020?

Updated: May 20


Bars and restaurants are shut down, people are locked down inside their homes and life as we once knew it is possibly months away from returning.


And while many distilleries are helping the cause in our battle with the coronavirus by making hand sanitizer, bourbon is also still being made, and with people stuck indoors, also being consumed. However, with so many furloughed or laid off and financial uncertainty in the air, it begs the question: Will people start selling their bourbon collections? If so, how will they do so?


While Facebook has been a popular vehicle for the secondary bourbon market for several years now, the social media giant began aggressively policing its policies regarding illegal sales of alcohol through the platform in 2019, particularly in the form of private groups who wheel and deal behind those virtual closed doors, sometimes using code words to discuss transactions.


Last year, the word came down from the Facebook gods to these groups’ administrators, in part telling them, “While we allow people to talk about alcohol products, we will not allow people to sell or purchase these regulated products on our site. … We are beginning to enforce this policy change on groups and pages we discover to be set up for this specific purpose. For this reason, we require that you remove any reference to sales of alcohol from your page within the next 48 hours. If this page continues to facilitate the sale of alcohol, it will be removed.”


Sure enough, these secondary market groups started disappearing quickly, including the popular and long-tenured BSM (Bourbon Secondary Market). Bottle-Spot, a popular secondary market website, disappeared late last year as well, independent of the social media police. People searching for elusive brands, the like of Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg were facing fewer avenues.


Before we had heard of COVID-19, BeverageDynamics.com predicted the secondary market would remain influential on the overall market this year. Facebook groups that are shut down splinter and turn into other groups. But will Facebook’s efforts win out? Will the change in the economy spur even more under-the-counter sales than even before?


The owner of one of the top bourbon bars in the country, Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C., announced in March that its collection of more than 2,700 bottles was going up for sale as a direct result of the pandemic. Everything was for sale, he said, from hard-to-find Willett Family Estate bottles right down to sought-after Four Roses Marriage to a bottle of Johnny Walker’s. It only stands to reason private collectors may do the same.


“When we come out of this on the other side I want to be debt-free and get everyone back to work—that means selling a shit ton of whiskey,” owner Bill Thomas told The Washingtonian. Of course, ironically, some of those bottles sold very well could end up on the illegal secondary market.


GearPatrol.com offered an inside look at the workings of a Facebook secondary market group in March. The writer shares what he saw and experienced while in the group, including how he was finally banned from the group. (We think it’s well worth the read.)


In the story, the writer points out that a 2017 law passed in Kentucky, the Vintage Spirits Law, allows private collectors to sell so-called “vintage” bottles – those not available for purchase through the three-tier system – directly to a retailer or fellow collector. Given the online clamp-down, will the secondary bourbon market slowly but surely emerge as something legal and a larger part of bourbon’s wide-reaching mainstream culture? How would that affect secondary market groups on social media? There are still eight months to go in 2020, and no one really knows when or if things will be back to normal. For now, it’s wait and see.


What are your thoughts on what 2020 holds for the secondary bourbon market? Tell us over on our Facebook page.


Do you have a bottle to sell or a whole collection? We buy anything from single bottles to large cellars, Dom Perignon, Pappy van Winkle, BTAC, Macallan, Lafite, Opus One and much more. You can see a full list here.

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