I even had my email app open when Mecklenburg County ABC sent out its alert that Pappy Van Winkle bourbon was ready to distribute. I hit send on my reply precisely three minutes later, hoping to secure one of the rare bottles of 23-, 20- or 15-year-old whiskey. But nope, not fast enough.
That’s just how crazy the demand for the premium bourbon has gotten in Charlotte. Jason Hughes, CEO of the county ABC system, said he believes they got more than 1,000 requests for the 93 total bottles received this year.
And it looks like people have now figured out how to game the system. For the first time, people had set up an autoresponder to immediately fire back an email when one came from Meck ABC.
The requests started coming in within seconds of the email blast going out. And when ABC staff replied back to confirm the order, they were sent the same autoresponse again.
“That concerns me,” Hughes said. “We need to find a way to make that more open to everyone.”
The whole lot — which includes some lower-tier bottles like the Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year — was gone within five minutes. In total, it looks like the county was allotted four bottles of 23-year, 10 bottles of 20-year, and 21 bottles of 15-year.
Rich Bean of Charlotte said he was on his email when the message came through and responded in about two minutes. He said he thinks he was the last person selected for a bottle of 15-year Pappy Van Winkle.
“Truthfully, I just got lucky,” he said soon after he picked up his bottle.
Is using an autoresponder unethical?
I want to say yes, but maybe it’s just sour grapes that I wasn’t smart enough to think of it.
But regardless, the county ABC system is going to take steps to prevent it next year, Hughes told me. The distribution system is likely to change.
The county may announce a time and place where they’re selling, and let people line up. They could go to a pure lottery, like a lot of places have. Or they could do something like a live festival type event like Southern Spirits.
I like the idea of having some live, in person means of distribution. The way things are, Mecklenburg County has become a draw for bourbon hunters across the region. They’re able to reserve everything electronically, and then have a week to drive however many hours to Charlotte to pick up a bottle if they win. And you’re not going to find a cheaper bottle than what’s sold here.
I’d love to see these bottles to go Charlotte drinkers, and stay off Craigslist.