Spirits

Kentucky House panel approves bill to let bars, restaurants buy vintage bourbon

Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle are displayed in a liquor store.

Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle are displayed in a liquor store.  (Reuters)

Kentucky residents may want to avoid opening their own stock of Pappy Van Winkle bottles because the bar down the road might pay big bucks for it.

On Wednesday, a Kentucky House Committee cleared legislation that would give restaurants and bars the right to purchase unopened, privately-owned bottles of rare liquor.

It’s an attractive proposition for restaurateurs and bar owners because under the new law, they would be getting their hands on something current liquor distributors may not be able to provide. It would also allow them to bolster their menus with brand-new cocktails featuring the vintage liquors, a growing trend across the country.

Liquor collectors, too, would be allowed to sell their spirits directly to drinking and eating establishments, rather than resorting to online sales or the black market.

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On Wednesday, Eric Gregory, the president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, said he believes there are more vintage bourbons in Kentuckians’ liquor cabinets than “anyplace else in the world." 

"It just stands to reason, because we are the birthplace of bourbon and we have been producing the great majority of the world's bourbon for now over 200 years,” adds Gregory.

Proponents also believe tourism would flourish if bars were allowed to buy up all that bourbon and serve it.

However, selling liquor without a license is still illegal in Kentucky, and if the proposed legislature passes, it will only apply to the state.

Even the online sale of liquor between collectors is illegal. Over the past two years, at least two Pennsylvania residents have been busted for trying to sell whiskey on Craigslist. Both Bob Monk and Wade Collingsworth were charged with misdemeanors after making arrangements to sell bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in separate incidents in Dec. 2015 and Dec. 2016, respectively.

Kentucky's bill, known as House Bill 100, cleared the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee unopposed. 

Last year, the Kentucky Distillers' Association reported that its member distilleries added over $1 billion to the state's economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.