Sometimes it's hard work scouting out places that sell the things we talk about. After all, many liquor stores (sadly, especially the state-owned ones) are content to provide only the bare basics, as if collecting, acquiring, and intensely savoring unique spirits was something no reasonable citizen would aspire to. Well, nuts to that! This Friday's Finest is our Liquor Online edition, the place where we reveal the secrets of internet liquor sleuthing and acquisition. At Cereal Alchemist we salute hard-working men and women, and although not all of us aspire to be "collectors" of fine spirits, we believe that everyone deserves the finest dram on the evening of their victory.
Who Can Do It?
Take a look at the map above. If your state is red (and I don't mean a "red state" politically, though many if not most of these are) then this post is going to be a bit of a let-down for you. That's because these states' laws prohibit the shipping of alcohol to your residence. I know, it sucks. But it's getting better with the help of movements like Free the Grapes! The bottom line is that - for at least America's near future - we still elect the government we deserve. If you don't like the law, change how you vote and make sure you're not a low-information voter. After all, you read this blog! Individual responsibility is huge at Cereal Alchemist. It's the guerdon of a discerning, sophisticated adult; it doesn't come any other way.
For all you other-staters, this is your chance to branch out and get the world of fine spirits at your fingertips. Online retail is putting big box stores in the ground, and swift is the wind that brings similar tidings to comfy, monopolistic liquor franchises. I know how it is - there are many places in America where you don't live within an hour or four of a decent liquor store. It's time to make online shopping do your hard work for you and vote with your wallet.
What You Can Find
Everything. I'm not kidding; from aged gins to independent bottlings to craft distillers and rare / exclusive releases, the interweb is shaking up spirit accessibility. It's a beautiful thing. You want that Tasmanian whisky you just tried at Whisky Live? It's out there. You need that aged gin that's marketed exclusively in New England? Hit me up, postman! You want that expression of Talisker that's only being marketed to Canadians? Your reach no longer exceeds your grasp. They'll call you "the spider," friend. Plus, there's always a special rush that comes when you hear the "Liquor Fairy" knocking on your door asking you to sign for delivery. Here's a photo collage of some of the best things I've acquired online over the past several months.
Don't get me wrong, the costs associated with shipping can be a deterrent for people who are looking for a value shopping experience. There are ways to get discounts (join a club or a rewards program), but sometimes the cost is worth getting something that you just can't get anywhere else.
Where You Can Find It
Most people interested in ordering online start their search... online! I can tell that if you do a Google search right now you'll probably be able to find 30 "vendors" in no time flat. The hard part is finding a vendor that you can trust, who'll deliver quickly and professionally, who manages inventory well. I am frequently asked on this blog "Where do you buy your whiskey, man?" Well, lots of places. Probably a quarter of my collection has been found online; however, I've been screwed by several online vendors, so you have to be careful. After a great deal of popular demand, I'm ready to go "open kimono" here and post Cereal Alchemist's personal list of online recommendations. Many Bothans died to bring us this information:
Master of Malt - Not only do they have one of the best selections of world whisky of any online vendor I've come across, but they're an independent bottler to boot. MoM gets the product to you quickly and safely (their packaging is awesome) for about the same shipping cost as anywhere else. What's more, they carry about every other kind of spirit as well, and their selection never falters. It's not uncommon for MoM to get access to rare or limited releases from time to time, so check back frequently if they don't have your dream item in inventory at this moment. They often sell "try before you buy" samples of their whiskey, just in case you don't want to plunk down that much cash on something you're unsure about. They also have pretty sweet gift sample collections (Mrs. Alchemywife got me a rare Islay sampler for my birthday), and their "Whiskey Advent Calendar" (samples for every day of Christmas) is a holiday favorite.
K&L Wines - Based in New Jersey, K&L Wines have made a name for themselves in wine and spirits. When I can't find a spirit on Master of Malt, I always give K&L a try, and they usually have it. Having ordered from many established online vendors in the U.S., I can honestly say that K&L is the only one that has never given me a snag or a headache. Given that it only takes one bad experience to lose my business, K&L deserves kudos for earning my enthusiastic endorsement.
ForWhiskeyLovers - ForWhiskeyLovers is a small online community whose website is a bit rustic, but the beauty of the organization is your chance to earn "Flovers" through your membership (membership is free). Flovers are basically reward points (fairly easy to accumulate with simple online activity - commenting on the blog, posting on the forum, uploading photos, etc.) that get you discounts on orders / shipping or free Glencairn glasses with your order. The online store isn't huge, but if they have what you want you can usually find it here for cheaper (and if you ask nicely, they can sometimes give you access to some pretty special stuff they don't advertise).
Caskers - a super slick website for the dedicated collector / enthusiast, I have yet to find an online vendor that offers so many independent / craft spirits for such a good price. There's a "membership" required (I just signed up with Facebook), but that membership opens the doors to a massive world of whiskies you never knew existed (and it's not just whiskies! - gin, tequila, vodka, rum is there too). Be sure to join one of their kick-ass collectors clubs to routinely have delicious craft spirit delivered to your door.
Single Cask Nation - my independent bottler of choice, a subsidiary of the Jewish Whisky Company that sells all bottlings from their website. I instantly signed up for a SCN membership as soon as I tasted their whiskies at Whisky Live NYC. It was there that I met Joshua and Seth (founders - you may know Joshua from the famous blog Jewmalt), who are just all-round, pretty cool, whisky-lovin' guys; they refused to take my ticket and just kept pouring me samples! Membership in the Nation costs money, and I'm not even Jewish, but I was happy to sign up for access to what I consider to be amazing, one-of-a-kind whiskies. Their Arran Pinot Noir cask is just pure de-LUSH-us. So far SCN has bottled only Scotch whiskies (from some pretty amazing distilleries), but I happen to know from public record that they've got some bourbon in the works. I can't wait!
Happy trails to you this weekend!