Heads & Tails: Are Single Barrels Illegal Edition

That’s the growing concern at Kentucky distilleries, where thousands of whiskey fans sample whiskeys from thousands of barrels every year.

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That’s the growing concern at Kentucky distilleries, where thousands of whiskey fans sample whiskeys from thousands of barrels every year. The news first came from WhiskeyCast operator Mark Gillespie, who’d learned that “private pick” programs—which distilleries have run for many years—was clearly outside Kentucky’s current tasting laws. Click here to read his thorough story.  As you’d imagine, Kentucky Distillers’ Association is busy urging lawmakers to reconfigure tasting laws favorably and quickly.

We’ve seen no official count on single barrels sold in Kentucky, but given what do know, it’s somewhere south of 10,000. Whatever that number is when multiplied by an average bottles-per-barrel yield of 170, and the total sales number is somewhere around 1.5 million bottles, give or take. And while we're at it, let's price those 1.5 million bottles at a conservative $40 each to come up with $60 million in sales.

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> We see no way that single barrels will disappear just because selling them runs afoul of sampling laws. Why not? Because any lawmaker capable of simple math can calculate the potential and widespread negative impacts on whiskey sales, whiskey tourism, and, ultimately, tax revenue—if they were suddenly gone. With many millions of dollars on the line, they’ll change those laws quickly. However, sources at work to update the rules are telling us the change-making is challenging.


If you’re like some who consume a cocktail when flying, you appreciate the option—likely even more after it was eliminated early in the pandemic. Though a few airlines have resumed serving alcohol, Southwest won’t until in May. Its flight attendants aren’t stoked about the decision because of the growing number of drunken passengers causing real trouble. Per usual, it’s a case of a few jerks ruining the fun for a whole group, especially when said miscreants loosen up at the terminal bar before unleashing their fury within the tight confines of an airliner.

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> We like drinking in the air. We like drinking anywhere. We wish all flyers would behave, and those who don’t … speed toward the grave. To keep the peace we will thus fly, free of drink, agreeably dry. In other words, if holding off the booze until the skies become friendly again, fine by us if it keeps crews and passengers safe.


Heaven Hill Distilleries—the owner of so many brands that its president, Max Shapira, once told me, “There’s not a computer big enough to calculate that number”—just finished another liquor shopping trip at Samson & Surrey. In clearing the shelves at that company, it now owns “Tequila Ocho, Widow Jane American Whiskey, FEW Spirits, Brenne French Whisky, Bluecoat Gin and Mezcal Vago, along with their unique production facilities and processes,” according to this news release.

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> Heaven Hill will remain in acquisition mode for the foreseeable future. Genius guess, right? Yeah, I know. Especially since in January of last year, the company appointed Andy Shapira, Max’s son, vice president of external business development, i.e. the guy who gets to shop the global liquor brand aisle in search of profit-generating bargains. I point this out to encourage whiskey history nuts to look backward for a gander at what this family’s $40,000-ish investment (in the late 1930s) has become. You gotta love a good success story.


Let’s just file this under “You Can’t Fix Stupid.” Fashion model hottie Kendall Jenner is catching some heat from outsiders who disapprove of Instagram photos showing her sipping a from a bottle of 818 Tequila using a straw. Click here to see the article. Firstly, how stupid is drinking straight tequila through a straw out of a 750ml? (Rhetorical question.) The real question is: How stupid do you have to be to believe she’s actually drinking that subpar tequila through a straw?

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> This will all work in Jenner’s favor since, in PR, even bad news is good news. She’ll get all the feels from her followers’ likes, hearts and clicks, and the faux outrage will die down. Will the stunt help sales of 818 Tequila? Probably. Jenner’s “irresponsible” drinking style won’t scare them away from it, but the actual tequila will. Drinking that overly sweet and strange liquid is truly irresponsible.