I’ve written about the bourbon secondary market before, but there is a unique subsection that gets little attention and is widely unknown. They are known as C+S groups (“cost-plus-ship”), and their members agree to trade with each other at retail (or below) pricing only. These groups were formed with the core principle of sharing whiskey with each other and foregoing the ludicrous profits being made elsewhere by those flipping bottles.
A free market theorist will argue immediately that this cannot work, that altruism is no match for easy money in a frothy environment that often returns several times an investment in a single day. For some groups, it simply will not work. For others, the Bourbon Karma is real, and what has spawned from that initial idea has defied both logic and explanation. In just one special group with only 169 members (many who have never met each other in person), limited bottles are not only sold for retail prices, but also given away in free raffles. “What kind of bottles?” you might ask. An E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood, an Old Rip Van Winkle, and a 2015 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch were offered in the group at their retail prices. Oh, and by the way, that was over a two-day span last week.
Just before Christmas, Bourbon Truth wonderfully illuminated the incredible and widely overlooked charitable accomplishments of the Bourbon community, a topic that doesn’t get nearly enough coverage. While I could go on about the camaraderie and generosity sharing whiskey in C+S groups, Mark Clarke made me promise that if I wrote this post, I would keep the focus on Cancer first and foremost. After losing multiple people close to him, and continuing watching others fight this horrible disease, Mark set up a little fundraiser in this small Bourbon group. “My initial intention was to put four bottles out there and raise $1,000,” he said. What happened next was pure magic.
It started with a link to the American Cancer Society and three bottles of Smooth Ambler Old Scout that Mark would raffle to all donors. A bonus bottle of Old Weller Antique would be ‘unlocked’ if the total reached $500. Donations began, and members continued to offer additional bottles to be unlocked at certain dollar milestones. These bottles included: a Kentucky Owl Batch 6, an Eagle Rare 17, a Very Old Saint Nick, a Yamazaki 12, a Hibiki 12, a 1792 Full Proof store pick, an Aberbur Abunadh Cask Strength Scotch, a Whistlepig Rye, a Weller 12, and a whole bunch of sampler packs of the most sought after Bourbons in the world.
By the time the smoke cleared, over $7,700 had been raised in one day by less than 100 members, including some who immediately raffled the bottles they won to raise even more money. The layers of generosity involved in this single event underscore what makes the Bourbon community so incredibly special. It was never about winning the Bourbon, it was about winning the fight against Cancer. With tears rolling down his cheeks, Mark told his group, “This was all about the cause and not the juice. So when you get the juice, please drink it, please enjoy it, please share it.” Words of hope on many levels.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Mark’s dear friends, Tammy McCann and Bill “Chili” Funderburk, and all the loved ones of the group’s members affected by Cancer. (Photos submitted by group members are featured above in the post header.)