Buying whiskey online, like many other pleasures in life, requires patience, skill and perhaps a little luck as well. While some might think clicking-and-buying liquor is a simple affair, like snagging the latest Dean Koontz on Amazon, it most certainly is not. There are several things you need to consider as you aim to hunt down that cult craft distillery bourbon or rare Scotch you must have a bottle of in order to complete your collection.
“There are [several] reasons someone would shop for whiskey online versus in-store,” says ForWhiskeyLovers.com founder Doug Stone. The first and most important, he says, is the access to a broad range of spectacular bottles that you would not find in your average local neighborhood retail store. This is especially true if you live outside of the major U.S. markets (NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago).
“The key is to find a trusted source with great product recommendations,” adds Steve Abt, co-founder of Caskers.com. “In addition to these recommendations, the expert should have tasting notes and product information to help enable you to find the perfect spirit for your palate.”
What these expert online retailers in particular can bring to your door, depending on what state you live in (shipping regulations vary, so read the policies of the retailer carefully first), is a selection of “out of the ordinary” and small production whiskies from craft operations like Texas-based Balcones and New York-based Hillrock Estate. There are also vendors overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, that will deliver Scotch and other world whiskies to your door, but shipping costs are typically much higher and there’s always a slight chance, depending on who you buy from and what port of entry your purchase lands at, that it might get bounced back to the sender by U.S. Customs.
Another reason to take your whiskey shopping online, according to Stone, is price. As he puts it, “the Internet has put the consumer in the position of having pricing data from multiple retailers at their fingertips.”
Similar to when you shop around physical stores, checking multiple vendors to see who has that Scotch you want at the lowest price can save big money. Websites like Wine-Searcher.com reveal, with easy searching, that while whiskey X might cost $89.99 from a store in California, you can also snag it from somebody in New Jersey for $20 less.
Finally, there’s just the plain old advantage of convenience. Nothing says whiskey nerd quite like kicking back in your PJs at home in front of a roaring fire, glass of your favorite whiskey in hand, as you click and buy new bottles for your stash.