r/Bourbon Single Barrel Program FAQ
What the flip is a single barrel program?
A single barrel program is organized by and for groups of whiskey enthusiasts to quite literally buy an entire barrel of whiskey selected by our subreddit.
Members of r/bourbon can sign up to get on the email list to get information regarding the barrel program.
We’ll pick the entire barrel, it will 100% be sold to r/bourbon and we’ll sticker or mark it to designate it as an r/bourbon selection. Then, you can congress with other members of r/bourbon to drink said bottle, review it, give tasting notes, a thumbs up or thumbs down, discuss, chatter, etc.
How does it work?
It’s pretty simple overall. A panel usually visits a distillery, or recently in COVID times does a remote tasting with samples sent out. The panel is always made up people from r/bourbon.
Either mods, curated reviewers from the sub or randomly drawn, I (t8ke) try and keep things constantly changing and fresh.
When panel selections are available, I’ll lottery or ask for volunteers. When they aren’t, I’ll taste and put up the notes with the chosen barrel so everyone knows what the deal is.
Where is the info on all the barrels currently going down. Where is the info for old selections?
How do I sign up?
If I’m getting emails, I’m on the list, right?
Bingo. You’ll receive an email every week on Saturday for our weekly barrel preference survey (where you learn about the week’s barrels and note your interest) and the weekly Friday email (where barrels go to overflow and important announcements are made).
How Do I Buy Bottles?
All sales are managed through licensed US retailers who abide by US regulations and ID verification. No actual selling happens through r/Bourbon or this website.
We work with a retail network to ensure wide coverage across the US, and they manage age verification, legal shipping and legal sales. This makes the r/bourbon program 100% compliant with Reddit’s Terms of Service. It also gives you the peace of mind to know you’re purchasing from a legal, competent source.
Right now, when a barrel is released to buy, a couple of things happen. If there are 200 bottles in the barrel (roll with me here), I randomize based on the preference survey each week (you’ll receive it in your inbox, fill it out) and generate “waves” of winners.
Every week, Saturday at 430pm Eastern timezone, a preference survey is emailed out. If there are no barrels to be sold that week, no preference survey will go out. If there are, though, this survey will poll your interest in every barrel that’s arriving that week. You can select your preferences, ranked highest to lowest, or even select if you’re not interested in a barrel. Your answers are used to generate each week’s lottery round winners and their waves.
- Wave 1 (~150 Folks) [Monday]
- Wave 2 (~100 Folks)[Tuesday]
- Wave 3 (~100 Folks) [Wednesday]
- Wave 4 (~100 Folks) [Thursday]
- Overflow (entire group notified)
Each wave gets alerted 24 hours apart, with overflow occurring at 1pm Eastern on Fridays.
As you can see, by Wave 2, your odds are very good – but there may be a few more, or few less bottles than winners based on how many Wave 1 winners flake on making their purchase and the overall yield of a barrel. Same deal for Wave 3. And for Wave 4. IF (big if) there are bottles remaining after Wave 4 winners are notified, then the bottles go to overflow: the entire group is alerted and given the sale link to purchase. If you get an email and wait more than 24 hours, your spot may go to someone else in a future wave if you don’t act within your window.
Wave 1 is guaranteed, Waves 2,3,4 are first come first serve, and exist to ensure that folks can purchase as they wish without every barrel becoming a total free for all, given the size of the group.
Occasionally, there may be a wide public drop. In this case, the drop will be announced the night prior, and links sent out the following morning at the prescribed time.
I got an email that mentions overflow. Wtf is that about?
IF (big if) there are bottles remaining after Wave 4 winners are notified on Thursdays, then the bottles go to overflow at 1pm on Fridays: the entire group is alerted and given the sale link to purchase.
Why are there more folks on some emails (like Round 2 Winners or Round 3 Winners)? Why are only Round 1 Winners 100% guaranteed access to a bottle?
Great question. Honestly, it’s a tradeoff between the best use of my time, and your best odds of getting a bottle. Routinely, for all but the most HYPEHYPEHYPE bottlings, if 200 people who mark a bottle as their TOP choice, only ~150 of them will purchase (hypothetical numbers here).
I refer to that as “the churn” or the “flake rate”. There’s nothing wrong with people who flake, but the point is that there is not 100% correlation between selection and someone purchasing, even if not 48 hours before they indicated it as their top preference and now they’re a winner with their time to buy. If you flake repeatedly, you may be removed from the program. If you flake occasionally because life happens (I get it, unexpected weekly expenses happen to everyone), that’s just fine.
So, in Waves 2 or 3 or 4, I can either match with the exact number of remaining winners, but it would require a Wave 4, 5, 6, maybe 7 since that number is always getting smaller. 32 bottles left and 32 selected? Probably only 20 people actually buying. I already spend a lot of time on this, and it takes time to craft an email going to smaller and smaller and smaller waves, which isn’t effective. So, If you’re a Wave 1 winner – congrats. You get a guarantee. If you’re in Wave 2 or 3, you have fantastic but not 100% odds. I calculate the average flake rate daily, and use it to inform the size of waves (listed above) but it’s just not reasonable to constantly change the size of groups and winners pools, especially when we’re doing several barrels a week.
I got selected to purchase a bottle, but I suddenly changed my mind, an unexpected expense came up, or I just don’t feel like buying the thing. Am I in trouble?
No. Life happens. There is some frustration when 60% of 1st Round Winners (Wave 1) flake on purchasing, but I get that life happens. Maybe you stumble upon a GTS at retail and that blows your budget for the week (that happens, right?!) or your car broke down and that means the fun money for the month is gone. I get it, and it’s cool.
There is currently NO penalty if you’re a winner, and elect not to purchase from time to time. You don’t need to email me to let me know, just go ahead and let your purchase window roll on by, and I’m certain that someone in Wave 2 is blessing your name right now. No sweat!
If you sign up every single week yet never pick up a bottle, on the other hand, you may be removed from the group, as you’re taking a spot from someone else who actually wants to be involved.
How Much Do You Make On This, t8ke?
None, as I don’t make commission from brands or the like. That said, a program of this size has many costs, and I ensure that costs for the program are covered. There are a lot of programmatic expenses related to a program like this, especially to do things by the book, and at this scale.
There are plenty of groups who exist to make money but that isn’t the case here. Therefore, you won’t be seeing wax and glitter, weird off color stickers, or pump and dump behavior designed to generate max profits or secondary re-selling, etc.
I like to see all of the profit going to our distillery and retail partners, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. There are plenty of other Patreon and for profit barrel groups out there, and this is a community project. Running something this size has significant expenses, but I work hard to keep them simple, and minimal wherever i can, which means you’ll see minimal markup, if any, though some states MSRP are higher and lower as a result of three tier system and the variance in market wholesale rates by state.
I work with each of our retail partners to ensure that your orders are taken care of and to ensure the program continues to run smoothly. These retailers may compensate me for my time, and I may work with them on other projects as well.
Each year, you’ll see some charity opportunities, but those will be clearly laid out when some bottlings may feature a markup for a D2C (direct to charity) contribution.
Hey, the same bottle costs different on different drops?
Yeah, I get it – sorta strange. Due to our size, I partner with retailers in different regions and therefore different markets to meet demand. Due to three tier, this means things like wholesale, distro markup, retail markup and shipping and tax are all variables. As a result, the same bottle may be a few bucks more in this market as opposed to that market, or vice versa.
Some retailers also give you a flat shipped fee with tax included. Others don’t. I’ll always put all of the price info with each barrel so you can see why something is priced the way it is.
Hey, should we wax these?
Can I flip/trade a bottle I win?
Hell naw. I’ll ban you.
I really really really really want a specific bottle. Can I guarantee I get one?
No – sorry. I do my best to accommodate everyone, including lotteries, randomizing, and keeping track of who buys what. Unfortunately, in a group this big, it’s just not fair to pick favorites for any certain lottery.
Hey, I’m not getting picked, and a couple barrels have gone by. Why’s that?
Well, the group is really big. Which is great – it means we’re growing and have power to buy more. I see demand rising, and am accommodating by forecasting and buying and committing to even more barrels, so each year everyone should be able to buy bottles, and hopefully be selected in a couple of rounds each year.
We’re growing well ahead of my 5yr estimate, and I’m working extremely hard to bring on enough barrels that there will always be enough bottles for everyone. It’s working too – this year there will be many more barrels than previous years. We did 1 barrel in 2019, 7 in 2020 and we did 165 in 2021. Every year is changing and fluctuations are to be expected – up or down.
I live in a country that isn’t the United States of American – can I partake?
This is tough. We can’t ship out of the country right now, but if you know someone in the country who will hold your bottles for you so you can arrange shipping / personal hand off on a visit, that’s ok.
I live in a state that can’t be shipped to for this round. Or I live in a state that previously could receive bottles, but now I’m being told it can’t. What’s up?
Like everything else in life and the supply chain, the answer is: it depends.
More concretely though: our program uses a network of retailers due to our size and scale. Each of them have restrictions on who they can ship to, and sometimes those zones change back and forth for any number of reasons.
If your state isn’t supported for a specific drop: don’t fret. It’s extremely likely another drop will support your state since we run through multiple retailers each month.
If you used to be able to get bottles, but can’t now, it’s not guaranteed to be permanent either.
Stick around, stay subscribed, and look for a retailer who can ship to you soon.
I have a question – who should I talk to?
/u/t8ke – I run this thing. Let’s leave modmail for actual sub running purposes. You can PM me general questions on Reddit and I’ll respond. You can also reply to any barrel emails anytime and I’ll respond there also.
What kind of emails will I get?
You’ll get emails related to any subreddit selections.
Sometimes other spirits get picked (rum, brandy, agave) and you’ll get info on those too. If they’re not up your alley – totally cool. Just ignore them and know that bourbon emails go out about 10:1 to other spirits stuff. Hang tight.
You’ll get emails with announcements, updates, barrel buy notifications, overflow notifications, and more.
I’ll make sure you don’t get more than a couple a week, and they’ll never be spam. Just pure barrel pick goodness.