TheWhiskeyLibrary.com is a Whiskey Price Search Engine that aggregates prices from a number of online retailers to find you the best price for whiskey bottles online. While buying whiskey online does remove the magic of walking into a liquor store and picking out a bottle, there are times buying online may be the best or only option.
Buying online is great for collectors or folks just looking to save some money while pursuing a hobby.One may not have access to a bottle locally or, in our case, liquor prices are inflated within your region and your local liquor store is gouging you with secondary market prices. Pappy Van Winkle is great, but my local liquor store had it listed for one thousand dollars plus. No thanks.
When shopping online keep these factors in mind:
TheWhiskeyLibrary.com specializes in finding the total cost of purchasing a bottle online (total price includes the listed price as well as shipping and handling charge. Our research and algorithms show that the average shipping cost for one 750ml bottle is roughly $17.00. When purchasing a one of a kind bottle or something not available in your region, this shipping cost is unavoidable and may be a small price to pay. It is often much easier to find “hard to find bottles” online. If you find the bottles available for purchase online, we say go for it!
For example, I was recently looking to try some Booker’s, but it seemed that every store I stopped at was sold out or wanted something 2-3x the market price for a bottle. No thanks. I searched on TWL and sure enough I found several of the different Booker variants all at great prices well below what I would have paid locally, even with shipping charges considered.
However, if you just want to pick up a bottle of some good old “standard stock” such as Buffalo Trace or MaCallan 12, purchasing a one-off bottle online may not be the best option because the shipping price to bottle price savings are not worth it. However, the math changes when we start purchasing MULTIPLE bottles at a time. Check out the variable shipping costs section below for further detail on this.
Variable Shipping Costs
As stated above, the first bottle to ships costs $17.00, BUT each bottle after that only pushes the shipping cost up incrementally (to a certain point, usually once the shipping box is full). Again, our research and algorithms indicate that the incremental costs for one 750ml bottle are roughly $2.00 per bottle. For some vendors, this holds true until the first box is full, somewhere between 6 and 10 bottles. Other vendors don’t step their shipping cost per box at all and the costs increase at roughly 2 dollars a bottle to infinity. Very few vendors charge flat rate shipping.
With this in mind, shipping several standard stock bottles becomes much more reasonable. If one were to order 6 bottles of Buffalo Trace online, the math looks like this:
($17 x 1 first bottle) + (5 subsequent bottles x $2 variable cost per bottle) = $27.00 in shipping.
Breaking this shipping cost out for each bottle:
$27.00 total shipping cost / 6 bottles = $4.50 shipping cost per bottle.
The best price online as of the publication date of this article for Buffalo Trace 750ml is $24.99. My local liquor store currently has Buffalo Trace 750ml on the shelves for $34.99! It should be criminal but that’s a different article. Let’s figure the savings when buying online:
Store Price – Online Price + Shipping price per bottle = Savings per Bottle
$34.99 – ($24.99 + $4.50)= $5.50 in savings
Multiplying our savings per bottle times the number of bottles ordered give us a total savings of $33.00 on the this order. That’s another whole bottle of Buffalo Trace! A FREE BOTTLE! This math works really well when pooling funds with friends, family, or co-workers to purchase a case of bottles you all similarly enjoy. While ordering six bottles of the exact same whiskey solo is somewhat unrealistic, the math holds true when mixing the bottle labels up as well.
Admittedly, this strategy requires some capital expenditure upfront. I moved from buying a new bottle roughly every two weeks at the local liquor store to ordering six bottles at a time online every 12 weeks. One caveat, this does require some disciple and you lose the opportunity to talk whiskey with the folks at the liquor store. However, if your trying to grow your collection in the most cost effective method, this is a great way to do it.
Most states allow for the direct shipment of alcohol to consumers. However, every state is a little different on this one, but know that if you are in Alabama, Oklahoma, or Utah, you are SOL. These three prohibit direct to consumer shipments across the board. The rest of the states have small nuances, but allow for shipment in most cases. Check out the National Conference of State Legislatures article on the Direct Shipment of Alcohol State Statues here.
This is perhaps the most obvious factor to consider but is important none the less. If you looking for a bottle to bring to a gathering a few days before the event, its best to head over to your local liquor purveyor as the shipping times for the online liquor stores are often 5+ days. However, if you have the time and the patience, buying online can allow you to source different bottles often at better prices.
Delivery is sometimes the hardest part of the transaction. Shopping online saves a trip to the store, but most retailers require an ID upon delivery. This requirement is an action on the vendors part to ensure no one underage is obtaining liquor by mail, but it can end up costing you a few missed delivery notes on the front door.
Your best bet? Ensure you are home for the delivery or have it shipped to a location you know will have someone of-age present to sign. I have mine shipped to work, but recognize that may be a frowned upon practice in some environments.
Many of the online wine and liquor stores warn visitors about the effect heat can have on the shipment. These warnings are intended for those purchasing wine, but were intense enough to make me think twice about shipping whiskey during the summer months. After some internal debate, I remembered that some whiskeys are aged at the top floor of a rick house in the middle of a Kentucky Summer. Furthermore, I imagine the duration and conditions in transit via distributor to my local liquor store are very similar to what FedEx/UPS provides to my house. If the whiskey is in transit for just a few days, I don’t worry too much about the heat.
This is perhaps the largest concern of mine, although admittedly it doesn’t slow me down too much. Most online shops have some language on their sites stating that after hand off to the third party shipping company, they are no longer responsible for any damages. That could spell disaster and loss of hundreds of dollars if the box is mishandled in transit, not to mention spilled whiskey! However, most retailers give an option for the insurance during checkout, and I highly recommend you spend the extra few dollars to protect your valuables and provide yourself peace of mind.
While I state that it is the largest concern of mine, I know that the retailers pack these boxes to take a beating in transit and I usually purchase the insurance. My last box was packed with each bottle wrapped several times in bubble wrap, air bags between each bottle and the box, and brown packing paper stuffed in to ensure nothing moved to much in transit. Better safe than sorry, but it felt like overkill… scratch that there is no such thing with whiskey safety! Overall, I would not let this be the factor that deters you from purchasing you aqua vitae online.
All this considered, there are few things more exciting that opening a box full of whiskey. So how should you go about your next online whiskey purchase to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck?
Step 1. Decide if you are purchasing a one-off specialty bottle you can’t find in your area or stocking your own library with standard stock. While it’s noted above that buying 10 bottles of the same liquor might be irregular, these standard stock bottles are daily drinkers… we won’t judge of you don’t.
It’s also ok to do a little of both – that’s what TheWhiskeyLibrary.com typically does when making an online whiskey run as its great way to balance the upfront bottle costs, shipping costs, and whiskey bottle diversity. Honestly this is your best bet as well.
Step 2. As we noted above, we will be putting together an balanced list of one-off specialty bottles and standard stock. Put together your list of 6-10 bottles. Select 2-3 specialty one-offs, and fill the rest with standard stocks you can’t easily find at your local liquor store. These are usually several dollars cheaper online.
I am a big fan of Bourbon, so my online purchases usually total $150-300. If you are a Scotch or Japanese drinker, this might be significantly more. That said, my last purchase was all different types of bottles in order to try several different whiskies which is a great use case for shopping online.
Example Bourbon Drinker List
- High West Yippe Ki-Yay
- George T Stagg Jr.
- Knob Creek Single Barrel
- Buffalo Trace
- Evan Williams
- Woodford Reserve
- Rittenhouse Rye
Step 3. Use TheWhiskeyLibrary to find the best price on your two or three most expensive bottles. Keep in mind The Whiskey Library is a low price, whiskey search engine that helps you find the best price on whiskey including shipping. This is important as we will be looking to purchase several bottles at once to take advantage of the variable shipping cost and multiple bottle advantage as outlined above.
Finally, order your bottles directly from the online retailer. This is the most exciting part, but there will be a small voice in your head when you go to check out asking you if this is the best decision. It’s important at this moment to remind yourself you are taking a longer term view (and will be avoiding the local liquor store for a while). Go ahead and spend a couple of Benjamin’s on that whiskey,you earned it and ensure you found the best price by using TWL.
Step 4. Once the order is placed, wait patiently. The small doubt you faced during checkout will soon subside when you receive your box full of whiskey. Now sit back relax and enjoy!