Is Selling Bourbon Illegal? No, But...

Written by Mark Pringle |
Published on:

Deep within the catacombs of social network bourbon groups and the recesses of secondary bourbon markets, you will find individuals who are attempting to sell individual bottles of hard-to-find bourbons or other American whiskeys. Once they have agreed to sell the bottle, they will meet up at some clandestine location to make the cash-for-bottle exchange. Is this practice of selling bourbon between private owners legal? How can you sell individual bottles of bourbon or bourbon collections legally?

Selling Bourbon Between Private Owners

In certain states like Kentucky, it is legal for a private owner to sell their vintage bottle of bourbon to a licensed retailer. The seller does not have to be licensed. However, is the practice of selling bourbon between private individuals legal? No, it is not lawful for unlicensed individuals to sell bourbons to other unlicensed individuals.

In January of 2022, an undercover agent with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission arrested a 35-year-old man attempting to sell a bottle of 12-year-old Van Winkle in a private Facebook group. The seller agreed to meet the buyer at a local establishment in Nashville, Tennessee. As soon as the transaction was complete, the agent informed the seller that he was being arrested for possession, transporting, and selling alcoholic beverages for resale without a license. This scenario is not unusual.

Very simply put, you must have a license to sell bourbon or any alcoholic beverage, even when that sale is between private individuals.

The Problem with Reselling Bourbons

Many bourbon enthusiasts, myself included, would love to be able to resell a hard-to-find bourbon that we stumble upon at a great price. If it is something that we would not drink and want to make a small profit from, we often do not see the harm in selling a $300 bourbon to someone who wants to enjoy it. Sadly, even a small cash transaction like this is not legal. What’s the big deal with reselling bourbon other than the fact that it’s not legal?

I have not met a bourbon enthusiast who has not complained about the skyrocketing cost of bourbon these days. Additionally, when our favorite and popular bourbon “drops” at our local liquor store, it is sold out within a few hours, and we soon find those same bottles on the secondary market that day. Yes, resellers are responsible for buying up the stock of hard-to-find bourbons as soon as they drop, thus making them almost impossible to find without paying outrageous prices on the secondary market. Resellers contribute to the skyrocketing cost of bourbon.

The Skyrocketing Cost of Bourbon
Resellers contribute to the skyrocketing costs of bourbon.

How to Sell Bourbon Legally

Private owners can sell individual bottles or collections of rare bourbons legally. However, you must sell them through a licensed broker. These specialty brokers have the appropriate licenses and even access to a massive network of buyers. Of course, if you are trying to make a quick profit on a $120 bottle of bourbon, this method of selling would not be worth the effort. However, if you have a collection of rare bourbons or an extremely valuable single bottle of bourbon, using a licensed broker is the best legal method of selling.

Author: Mark Pringle
Smell IS taste. I am just a guy who has been hit with the bourbon bug and who has come to the conclusion that life is too short to drink average tasting bourbons. Go Gators!
My External Website (External Website Opens in New Window)


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