Virginia ABC Will Now Run Its Confusing Allocated Bourbon System via Text Message Alerts

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Virginia ABC Will Now Run Its Confusing Allocated Bourbon System via Text Message Alerts

When it comes to the state of Virginia, selling rare and allocated bourbon or other whiskey has frequently amounted to a massive headache. The state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, otherwise known simply as the Virginia ABC, has struggled repeatedly in recent years to both keep up with the demand for popular, “allocated” bourbon brands and figure out a way to get those bottles into the hands of customers in the most fair, equitable manner. At seemingly every turn, their efforts have been hamstrung by people figuring out how to game the system, or internal corruption from profiteering employees taking advantage of the consumer mania to acquire rare bottles. And now, Virginia is tweaking their system for distributing allocated products yet again, implementing a new system that will inform customers directly via text when bottles become available at local Virginia ABC locations.

The cavalcade of whiskey-related issues at the Virginia ABC first became widely publicized in the spring of 2022, when stores all across the state abruptly appeared to stop selling any allocated bourbon brands, without offering any explanation. This was followed by the state launching a new system of “random drops,” on a daily or weekly basis, with Virginia ABC social media accounts and email lists informing consumers when some of these products became available. This system continues to receive a mixed reaction, with some Virginia bourbon geeks feeling it gives them a better chance to snag a rare bottle–provided they’re ready to drop everything and run to the liquor store when an alert comes–and others preferring the prior system, which rewarded those willing to wait for hours outside a liquor store before it opened.

The situation, though, is complicated by its entanglement with further Virginia ABC internal scandals, most notably the former employee convicted of felony computer trespass as part of a scheme to sell advance warning to local bourbon geeks of which bottles would be at which stores, and when. Four high-ranking ABC officials were likewise placed on leave this June after an embezzlement scheme was discovered in seven stores, while the ABC’s lottery system for especially rare bottles also endured a scandal of its own when the agency admitted it was experiencing “statistically abnormal” outcomes, resulting in a small handful of entrants winning far more bottles than they should have. Keep in mind, this has all happened in about the course of 1.5 calendar years in the Virginia whiskey scene.

So with that said, it’s safe to say that the newly announced text message system from the Virginia ABC will be looked on by local drinkers with a healthy share of skepticism, and a cynical expectation of further complications. With that said, the agency says that “On September 12, 2023, Virginia ABC will introduce text notifications for limited availability product drops. Beginning October 15, 2023 Spirited Virginia will no longer announce limited availability product drops on Facebook or Instagram. Email notifications will remain. To sign up, text keyword: DROPS to 80424.”

We would suspect that the further automation of this system is at least partially meant as a way to shield the Virginia ABC social media team from needing to deal as frequently with the histrionic entitlement of the state’s voracious bourbon community, given the way that almost every Facebook or Instagram post from the ABC is simply inundated with people complaining about allocated bourbon. If the system does somehow work, though, it could make acquiring that rare bottle in Virginia a little bit easier … provided, as always, that you’re free to drop everything you’re doing and race to the liquor store whenever that bottle arrives.

Or–and I know that you won’t listen to me, but I’ll just suggest it anyway–perhaps you could take us up on our pleas to look past bourbon and diversify your drinking? There’s never been a better time to get into something other than American whiskey, so hopefully some folks will take advantage of this opportunity to do so.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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