Kentucky committee OKs bill to let bars buy vintage whiskeys

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Dust off that old bottle of whiskey tucked away in the attic because there could soon be a market for it in the world’s bourbon capital.

A Kentucky House panel advanced legislation Wednesday that would allow vintage, unopened bottles of spirits to be put back into circulation in the state’s bars and restaurants.

Supporters see it as another way to boost the state’s growing bourbon tourism industry.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you go into a restaurant or a bar in Louisville and say, ‘I’d like to compare a 1950 Old Forester versus one of today’s Old Forester brands and see how they taste?’” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

The measure would allow people who possess old, unopened bottles of spirits to sell them to bars, restaurants or liquor stores. The bill drew no opposition in the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

If the bill becomes law, Kentucky bars and restaurants could seek out rare bottles to add to their shelves and pour out as shots or mixed in cocktails. The trend has become especially popular in some big city bars and restaurants in other states.

“We think that the world’s largest bourbon library needs to be in Kentucky,” Gregory said.

The bill’s lead sponsor is Republican state Rep. Chad McCoy of Bardstown, which calls itself as the epicenter of Kentucky’s bourbon industry.

McCoy said many of his constituents have vintage bourbon collections.

“There are probably more bottles of bourbon tucked away in attics in Kentucky than anyplace else in the world,” Gregory said. “It just stands to reason, because we are the birthplace of bourbon and we have been producing the great majority of the world’s bourbon for now over 200 years.”

Bottles of rare whiskeys can fetch hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Hard-to-find Scotch and American whiskeys and cognacs are especially popular, said Frank Coleman, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council.

“Some pre-Prohibition bourbons are particularly sought after. And bourbon that was produced during Prohibition under the medicinal licenses,” Coleman said.

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