When you imagine winning the lottery, does it ever include driving to a store and paying for the prize?
For the past year, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has run a lottery for rare and limited-availability products. In December, 25,659 people entered the lottery for the chance to pay $99.99 for one of 96 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-Year Bourbon. (For Pappy fans, the 20-year has a three-year wait list, after which it will go into the lottery system.)
Virginians (yes, only state residents can enter) can log on to the department’s website during the 48-hour window. Kathleen Shaw, a spokesperson for ABC, says, “It is the most equitable distribution process that we can provide to customers across the state, giving everyone an equal chance to win the ability to purchase a bottle.” She also notes there is no added benefit of entering early: Every entry is weighted the same.
Bottles are shipped to the store selected by the winner, and any unclaimed bottles return to the warehouse for the next winner.
In order for a product to qualify as a lottery item, it first needs to be designated as a limited-availability product. Heather McDonough, the marketing analyst who’s in charge of the program, says, “It’s really a matter of looking at how much we are going to get. Our standard has been if we are going to be able to ship at least one case of the product to every store that we have, then it’s not really limited.”
From there, the limited-availability products are either placed for sale online on the ABC website or listed as a lottery item. Analysts factor in consumer interest through special order requests, market trends and the actual number of bottles available to help decide which bottles funnel through the lottery. Lotteries and special sales are announced on Mondays through the Spirited Virginia e-newsletter and Facebook.