Two letters, C and S, have changed the whiskey secondary market. Used together, it’s C+S which stands for Cost + Shipping. It started as a basic idea a few months ago by one individual (no, not me). That person, who will remain anonymous, had been searching for an Orphan Barrel Barterhouse and was unable to find it locally. Finally he found it at a store, but that store marked up the price too much for him to buy. He then went looking online and became frustrated that everyone who was selling it online had marked it up quite a bit so that they could make a profit. Annoyed that he couldn’t find anything he wanted at retail pricing, this guy started a group, a place where people could come and find items at cost with no markups. It also become a place where people could have access to stuff that might not be available in their area. And thus the birth of C+S.
The basic premise of C+S was born from this individual, and it slowly grew from there. It was supposed to be used for standard shelf items or more rare but fairly well allocated stuff. It was a regional trade of sorts, one that helped both the store owner (by moving slow inventory) and one that helped the buyer (by getting items they couldn’t get in their area). The seller also benefited, as the process of buying and shipping made them known to the small group as someone who was dependable and should be rewarded in the future when they sought something out. The basic premise also included the notion that no purchases were to be used for flipping (resold at a higher cost), but that everything being bought was for personal consumption. It was not a market motivated by greed, but by generosity and curiosity to try new products.
The C+S group (actual name and location has been hidden) has grown faster than the founder or any of the original members could have ever imagined. Almost overnight the group has amassed hundreds of followers. And the buying has moved beyond standard shelf items into more rare and allocated items. Recently I have seen many allocated items being sold at cost including Orphan Barrel products, Michter’s 10 and 20 year, Weller 12 and OWA, private store picks, and even rare gift shop bottles. No one has seen any Pappy or BTAC at cost, but we will see what happens this Fall (if such groups still exist). With the ever expanding group, greed is inevitable. A rare bottle gets many buyers, but not all of those buyers offer to reciprocate. Thankfully, the group does police itself and calls out excessive greed, as generosity still remains at the core even as the group grows daily.
Today, C+S is more than a group. I have seen it now in multiple places, on multiple platforms. It’s not just a group, it’s a movement. A revolution, if you will. People are flat out tired of flippers taking away bottles that whiskey drinkers want to buy and consume and they are tired of stores that mark up items well beyond retail to take advantage of a crazed market. I have no idea how long this trend will last. It may be something that goes on heavy and burns out many people. Or perhaps demand in C+S will outgrow inventory across the country, leading to an even greater bourbon shortage. Time is going to tell what happens, but for now, I am going to sit back and watch this amazing trend. I have always said that people who are big into bourbon and rye are some of the most generous, amicable people out there, and now they have a home with C+S.
Cheers to you, anonymous man. I hope that Barterhouse you found at retail price is as tasty as you hoped it would be.