Great Bourbon is Not Easy to Find

At Beat Culture Brewery, we’ve been doing our best to up Miami’s beer standards for four years. But as I’ve discussed in past issues, craft brewers have been “disrupting” the American beer industry for even longer. For my other passion – bourbon – that disruption is really just beginning, and one group in Miami is doing its part. 

Great bourbon, it turns out, is not easy to find. That’s because in the distribution process retailers or wholesalers snatch up the good juice to keep for themselves or to sell it on the heavily gouged black-secondary market. In the secondary market, flippers are moving those same products for a multiplier of what you would pay at the retail store. And because it’s an easy way to make a quick buck, the sought-after brands sometimes never make it on the shelf or simply don’t even make their way down to Miami. And if you’re one of the lucky few who have been at the right place or the right time you cherish that bottle and only bring it out on special occasions.

Enter Miami Bourbon Society: a free-to-join, private barrel-buying club that finds real single bourbon and brings it to members at cost. Started in 2015 by Emilio Machado and run by volunteers who are serious about standards, the group has an audience of over 7000 aficionados looking to enjoy exceptional bourbon at great prices. And exceptional it is. In a world of commoditized beverages, MBS is taking the elitism out of elite bourbon and making it accessible to its members. 

Over the years, MBS has developed relationships with quality bourbon and whiskey distillers, each of whom has their own process, recipes, aging process (and even the wood itself which allows for unique single-barrel products.) That means each barrel has its own personality, and the whiskey that spends years aging inside it will take on its unique flavor and flair. Distilleries supply samples or even requires MBS to fly out to their distillery to pick the best barrels for its members. Next, the distillers bottle the selected bourbon, and MBS notifies its members that bottles are available. Often, the bottles are uniquely labeled for Miami Bourbon Society, which gives a personal touch to a typically impersonal bottling process. 

The Society has kept its grassroots feel because it’s run by wildly competent volunteers. They work in unrelated fields like finance, law, and cruising, but when it comes to bourbon, their palettes and expertise belie their “day jobs.” Their talents have created a community that makes the joy of drinking bourbon a little more intimate and makes Miami feel a little smaller.

But drinking is just the start. With member events, customized bottles, and local partnerships, MBS gets every drop of fun out of every single barrel they purchase. 

For example, they recently partnered with my brewery to host an event for members where we served beer aged in some of the barrels purchased by MBS. These same barrels can quickly turn into multi-course beer and whiskey dinners. Some members brought cigars to the monthly bottle share; some brought their dogs; and everyone brought their enthusiasm for good spirits.

That enthusiasm translates directly to appetite, as MBS-purchased bourbon flies off the proverbial shelves. Barrels sell out fast, but members get notified before everyone else through the Miami Bourbon Society Facebook page. (The fastest, Blanton’s Barrel, sold out in 15 seconds!) 

If you, like me, are afflicted with the appetite for single-barrel quality craft bourbon without having to chase it or line up in front of liquor stores before they open, join the Facebook group and check out the MBS Instagram (@miamibourbonsociety), where you can see some of the events, custom bottles, and unique barrels they’ve offered. It’s free to join and the bottles range in price from $40-$200 each. In fact, you should join even if you don’t yet know whether you have a passion for excellent bourbon because, either way, you’ll have a great time finding out.