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Blue Books For Brown Tulips — Dramming

Blue Books For Brown Tulips

by Oliver Klimek on March 13, 2015

Facebook is always a good place to find interesting whisky related information. Recently someone posted the link to a blog article on First We Feast about two price tracking websites for rare bourbon bottles. The sites are called Bourbon Blue Book and Bottle Blue Book.

Both websites work the same way. When you have traded a bottle you can submit the price to the site where it is added to the database. Current prices for all traded bottles are displayed on the website. Bottle Blue Book also displays price developments over time and provides user accounts, even connected with your Facebook account, if you wish. Bourbon Blue Book only consists of a price list and a submission form. All you need to post your prices is an email address.

At a first glance this looks fairly harmless, apart from the fact of course that this is all about trading whisky bottles and not about drinking the contents. But when you think about it, there is a serious flaw. The complete anonymity that is possible on both sites (should you choose to register with Bottle Blue Book not using your Facebook account but only a randon email address) means that no input is checked for authenticity. To quote the first we Feast article on Bottle Blue Book: “Their data is also 100% anonymously self-reported and, so long as a reported price doesn’t stray too drastically from the current norm, it gets verified and added into the system.”

It does not take too much imagination to see how easily this system can be manipulated. No transaction is ever verified if it has actually happened. You can sign up and enter anything you want, as long as your numbers are plausible and you don’t overdo it which might raise a suspicion by the operators. 

Websites like these show how far the whisky bubble has already been inflated. Instead of researching solid pricing information via auction results whisky traders rely on a dodgy crowdsourcing mechanism to make their purchasing or selling decisions.

Update 15th March 2015: I have recieved an email from Dan of Bottle Blue Book. He states that they do look at the individual transactions and by knowing who is who they can verify the authenticity of a transaction. Dan emphasizes that the people who are running the site are closley monitoring the secondary bourbon market and only approve transactions that they believe really happened. After the verfication of the transaction the connection with the user  is removed from the data to secure anonymity.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff March 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Good piece. It’s about the slippery use of words: “it gets verified” really means “it’s considered AS verified”, not “it’s verified by a third, disinterested, party”.”Data” is also a pretty loose term, and although it’s “unfortunate” that there are bottle flippers, supposedly this is for collectors, so that they can know what they can “reasonably” expect to pay when they buy (more than likely from flippers, who can now manipulate that “reasonable” price to justify their gouging). Along with the silliness coming from Annandale, there’s just nothing that can be proposed in whisky today which can transcend belief.


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