Pa. Liquor Control Board’s latest move to draw consumers? Auctioning really old Scotch

Inside one of Pennsylvania's state-run Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY)

Inside one of Pennsylvania's state-run Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY)

Over the past few years, pressure has been building for Pennsylvania to privatize its state-run liquor industry.

One of the common arguments against continued state control is that wine and liquor selection and quality in stores run by the Liquor Control Board can’t keep pace with independent stores in other states.

The board has tried to change that perception over the years, from redecorating, to mixing up the available booze, to adding the word “fine” to the state’s wine and spirits stores.

The board’s latest gambit involves auctioning off some extremely expensive Scotch.

How expensive?

The starting bid for the 52-year-old Macallan 1949 Cask No. 935 Single Malt Scotch Highland is $25,000.

Board spokesman Shawn Kelly said the auction isn’t really about making money. It’s an attempt to rectify what has often seemed like an inherent problem with a state-run liquor industry.

“We started a limited-release lottery a few years ago when it was becoming increasingly difficult for our customers to find bottles of product they were having trouble acquiring,” he said. “This is another step in that direction.”

He said if this first auction goes well and the board manages to get hold of another, similarly rare bottle of liquor, it may consider holding another auction in the future.

Kelly couldn’t say exactly how the board came by this Scotch or where it’s stored.

The board also has a 21-year-old bottle for a starting bid of $9,000.

Scotch aficionados have until April 5 to submit their bids.

The state legislature’s last serious bid to break up state control of the liquor industry came in 2017. Top Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Turzai, remain strong proponents of privatization.

So far, no bills have been introduced this legislative session that would do so.

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