Virginia ABC Faces Scrutiny After Botched Bourbon Lottery
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Virginia ABC Botched Lottery For Rare Whiskeys Raises Questions, Suspicion

Virginia ABC

The Virginia ABC faced scrutiny earlier this month after a botched bourbon lottery (Photo by Gado/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

The Virginia ABC faced scrutiny after an internal audit identified “an issue in the sorting of the lottery data,” which generated abnormal results during a recent rare bourbon lottery. Out of the 146,221 entries, only 978 participants were chosen to purchase the 1,313 bottles available.

Two participants won a chance to purchase all four bottles, 50 received a chance to purchase three of the four, and 229 won a chance to purchase two bottles from the collection. The Virginia ABC concluded in a statement issued Friday that it would honor the results of the lottery, leading to backlash from locals including Gus Guimond, a member of the DMV Bourbon Drinkers club on Facebook.

Guimond said the odds of not just one but several people winning access to multiple bottles via the lottery by chance was extremely unlikely.

“To put that into perspective, the chances of this happening is equivalent to finding a single atom in our entire solar system,” Guimond wrote in an email to the ABC, which was featured in the Washington Post.

Guimond also stated that records available under Virginia’s freedom of information law implied something went wrong with the Virginia ABC’s process of assigning an entrant a number in a spreadsheet and manually randomizing entries. Such claims were backed by a spokesperson for the Virginia ABC.

“Virginia ABC has found no evidence of inappropriate administration of the lottery drawing or intentional manipulation by staff or customers,” concluded the ABC, “Drawings were witnessed by a member of the authority’s internal audit division.”

The April lottery was meant to allow Virginia residents the chance to buy rare whiskeys from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, like Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, William Larue Weller Bourbon and Sazerac 18-Year Old Rye at a more affordable cost compared to the untenable prices they often fetch on the open market.

A bottle of Sazerac 18-Year Rye might cost as much as $3,300 in today’s marketplace. For many bourbon enthusiasts, Virginia’s lottery was a chance at being able to purchase such expressions at a more affordable cost for the average consumer.

This is the second instance the Virginia ABC has garnered national media attention recently. In September, former ABC employee Edgar Smith Garcia pled guilty to computer trespass and was sentenced to two years in prison. Garcia allegedly sold the Virginia ABC’s inventory list of limited-availability bourbons to internet groups.

Other states have had issues with government agency employees abusing their positions for access to rare spirits, such as Oregon’s Liquor and Cannabis Commission. An internal investigation in February uncovered Executive Director Steve Marks and five other agency officials obtained rare bourbons, such as Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old, for personal use.

Virginia’s ABC said there will be a lengthier review process in the future and a new lottery system is currently being tested, according to WTKR News 3.

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Cynthia Mersten is a writer/editor for Whiskey Raiders and has worked in the Beverage Industry for eight years. She started her career in wine and spirits distribution and sold brands like Four Roses, High West and Compass Box to a variety of bars and restaurants in the city she calls home: Los Angeles. Cynthia is a lover of all things related to wine, spirits and story and holds a BA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are photography and watching movies with her husband.