Fickle, Fickle Prices and the LCBO

I travel to Miami frequently, and usually stop in at Total Wines to browse their fine selection of single malts and to pick up a bottle. My past couple of trips I’ve brought back an Ardbeg Uigeadail ($70 US) and a Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated ($60 US) that were great buys and wonderful additions to the collection. But I also noticed something odd. More than a few bottles were priced significantly better back home at the LCBO.

Yes, I realize that most Canadian readers will balk at such a preposterous notion. Yet it’s true. Even after Canadian import duties and alcohol taxes, the prices were better at home (adjusting for the currency exchange rate of course). I’m truly lost for an explanation. Here’s just a couple that I noticed:

Aberlour a’bunadh

LCBO 95.05 $CAD

Total Wines 116 $CAD (87.99 $US) (Exchange rate of 1 $US = 1.32 $CAD used 10/14/2015)

That’s  20% difference, advantage LCBO. And what’s most peculiar here is that the import duties into Canada are partially based on alcohol content which means that anything cask strength will necessarily include a larger tax cut.

Compare that with something much more in line with how we would expect the price differences across the border to look:

Laphroaig 10 year

LCBO 80.95 $CAD

Total Wines 65 $ CAD (48.99 $US)

Here we see a 25% difference on this one, advantage Total Wines. And while I have Laproaig showing, why the hell is Laphroaig 10 priced higher in Canada than Quarter Cask? The rest of the world (and I mean absolutely everyone, without exception) prices the 10 year less than QC by 10%-15%. Hello Revenue Canada: You’re doing it wrong. Ugh.

And then there’s this one, utterly egregious and not in the way you would first expect:

Tobermory 10

LCBO $CAD 67.25

Total Wines $CAD 92 ($USD 69.99)

Huh? Sure, Tobermory is a nice enough little dram, but really? A 35% premium in the US? Can I really, truly conclude that the LCBO is giving us good pricing? I won’t go so far as to definitively say so, but in some cases, yes. Taking these three examples, nearly every store outside of Canada that I’ve been to in the last year has Aberlour a’bunadh priced in the 95-100 $CAD range so on this one LCBO is pretty much on point. At the other end of the spectrum, the LCBO pricing for Laphroiag 10, as mentioned above, is consistently  and completely out of whack. But, occasionally, and for reasons completely mysterious but not quite profound, the LCBO pricing is both fair and reasonable as we see with the Tobermory. I don’t really expect to be saying that very often.

Happy foraging!