At the beginning of February I posted about the most recent LCBO release of Northern Harvest, replenishing Ontario stocks by about 4500 new bottles. That was followed over the next week by additional releases of 2000, 3000, 800, 500, another 2000 and probably a few hundred or possibly thousand that I may have missed. All totaled, a minimum of 12,8000 bottles were released across the province of Ontario over the first week of February.
It’s now three weeks later and there hasn’t been any new product since then and stocks are sitting at 720 bottles today (February 23). A staggering 12,000 bottles sold in three weeks! I had suggested at the beginning of the month that there was pent-up demand for this expression but that now seems like an gross understatement. Aside from a couple of outliers, the majority of the stock is now sitting in smaller stores in markets well removed from the major Ontario ones, further suggesting that the urban demand for Northern Harvest is still strong and will likely continue of LCBO manages to obtain another tranche of the dwindling producer stock.
Also of note, most of the pubs I’ve frequented of late now have a bottle displayed and available, so there’s also been a commercial stock allotment set aside in addition to the retail. So I’m now asking, what happens next? Will the retail price rise and/or will there be empty shelves once again? LCBO, in general, doesn’t bump their prices based on demand but will based on currency fluctuations and import duties, so the $CDN32.60 price isn’t likely to move. What’s more likely is that Northern Harvest will join the throng of LCBO products with no inventory and no guidance on when more will become available.
This is a disappointing policy with the LCBO, that they cannot state or even estimate when they expect an out-of-stock item to be replenished. If there’s no producer stock available, I completely understand but as a courtesy to us consumers can’t this be communicated? Yes, they posted signs in the stores related to shortages of Northern Harvest, but nothing on the website. In addition, there are hundreds (maybe thousands?) of out-of-stock items listed on their website with not a single note related as to whether the item will be replenished and if so when, or if it will be delisted. Case in point, this just happened with Springbank 10 year. It was out-of-stock for months then a few hundred bottles were released last summer, they sold, there was zero stock for a few more months and then suddenly the item vanished from the website. This does not serve us, the people who use the service provided by the LCBO. That’s us, the people of Ontario, the ones who own the LCBO.
While I was out grocery shopping today, I decided to do a quick look in my local LCBO, setting expectations about as low as possible. Earlier this morning I did a check of online inventory and no new bottles of Crown Royal Northern Harvest were showing as released today. It kind of made sense, that there probably wouldn’t be any distribution on Sunday, so there shouldn’t be any new inventory for sale on Monday. However…
There it was, filling that particular allotment of shelf that had been empty for so many days (and would no doubt continue to be empty after these four were gone). And on top of the surprise, the price was even discounted by a couple of dollars! I felt the same forager’s rush like when I’m out in the woods and I stumble across a particularly prized wild mushroom or other wild delicacy.
I suppose that in this case the lack of updated inventory on the website and app was clearly a good thing as no one knew where the new stock would be showing up. So no lineups, no speculators, no bulk buying. Go figure. Right place; right time.
As I was checking out my two bottles at the cashier, the manager explained that the store had received four cases today and this was the last of it. No idea when more would be arriving. I was so tempted to go back and pick up a third bottle, but no, I remained principled and left some for the next guy, just like the person before me had left some.
So later today I’ll open a bottle; the other will go into storage. And although I don’t normally post tasting notes, I will make an exception and post soon.
Back when Oprah had her regular television show, she would have a regular feature where she would do a show-and-tell of things she liked. For better or worse, what would inevitably follow was a tsunami of purchasing, the peak in demand created solely by one person’s endorsement. One person’s opinion. Well, it’s now official, the world of whisk(e)y has it’s own Oprah.
Yes Jim Murray, I’m looking at you.
My wife brought to my attention last Friday an article on the CBC website about Mr. Murray’s proclamations for the coming year about what he considered to be top notch whiskies. At the top of the list was a stunner. Like last year when he anointed Yamazaki -as if it needed any more attention- creating a furor that anything other than a spirit from Scotland could possible enjoy such status, he follows suit this year with a Canadian whiskey. Crown Royal Northern Harvest.
I live in Toronto. We have dozens of LCBO outlets in the city. I’ve tried and enjoyed various releases from Crown Royal, so I decided to go buy a bottle or two so I could try this apparently stellar dram. I failed.
Friday there were many thousands of bottles available in Ontario, according to the LCBO app. Sunday morning there were 1500 bottles available. Today, Monday morning, there are 496, with less than 20 showing in Toronto. (Edit: Tuesday morning the provincial inventory is now 97 bottles, but likely much less than that as most stores show only a single bottle which usually means it has been lost, stashed or broken.)
I’ve talked at length in this blog about supply and demand and the effects on whisky pricing. I dread the thought of what Mr. Murray has wrought. This hitherto humble bottle retails for $32 CDN at the LCBO. Now that the supply has withered, will prices jump? I truly hope not. The idea of a great whiskey at an affordable price, that (gasp!) is domestic just makes me happy. I hope I haven’t missed my chance on this one.
PS: Keep an eye on the LCBO Alerts page of my blog, I will make note when we receive more stock into Toronto.