LCBO Post-Christmas Returns!

Around this time last year I had a fistful of LCBO gift cards, graciously received gifts from various friends and family, and was looking for a couple of nice bottles to spends them on. While browsing the Toronto Kingsway store, I noticed a bottle of Macallan 12 year on the shelf. A lone bottle, no price tag. It stuck me as very odd, since the Macallan age statement expressions hadn’t been available in Canada for a few years. A year later I still don’t know why I didn’t buy it, maybe because it seemed so out-of-place, like there was something wrong with it, like it was a trap of some kind. The next day though I returned with the intent of correcting my foolish decision but, hardly surprisingly, it was gone. I shrugged it off as a black swan but it kind of happened again, yesterday.

Armed with this year’s collection of gift cards I was browsing the LCBO website and came across this:


As I’ve discussed before when a single bottle of something odd shows up on the website it’s usually ‘ghost inventory’ and a call to the store almost always ends with ‘we tried really hard to find it but it’s either broken or stolen. Sorry.’ I get it. My expectations are usually pretty low but it never hurts to call, right? I mean I got really lucky with finding a Laphroaig Cairdeas 2012 last year so the risk/reward ratio is heavily in my favour, right?

Here’s the odd part: the website showed zero inventory of the Single Barrel Amrut across the whole province. Not sure why, I decided to confirm the inventory against the LCBO app. To my surprise a single bottle showed at the Toronto Queens Quay store, so I called. A very helpful gentleman said he would look to see if it was on the shelf. A minute later he informed me that yes, it was here and that he could hold it for me if I can down to the store as soon as possible. He also congratulated me on my luck as he seemed well aware of the improbability of the bottle actually being in the store.

An hour later I collected it, for the princely sum of $42 (the only other price I could find in Canada was SAQ at $99). The gentlemen I spoke with said that it had been a return the previous day, and that since there was no receipt, it had been reshelved at the last price offered, no doubt reduced when they were clearing out the last stock. Given the timing it must have been bottle gifted to someone who didn’t know what they had and was happy to return it to the LCBO for something they wanted. That’s just fine with me, everyone comes away happy.


I’ve posted before about a couple of prime buying opportunities:

  • the end of March during LCBO year-end inventory when lost and forgotten items are unearthed and put out on the shelves
  • the end of September when each store needs clear shelf space for incoming Holiday inventory for the holidays

And now there’s a third window of opportunity: the week after Christmas when items get returned by people who don’t know what they have. The mysterious Macallan 12 I saw last year probably was a result of a similar return. To be fair, there was only one bottle of the Amrut Single Cask but I’ll leave you with this tip: as of this morning (Jan 5) eight bottle of Glenfiddich 1963 Original Malt have appeared , priced $59. The same bottle runs $99-$140 so it’s a remarkable deal. glenfiddich-1963

Three bottles at a store in Kitchener; if you’re not in that city, ask for an inter-store transfer.

Happy foraging!

P.S. Thanks for the gift card, Mom. You said that it would buy me half a bottle of whisky I like, but I got a whole one, with some left over!







LCBO Flash Sale!

Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

In previous posts I’ve talked about LCBO sales and how they can often present good buying opportunities, whether they are monthly mark-downs, end-of-year ‘finds’ or the rarest of all, the single-store flash sale. The last is what I want to discuss in this post because there’s one happening right now (Sept 27).

Tonight I dropped by the downtown Toronto LCBO at Bay and Bloor (55 Bloor St W at Manulife Centre) to kill a little time before an appointment. All the usual whiskies were on the shelves but when I took a look in the premium section, I wasn’t prepared for what I found.



Seventy five dollars off?!? That couldn’t possibly correct. Sure, the little red ‘SAVE’ signs pop up all the time at the LCBO, but the dollar values are almost always limited to a single digit. And usually max out at $5. This was…a mistake?

I looked around. There were more little red signs with more big numbers. This was not a mistake.

Many of the bottle were slashed by 30%, the Jura’s in particular, to clear out slow moving stock and make room for new arrivals coming soon. Here’s some more:




Bear in mind that these prices are for this store only, and only until this store decides that it has cleared out enough space to make room for the holiday goodies, which could be tomorrow. This is a great opportunity to get top-shelf bottles at an unbeatable price. There were many other heavily discounted offerings. I didn’t take pics of them all but if you can make it to the Manulife LCBO at Bay & Bloor streets, I have no doubt you’ll find a bottle or two at a price that will amaze you.

Bonus bottles:

J.P Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whiskey (stunning!) normally $49, now $35

Grey Goose vodka, 1.14 l, normally $75, now $53.


Happy foraging!







Forager’s Surprise

I log every bottle I buy. The expression, the location where I bought it, the cost and my tasting notes. No specific reason, it’s just what I do. In July 2013, when my wife and I were in Frederick, Maryland, we visited the local liquor store. The selection was not terrible broad but I found a Cragganmore 12 year for $51 CDN. Sure, not a hard to find bottle or a particularly bold purchase but the store we visited had a fairly limited selection and I like Cragganmore, and I liked the price. Yes, yes, the exchange rate, I know. Back then the Canadian dollar was close to par with the US dollar so really it was a good buy. When we got home to Toronto, I dutifully logged the bottle and left it at that. That bottle of Cragganmore is long gone, sacrificed to a cottage weekend with the guys but, apparently, the visit to that particular store wasn’t.

We recently celebrated our anniversary, our 12th anniversary. To my surprise I was presently with the following:

Macallan 12



My wife had, very stealthily, bought this at the same store where I bought the Cragganmore and tucked it away for three full years with the intent of giving it to me for our 12th. Yes, I was very surprised. This was the real Macallan, not  the sorry NAS version we are relegated to here in Canada, and the rest of the non-USA portion of the world for that matter. It’s sort of a standard expression against which all other Speysiders are measured and, most will agree, vastly superior to the rather tepid ‘colour’ range and the 1824 range of NAS releases that are now Macallan’s core in most of the world.

Regular reader of this blog know that when I have recently visited the US, Pennsylvania in particular, I have been buying Yamazaki 12 because I can. I had pretty much overlooked this gem and cannot say how happy I was to receive this wonderful bottle from an even more wonderful woman. To all the gentlemen out there reading this post, please feel free to share with your significant other. I’ve got a really, really good one.

Happy foraging!




Forager’s Disbelief

As a dedicated forager, I frequently check the LCBO app, looking for price reductions or for interesting new stock coming in. New items almost always show up on the app for a few weeks with zero inventory prior to actually hitting the shelves so there’s plenty of advance notice. Sometimes though an item that has been out of stock for some time like months, or in some cases years, will suddenly show a single bottle appearing in stock. This is almost always a correction due to a bottle that has gone missing or a bottle that was broken or one that perhaps happened to walk away on its own. But sometimes, rarely, it’s not a correction. This was one of those times.

Thursday I checked the LCBO app. Nothing new, no new items, no price cuts. Wait. Why is there a lone bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas showing in stock? And why is it a 2012 ‘Origin’ and not something more current? It must be a mistake, right? After all, there were only 3000 bottles of it released back in 2012. I ignored it.

Friday I checked the app. Nothing new, no new items, no price cuts. Wait. That Cairdeas is still there. Why hasn’t this been corrected? I  ignored it, or at least tried to. After a couple of hours of the error gnawing at me, I couldn’t resist. I call the store. The manager I spoke with was very helpful, explaining that, after a few minutes, she was certain that it wasn’t on the shelves. Not a surprise. I was ready to accept this but she said that she would look in the back warehouse. I waited on the phone, certain that at any moment she would return and inform me that it wasn’t there and that they were very sorry for the error.

Nearly fifteen minutes later, sure now that I had been forgotten, she returned to the phone and triumphantly informed me, “I found it!”

I was nearly in disbelief. I asked her to confirm the price.

“Our system says $100.45.” (That’s Canadian dollars.)

Now I was truly in disbelief: the price was the 2012 release price! I asked if it could be put on hold until Monday as I was not going to be able to use our car until then and drive the 50 km to the outlet. She took my name and contact info, assuring me that it would sit in the manager’s office until then. When I told my wife later that day about finding this treasure, she (very, very supportive wife when it comes to my collection) was worried that even though the bottle was to be stored in the managers office, it could disappear over the weekend. She suggested that I ask my 80 year old mother who lives just down the street from the LCBO branch to pick it up as soon as she could, just to be sure.

I have been married long enough to know that I should listen to her, especially since she was being so supportive in this acquisition. I called Mom who that said she would go by the store when she was out for groceries that afternoon and that I should pay her when we visited over the weekend.

Cairdeas 2012.JPG

Sure enough, it was the 2012! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. This is the thrill of a good forage, stumbling into something so wonderful that, by all accounts, really should even be there. In the future there’s no question that I will give a little more credence to the single bottles that show up in stock.

Thanks Jen, and thanks Mom, for helping me on this one.

Happy foraging!




LCBO Alert: Cragganmore 12

Cragganmore 12Let’s get the alert out of the way: Cragganmore 12 for $66.60 at LCBO. Last month a handful of bottles appeared in stock, then a few more, a few were sold and then a few more added, suggesting that some ‘lost’ stock was discovered in the warehouse rather than a full replenishment. As of today, July 12, there are 95 bottle showing in inventory scattered pretty much evenly across the province so if your local outlet doesn’t have then an inter-store transfer should be pretty quick.

At $66, which is reduced from its regular price point around $80-$85, I would argue that Cragganmore 12 is the best price/quality ratio of any single malt presently available at the LCBO. Also by comparison to the rest of Canada, the LCBO price is firmly the lowest of any of the provinces, which range from $74  in Alberta to as high as $100 in B.C.

I mentioned that this expression represents a strong price/quality ratio and I do stand by benromach_10_new_700-p[1]that claim, but of all the (single malt) whiskies showing on the LCBO app, only one beats out the strength of this offering and that’s the Benromach 10 year priced at $59.15. Unfortunately there’s none currenly in stock and there hasn’t been for months. I was lucky enough to grab a bottle back at the end of March when a couple of forgotten cases appeared on shelves during the LCBO physical inventory week. I was shocked at how good it was and, in my opinion, it beats out all other age statement Speysiders up to double its price point. It has this curious quality of being able to stimulate the palate without making you actually hungry. Ledaig 10 year is the only other whisky I’ve found that shares this quality (which is also a pretty good LCBO buy at $67, if you can find a bottle).

Not surprisingly I keep a keen eye out for more Benromach 10 to come into stock, and this past weekend I was delighted to see that 119 bottles had become available only at the Toronto Queens Quay outlet. Saturday morning I headed down to claim a bottle. Oddly, despite the huge store’s deep selection of malts, it was not on the shelves. Maybe it had just arrived and hadn’t been put out yet?  I asked the staff. No, this was actually a private order of 10 cases (one bottle had been damage during transit, hence the .119 rather than 120) and that they could not sell me even one bottle. Ugh.

I understand that they couldn’t sell from a private order, I certainly wouldn’t want my order pilfered if I had place it, but the lesson here it that caution should be taken when the LCBO website or app suddenly shows an inventory spike from zero to a case multiple at a single store. Forewarned, I’ll know for next time but until then I’ll be keeping a watchful eye for other great deals.

Happy foraging!



PLCB Alert: Scapa 16 (and Yamzaki 12…)

It its efforts to purge inventory that cannot be replaced due to the distiller phasing out the expression, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has finally sold off all of its remaining Laphroaig 18. I had mentioned the deep discounts offered on the 18 in a previous post and, given the recent announcements regarding other distilleries moving solely to NAS (No Age Statement) expressions, I decided to check other similarly affected bottles.

Two casualties of the NAS movement announced last year are Longmorn 16 and Scapa 16.


Both will be sorely missed, the Scapa 16 being replaced by Scapa Skiren and the Longmorn 16 may or may not be replaced by Longmorn Distiller’s Choice. Regardless, Scapa 16 is disappearing and, like Laphroaig 18, PLCB is slashing its price to clear it out. And I mean it’s really slashing the price, from $US 79.99 to $US 51.99! This Scapa expression is a uniquely floral dram in no way similar to the neighbouring Highland Park distillery and deserves a place in the collection, particularly at this price. Move fast on this one, as of May 31, 2016 there were only 34 bottles left scattered across the state of PA, with none in the major urban stores.

Also, as an update on our old friend Yamazaki 12, despite a global shortage of this vanishing dram, a remarkable amount still sits on the shelves of PA, waiting patiently to delight foragers. Still priced at (a very reasonable) $US84.99, it’s really not clear why the PLCB has not discounted this item in the same way it has for other discontinued whiskies. Regardless, PLCB must have been sitting on quite a hoard of it when Suntory nixed its age statement: an astounding 1000 bottles remain on the shelves! One PLCB outlet in Allentown shows 63 bottles in stock! Go. Get. This.


Happy foraging!





LCBO Garage Sale

The end of March is when the LCBO performs its end-of-(financial)-year inventory. This in and of itself is far from an interesting topic yet it is a time of great interest to the collector. And please note that for anyone living in a territory where alcohol sales are government controlled this should also apply, adjusted to the local end-of-year schedule, of course.

This is the time of year when oddities are found, cases of sold out limited releases suddenly re-appear, and, sadly, others are delisted permanently. As inventory date approaches, I keep a vigilant eye for anything of interest like out of the ordinary bottles appearing. To some degree I’m kicking myself for not noticing the timing of this before. Almost exactly two years ago I saw a half dozen bottles of Tobermory appear on the shelves of my local LCBO, where none had been stocked for months. As well, it was deeply discounted to $49, compared to the regular $67. Similarly there were bottles of Glenfarclas 12 year for $63 , compared to the usual $75. I didn’t act immediately on either deal and was rewarded by missing out completely. I realized later that it was only the one store that had this specials. In hindsight I understand now what was going on.

Flash forward to this year. Last week my wife and I drove to one of the larger LCBO outlets in Toronto, the Erin Mills store where I was after a Mackmyra Special 08. Eight bottles had appeared in Ontario and according to the LCBO website, two were at this store. I was not disappointed. The real surprise though was what was also on the shelves. Two bottles of Longrow. For Ontario, this was like a sasquatch sighting; any Springbank product for that matter is like a sasquatch. While in the store I tried to look up the bottle for price comparison but it didn’t show either by name of by scanned barcode; it was truly hidden inventory. So I did the only thing possible, I bought it.

LCBO Garage Sale

I do wish that I could give some solid  guidance about how to find lost treasures like this across the LCBO network. Unfortunately there is no pattern nor app that will assist here because the really great finds are completely off the grid. It’s all just about being in the right store when they pull out lost inventory. Start looking around the end of March, targeting larger stores in out of the way places for the ‘garage-sale’ clearance items. Now that I recall, there was a lone bottle of Macallan 12 on the shelf at the Kingsway LCBO in Toronto last year this time. This expression hasn’t been seen in Canada for over two years, perhaps longer. Treasures abound out there, just keep your eyes open!

Happy foraging!