Living as I do in Oregon all of the hard liquor that is sold in the state passes through the halls of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Oddly even the stuff that is sold on site at the various distilleries is first sold to the OLCC and then the distillery buys it back from them to sell in their own store. Which is why you won’t usually find a price break at the distillery tasting room as opposed to the liquor store on your block.
This has a number of advantages and not a few drawbacks. It means that liquor stores don’t often do special orders. I’ve tried at more than a couple. When I asked for a special order at Progress Liquor they actually told me “We only do it if it’s something we already carry.” I was so agog that I couldn’t even point out that this wasn’t even remotely “special”.
A secondary factor is that buying liquor over the internet becomes a chore because while I don’t have to pay sales tax the shipping for anything I might want is usually 16+ dollars owing to the nature of shipping heavy breakable goods any kind of distance.
One of the nicer things about the OLCC hold on the bottle is Oregonliquorsearch.com. Since every bottle sold is tracked by a rabidly efficient government agency they elected to simply put the results of that tracking into a live publicly accessible database. So if you’re looking for say Sparkle Donkey Tequila it can scour the entire state and tell you that there are exactly two places in oregon where you can buy it and that it runs about $27 a bottle. It will even go so far as to tell you how many bottles you can expect to find at that location and will map it for you.
You can even reverse the process and look for a specific store, having located it you can run a blank search and get a listing of their entire inventory. This may or may not help depending on what you’re searching for but it’s a good way to narrow things down or browse their shelves from the internet.
The site also allows you to set a “default location” so that you’re not constantly having to zoom down from stores in Bend or out from the west hills.
There is some limited utility here. The search only covers Liquor. Meaning that beer, wine, mixers, barware, tools, rimming sugar, and even some low alcohol products like Lillet Blanc or irish cream might not make the cut for OLCC tracking. Calling ahead to see if they carry lime juice and margarita salt may sound silly but I’ve been to places where they were out of simple syrup and grenadine so it’s worth it not to have to make another trip just to stock up on essentials.
Additionally Liquor store employees can be amazingly dense when it comes to some products. Keep in mind they have something like 2500 bottles on the shelf, they may not keep abreast of what is going on in the industry. I asked at about 4 different places when or where they would get Volstead back in stock and none of them knew it had even been missed or if they carried it at all.
Hunting wiley bottles of odd liquor can be rewarding but with this website you can cut out a lot of calling and running around. It’s not a substitute for finding out that the Thriftway down the street carries Lillet Blanc but it’s helped me on more than one occasion.
Update: After hunting around I have found search engines in other states that still have some form of state control.
North Carolina (Mecklenburg) – Seems to be broken down by city (PITA)