Things you can't get in Ohio

By now you may have concluded that I have a thing about strange liquors.  I see something intriguing in a bottle, and I want to find out what it tastes like.  It turns out that Ohio isn't a very good place for this hobby.  Here's the list of liquors that the state of Ohio permits to be sold here.  (*) The list is exclusive.  If it ain't on the list, it ain't in stores.

There are some notable omissions.   Boulard Grand Solage Calvados, a wonderful French apple brandy, fell off the list this past year - after I fell in love with it.  Maison Surrenne Ancienne Distillerie cognac is really the only cognac I think is worth the money; I've kept it around the house for most of the last ten years, but go ahead and control-F the Ohio list, it's not there.  Or let's say you want to try the drink "Death in the Gulf Stream" which is attributed to Hemingway.  You'll need Lucas Bols Oude Genever.  Have someone buy it for you elsewhere.

I am lucky enough to have friends and relatives living in more permissive places; the first two of those three liquors were given (back) to me for Christmas.  The third seems to be laughably obscure, but I don't know what I'm missing, because I've never had it.  It annoys me that I don't have access to these interesting things, but what I really wonder is why?  Has the state of Ohio decided that they're toxic?  Have the importers or distillers not paid some, uh, "licensing fee" for the right to sell to Ohio citizens?

Wine distribution laws are equally wrongheaded, but at least the reason is clear:  distributers want to protect their staggeringly profitable middleman status, so they lobby state governments to outlaw direct shipments from wineries to consumers.  The justifications ("protecting children", etc) are predictably ridiculous, and the real reason is depressingly predictable.  Zero value is added.  But this case doesn't help me understand the limited availability of liquors.  Does anyone know?

(*) As of January 2011.  For a current list, just google "state of Ohio liquor list".  And yeah, everything costs 10% more in Cleveland.


  1. According to the state Liquor Commission, it all comes down to distribution fees. Distributors must pay a $300.00 fee plus a bunch of other combined fees in order to sell to the state. All stores that sell liquor are actually controlled as a state agency and must therefore only sell those liquors that the commission has approved for selling (ie: those distributors that have paid all their fees).
    Small production foreign spirits rarely get distributed unless they can hook up with a major importer. The costs can be astronomical for small producers.

  2. I figured it was something like that. A fee for every state adds up to an insurmountable barrier to doing business for a small operation. And, again, it's the state perpetuating a middleman system that adds no value.