Wyoming Liquor Division expands options to accommodate diverse palates

Dec 14, 2012

Wyoming Liquor Division Administrator Greg Cook stands in the state’s new liquor warehouse in Cheyenne.

Business has been booming for the Wyoming Liquor Division. The arm of the state Department of Revenue distributes all wine and liquor to retailers across the state. Over the last 7 years, there’s been a huge increase in the amount of alcohol sold… and the revenue going back to the Cowboy State. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports.

(Barroom joke, laughter)

REBECCA MARINEZ: The bar at the Four Winds Liquor and Lounge in Cheyenne is lined with bottles of all shapes and sizes. I should say jam packed.  Each shelf is chock full of bottles, each a different kind. Owner JJ Moran says it looks a lot different than it did when he bought the Four Winds in the 1970s.

JJ MORAN: We didn’t have near the selection that you have now. You didn’t have small batch bourbons. You didn’t have flavored vodkas. Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum is the one that kind of started the ball rolling on flavored alcohol. And now, I have bacon vodka here. Bacon vodka, can you imagine that? And marshmallow vodka.

MIKE MOSER: When you went to a liquor store 20 years ago, there wasn’t grades by wine magazines or whiskey magazines on different kinds of varietals, recommendations to have with what kinds of food…

MARTINEZ: Wyoming State Liquor Association Lobbyist Mike Moser says people are demanding more options, and buying more alcohol overall. He says they’re not necessarily drinking more. They’re drinking “better”.

MIKE MOSER: Our tastes are becoming much more refined, we’re buying more quality product and we’re developing more appreciation for that product, which is good for everyone.

MARTINEZ: It’s definitely good for Wyoming’s coffers. Over the past 7 years, the amount of liquor and wine that passed through the warehouse has increased 24 percent, and the amount of money collected from standard markups and excise taxes going to the state has increased 77-percent. The Liquor Division put more than 14-million dollars into Wyoming’s general fund in Fiscal Year 2012.

(carts zooming, boxes stacked)

To meet the increased demand, the Wyoming Liquor Division moved into a new warehouse, which was formally dedicated this month. Men on carts drive through aisles of scotch and gin, stopping to grab a single bottle here or several cases there for a specific order whenever the automated headsets they’re wearing tell them to. Others load up pallets with individual orders that will be driven all over the state within the day.

GREG COOK: The old warehouse facility was 100-thousand square feet, and the new one is 140-thousand square feet. The old warehouse had 7 dock doors, and the new warehouse has 17 dock doors.

Wyoming Liquor Division Administrator Greg Cook says demand for more variety made the new space necessary. He says he’s sometimes surprised at the intensity of the demand for some novelty items. When Wyoming Whiskey’s first batch of bourbon was released, retailers bought out 3-thousand cases of bourbon in under four minutes, leaving behind a long waiting list. And Wyomingites are also willing to spend a lot on the good stuff.

COOK: It’s kinda rare but the liquor division sold one customer I believe it was a Glenfiddich 50-year-old product that cost 18-thousand dollars.

MARTINEZ: Cook admits those are anomalies. He says bars and package stores mostly order all the same products they used to – whiskeys do particularly well in Wyoming – but tack on orders for new flavors and varieties as they’re available.

GREG COOK: These major liquor companies have figured out that introducing new products means more sales to over to a wide variety of customers, and that’s why we’re seeing what we’re seeing.

MARTINEZ: Cook says as long as people keep buying these it, he’ll keep ordering it.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Rebecca Martinez.