In the basement of Brooklyn’s Long Island Bar, there are several boxes of booze. There is a case of Hepple Gin, the British spirit that was once part of the bar’s house Martini; there are four cases of Beefeater Gin, two of the 47 percent ABV version and two of 44 percent ABV; there are two cases of Elijah Craig 12-year-old bourbon; and two bottles of Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon.

All the bottles in question belong to Toby Cecchini, the co-owner of Long Island Bar. And none of them are ever going to be used in the bar’s cocktails. That’s because, in one way or another, they are the last of their breed. You can’t find them on the shelves in liquor stores and they’re not available at the local booze distributor.

There has been a good deal of press recently about vintage booze and its collectors, a group of avid enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who spend their free time tracking down brands that haven’t been made in decades, as well as bygone, and often better, expressions of existing brands. This coverage culminated in “Dusty Booze,” a recently published book on the topic by journalist Aaron Goldfarb.

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What hasn’t been examined much is the distinctly less sexy subject of recently discontinued bottlings, or “young dusties,” if you will, and their dogged devotees.

Young dusties are brands that were available at your local liquor store until just recently. And then, without warning, their makers pulled the plug on production and they quietly vanished. The products in question weren’t necessarily front-page news or leaders in their category. But they had their followers, and, once the word got out that their pet spirit was no more, some of those loyalists became hunters and hoarders.

I, myself, am a young dusty hunter. For years, Beefeater was my go-to Martini gin. So when Pernod Ricard, the conglomerate that makes the classic London dry, silently decided to lower the ABV of the U.S. bottlings from 47 percent to 44 percent, I was irked. My response was to stockpile as much Beefeater 47 as possible. It’s a pursuit that continues to this day, one that has taken me to liquor stores in obscure corners of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

I am not alone.

Max Green, spirits and bar director of the the Hospitality Department restaurant group, was too late to stock up on Beefeater 47 before it vanished. But when he learned that Beefeater’s ABV was going to be further lowered to 40 percent, he took action and made a bulk purchase of the 44 percent ABV version.

“I tried the 80 proof and was really sad with the loss of flavor those four degrees of alcohol resulted in,” says Green. “It’s been in my well for pretty much as long as I can remember. So, it’s a bit of nostalgia again and familiarity. It was a way to keep it in the well, while maintaining a proof I was willing to work with.”

I’m like, ‘Wait, where is it? I don’t see it in the catalog.’ Distributors will be super opaque about it. They’ll always offer something else, rather than saying we stopped making that. You never get a full-throated answer.”

Green also bought a case of Bacardi Banana Rum, another spirit whose disappearance has been mourned. “A good friend and I used to shake Bacardi Banana with espresso and sugar when it first came out,” explains Green. “I didn’t want that memory to die with the discontinued spirit.”

Patron XO Café is a prime example of the young dusty phenomenon. The tequila maker introduced its coffee liqueur in 1992. Then, wishing to concentrate its efforts on its core tequila line, yanked it off the market in 2021. Lovers of the liquid howled. Fans launched a petition on to bring it back, and social media was flooded with posts about the liqueur. One such message on Twitter read, “I’m not being dramatic when I say this is the worst day of my life.” Bottles began to sell on the internet for $100.

(In this particular missing-spirit case, the distiller actually listened to the pleas of its customers. In April, Patrón dropped a one-time-only limited run of Café in the U.S.)

The work of young dusty hunters can be challenging, because most distillers are disinclined to inform the public when products have been 86’d. This leaves consumers guessing as to the status of their favorite juice when it suddenly becomes hard to locate.

“It’s difficult to know what’s off the shelves or discontinued or just out of stock,” observes Goldfarb.

Bar owners and managers like Cecchini and Green are often the first to hear, giving them the opportunity to buy up cases of soon-to-be-gone spirits. But, even for them, getting the straight dope on a brand can be tricky.

“I think the people who are already attuned to the collective aspects of spirits are going to continue buying things that are discontinued and rare with the idea that they will eventually be valuable.”

“I find this out when I order wholesale,” says Cecchini, who bought 35 cases of Hepple Gin when he learned the product had lost its American importer. “I’m like, ‘Wait, where is it? I don’t see it in the catalog.’ Distributors will be super opaque about it. They’ll always offer something else, rather than saying we stopped making that. You never get a full-throated answer.”

Cecchini suggests that talking to the actual distillers is the best way to get the skinny on a missing-in-action product — as well as the reason why it went extinct. “They’ll say, ‘That stuff is way too expensive. We’re spending way too much on taxes,’” he says. “The reps are never going to tell you the actual reason, which is always that.”

Other products that qualify as young dusties include: Tequila Cabeza, Aylesbury Duck Vodka, and Caña Brava Rum, all once part of a product line that now only includes Fords Gin; Solbeso, a cacao eau-de-vie introduced in 2014; Navan, a brandy-based liqueur made with vanilla that was once made by Grand Marnier; and the Leopold Bros. New York Sour Apple Liqueur out of Colorado.

When Meaghan Dorman, bar director of Dear Irving, found out Tequila Cabeza was headed for the exit, she bought 30 cases. “We used it as our house tequila so it was in a lot of drinks,” Dorman says. “It was quietly still available at Empire [a liquor distributor] after the brand was kaput so I kept buying it for Dear Irving as long as possible.” She still has a few unopened bottles.

Josh Harris, one of the owners of Trick Dog in San Francisco, was particularly bereft by the exit of the Leopold product.

“We bought all we could from the distributor,” says Harris. “I asked if they would make me an entire batch and that I would buy the whole thing but I was told no. We were making a 750-milliliter-bottle cocktail during the pandemic of a drink that used that product. It was on our very first menu. The drink was called Pennies from Heaven.”

Todd Leopold says that one of the reasons he stopped making the liqueur was because there were too few people like Harris.

“The reason Josh and the folks at Trick Dog loved it is that they understood what it was for,” Leopold says. “The Sour Apple Liqueur was a way to add natural acidity to cocktails, without adding citrus. Only a handful understood it. So, we moved on to other spirits.”

As older dusties get harder and harder to find, there is the possibility that young dusties may become the new frontier among forward-thinking spirit collectors. Those collectors, however, may include some of the same people who were looking for the vintage booze.

“I think the people who are already attuned to the collective aspects of spirits are going to continue buying things that are discontinued and rare with the idea that they will eventually be valuable,” says Eric Witz, an experienced booze sleuth. “They’ll pick it up and try to sell it, to see if there’s a market for it. Whether they will be valuable is hard to say.”

In the meantime, my young dusty hunting continues. Scoring bottles of Beefeater 47 percent has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Recently, however, I learned that Beam Suntory has ceased making Old Grand-Dad 114, an overproof version of the venerable bourbon brand. Again, there was no formal announcement from Beam that 114 was no more.

After striking out at all the New York liquor stores I visited in search of it, I unexpectedly stumbled upon 12 bottles of the stuff in a Milwaukee shop. I bought them all.

I also recently discovered that a certain kind of brandy is no longer going to be produced. But I’m not going to tell you what it is. Not until I find a few bottles for myself.