I'm a new member to straight bourbon, but have often read posts on the site in the past. I just never got around to joining. I manage a liquor store (I will leave out the name of the chain, I'm not here to try to sell anything) in the Indianapolis area. I've been into bourbon for quite a few years now, and have never ceased to find new and interesting things. I do have quite a few industry connections so if anyone is looking for information, please let me know. If I am not already familiar with the question that you have, I can almost certainly find out. That being said, the likelihood of getting you to the front of the list for Van Winkle or some other release is practically zero. I don't even buy rare or allocated items for myself from our stores (this goes for beer, wine, and other spirits as well.) Those items are meant for our regular customers, and I hope that wherever you are you have a relationship with a local store that allows you access to the products that you are interested in.
My favorite fairly well known bourbon is George T. Stagg, but I'm always looking to try something new. I like collecting and drinking various Four Roses recipe's and releases (latest acquisition OESF), as well as Willett Family Estate. Pretty much anything that is barrel proof, regardless of recipe, somehow ends up finding it's way into my personal liquor cabinet. I am continually amazed by the variation in barrels, and hope that when I go to select barrels for our chain, I am not just buying whiskeys that are crowd pleasers, but also offer something different and unique. I am also into craft beer, and other forms of whiskey. However, bourbon is my true passion in life.
So, in any case, here I am. It's good to find like minded enthusiasts, and I look forward to much conversation and debate.