Ohio members often complain about the lack of bourbon selection in the state that acts as a hat to the eastern flank of Kentucky. How much of this is a real problem and how much is just grumbling for grumbling's sake?
Ohio is a special kind of control state, so its rules present a challenge to distillers and wholesalers. As a bailment state, all liquor in the state controlled warehouses belongs to the wholesaler up until the time that it is delivered to a retailer where it becomes the property of the state liquor commission or to a bar/restaurant/etc where it is owned by that establishment. Yep, entire warehouses of hooch that are still on someone else's books...great deal for the state IMO. Also, rarely are new products made available to all stores across the state, especially when you step in to the premium category. When Four Roses extended into Ohio, they were given shelf space in roughly 50 stores across the state for their products (going by memory there). It has taken them 3 years to expand the availability (via pull, not push) to the footprint that they have today.
If you're a wholesaler or producer fighting for retail shelf space for the equivalent of dead stock sitting in Ohio's warehouses, what's your motivation to bring high priced products into a stale environment? I'm not sure there is any unless you're up for the fight.
The next challenge is that all liquor on retail shelves is sold on a consignment basis. Retail pricing is set by the state with any local price variations being due to the differences in county tax rates or special assessments (like the Cuyahoga county 'sin tax' to finance the Gateway project). If you explore the state website, you can see the prices differences by county.
For example, a bottle of Eagle Rare Single Barrel retails for $30.95 in Cuyahoga county (including taxes) but only $29.95 in neighboring Lorain county.
Retailers make as much profit on a $30.00 sale of cheap vodka handles as they do a $30.00 bottle of bourbon so there's little reason to push premium brands.
The state made $794 million in liquor "proceeds" for 2011, so don't look for the system to change any time soon. Liquor is a big cash cow for the state and they're looking to mortgage the future profits for other needs. That's a topic for PR&C, but necessary to point out for the big picture.
With all of that in mind, here's a quick summary of what we can get here in our state controlled liquor haven:
All three Four Roses standard expressions
Evan Williams Single Barrel
Elijah Craig 12 and 18
JTS Brown BiB
Eagle Rare SB
Elmer T. Lee
Weller SR is on the list but OWA is not, so we're hurting as far as wheaters are concerned (outside of the Makers and M46 line).
Tack on the entire Beam line, Brown-Forman stuff like Woodford and Old Forester and Barton's 1792, and all of the majors are accounted for. VOB 100 handles in one store in Franklin County is a good sign unless someone special ordered a case for themselves
Many of the premium brands can be special ordered if you want a case lot
What else would be on your Ohio wish list for daily pours?