Alcohol: A Spirited Last Call

A Spirited Last Call

For liquor dealers it was like Christmas in September. On Oct. 1, the federal excise tax on distilled liquor jumps by a hefty 19%, and last week bargain hunters were rushing to beat the revenuers. At Vendome Liquor in Beverly Hills, one customer bought 26 cases of Very Old Barton bourbon. At New York's Sherry-Lehmann, a patron who normally buys a case of J&B Scotch each month got a long winter's worth: 15 cases of J&B and 15 of Smirnoff vodka.

The tax, part of a bill passed last year, is pegged to alcoholic proof. For example, the tax on a...

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