As bourbon fans, we look forward to this time of year. It’s whiskey weather and what better bourbon to warm yourself by the fire than a stiff dram of Pappy Van Winkle. Beginning this month keep an eye out and your ears open as Van Winkle’s start popping up in your local shops and behind neighborhood bars. Luckily for us, this year’s yield was larger than expected for the 10, 15, and 23-year-old whiskeys.
However, don’t expect to find any of the 13-Year-Old Van Winkle Reserve Rye (pictured below) as they are not releasing it this season. As marketing director Kris Comstock stated, “We have a one year gap in barrel inventory for the Van Winkle Rye. Our current barrels are 12 years old. So rather than compromise on quality or remove the age statement, we decided it would be best to hold off this year and bottle them next year as the 13 Year Old Rye Whiskey fans have come to expect.”
The Van Winkle family has a long history of bourbon making dating back to the late 1800’s. Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr. was originally a traveling salesman for the W.L. Weller and Sons wholesale house in Louisville, KY when he partnered with his friend Alex Farnsley and Mr. A Ph Stitzel on the purchase of Mr. Stitzel’s distillery. Eventually, they merged the two companies creating the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. In 1935 the Stitzel- Weller Distillery was officially completed and began operation introducing such brands as Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, Old Fitzgerald and W.L. Weller. Up until his death at 91, Pappy still greatly influenced the day to day running of the distillery.
When his son Julian Jr. took over he was eventually forced by stockholders to sell the distillery in 1972 to Norman Simon Inc. In 1999, United Distillers (who ended up with the Stitzel-Weller Distillery) sold off all the original labels.
Meantime, after selling the distillery, Julian Jr. returned to his family’s roots and began using whiskey stock from his old distillery to produce a pre-prohibition whiskey, one which his family still retained the rights to, called Old Rip Van Winkle. After Julian Jr. passed away in 1981 his son Julian III took over the family business and continued to produce the wheated bourbons his father and grandfather perfected.
In 2002 the Van Winkle family partnered with Buffalo Trace to ensure the continued quality of the Old Rip Van Winkle line.
What Should You Pay?
As a modern-day whiskey consumer, most of us have experienced the dreaded price mark up. Julian Van Winkle, President of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery recently stated, “Unfortunately we do not control the pricing retailers charge, so many retailers mark it up, even though we ask them not to. We have not raised prices and do not intend to do so drastically in the future. We are committed to our quality and our pricing and hope retailers will honor what we suggest as retail pricing.”
Suggested retail prices of the Van Winkle Collection:
- $59.99 – Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10 Year Old 107 proof
- $69.99 – Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12 Year Old
- $99.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15 Year Old
- $169.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20 Year Old
- $269.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23 Year Old
In addition, Buffalo Trace warns consumers to be aware of online sellers such as Craigslist and private Facebook pages. “Some bottles they are selling might be counterfeit, filled with lesser whiskey, or worse, something that’s not even whiskey and potentially dangerous, at the bare minimum, it’s illegal to buy and resell whiskey if you are not a licensed retailer, and we’re not afraid to take action if we find out.” Kris Comstock elaborated.
So when you step into that store or search online for that perfect holiday gift, be aware of the potential for fraud and purchase from trusted sources for this liquid gold.