How Can You Tell Van Winkle’s Trousers
How Can You Tell Van Winkle’s Trousers – The other day I was buying an exercise bike from a man when I saw a whiskey collection. It’s nice, worth a few shelves. The theme of Pappy Van Winkle, that overpriced bottle of white whale, comes up. I ask him if he thinks it’s possible to find one at a price that won’t make my nose bleed.
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How Can You Tell Van Winkle’s Trousers
Technically, Pappy Van Winkle bottles start at $130. But you’d be hard-pressed to find one less than ten times that, even at legitimate liquor stores that work directly with Buffalo Trace, Pappy’s master distillery. Old words – like the 23-year-old crème-de-la-crème who
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Of course, this is not a new story. The Pappy Van Winkle phenomenon has been going on for almost a decade. But if you are some kind of person, like a journalist, for example,
As I pull the bike to my car, I wonder if I can dig and get a bottle of the stuff on sale or close to it. You’ve heard his stories, maybe years ago. But there are bound to be some unicorns or links on the dusty liquor store shelves that I can sneak into on the black market.
So a few days later I convince my editor to pay me $300. The challenge, we agree, would be to buy a bottle of 15, 20 or 23 year old Pappy with that money.
Pappy is more folklore than whiskey these days. It’s named after Julian “Pappy” van Winkle, a flamboyant bourbon salesman in the 1890s who eventually became president of Kentucky’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery. His son and grandson Julian Van Winkle, Jr. and Julian Van Winkle III ran the distillery until the family sold it in 1972, but kept the family name alive in the bourbon business by buying old barrels from Stitzel-Weller and other retailers. and bottle it under the Old Rip Van Winkle label. In the 1980s, Van Winkle The Third started bottling really good, really old bourbons. They eventually became the modern Van Winkle line of bourbons, including the three oldest: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15, 20, and 23 years. Today, whiskey drinkers just call them “Pappy”.
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As for how Pappy Van Winkle became the most popular bourbon of all time: it apparently began in 1996, when a Chicago sales rep pitched the 20-year-old whiskey to a panel at the Beverage Tasting Institute. The whiskey received the highest rating for bourbon, 99/100.
Bourbon only started in the late 90s. In 2002, Buffalo Trace Distillery (owner of Sazerac), which already supplied some whiskey for blending, took over full-time distilling. Friendly reviews have really taken off. Among whiskey drinkers, Pappy became the poster child for high quality. Then came the final run on the hype train: In 2012, Anthony Bourdain commissioned a 20-year-old rocker for his show The Layover, set in Philadelphia. Take a moment and look into Bourdain’s eyes when the waiter says they are; they shine like sparks. Bourdain called it “This amazing unique bourbon that I won’t name because there are too many bastards out there who want it,” and then tweeted that he was considering getting one last Pappy tattoo. Demand exploded.
, all lined up. From left to right: 10 and 12 year olds (both technically “Pappy”), 15, 20 and 23 year olds.
At the same time, the supply remained very small. Word on the street is that Buffalo Trace only makes 7,000 cases a year, or something like 84,000 bottles. (Buffalo Trace doesn’t confirm this.) Ballpark, that’s less than 10,000 bottles per state. That’s about 84 million bottles of Jim Beam a year—one and a half million per state.
Old Rip Van Winkle 12 Year Old Old Time Rye 2000 / Rinaldi Import
Stupidly high demand, stupidly low supply. Better whiskey writers whose economics I’ve defined, but really any reasonable economist can tell you the bottom line: absurd. high price
The rest of us, well, the rest of us wonder how good the stuff tastes. What is inside these bottles has always been a closely guarded secret. The original Stitzel-Weller water products appear to have been in use in the early 2000s. The Buffalo Trace version is still a grain-fortified bourbon with more wheat than corn, which should give it a velvetier mouthfeel and more complex sweetness. In fact, Sazerac has confirmed that it has the same mashbill as other Buffalo Trace grain bourbons (like Weller).
But fifteen or twenty or twenty-three years is a very long time for bourbon to sit in new American oak barrels and enjoy pleasant flavors. Both Bourdain and Pope—along with some of my favorite whiskey experts like Jim Murray and Fred Minnick—assured us that it doesn’t taste like licking coconut meat. In short, we’re told it tastes like heaven.
I had it once when I was 15 at a friend’s wedding. I was so drunk I don’t remember anything but the fire. Oops.
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The most obvious way to get Pappy close to retail is through the state lottery. To avoid any black market rumors (more on that soon), a few states – most of which have state liquor stores – only sell Pappy to lucky winners.
I find this at my hometown grocery store in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, where I visit my family back home. California, where I live, does not have a bourbon lottery system. But Pennsylvania—where ridiculous blue laws prevail and where they started selling beer in grocery stores a few years ago—rules over its booze with an iron fist. The guy at the Camp Hill store says he’s never even seen a bottle of Pappy himself, but he also tells me that a state lottery winner can buy a bottle for sale, plus a small markup, 18 percent tax and a handling fee.
I leave the store looking like a successful riverboat player. Here’s my shot! But then the adrenaline kicks in and the bottles of cheap, amazing bourbons get stuck in my head and I think I better check this out. You must be a PA resident to enter the sweepstakes. But there is no problem. There are many other states where you can enter the sweepstakes without being a resident. For example, New Hampshire, where you can donate $100 to charity and enter a little ticket contest to win Papp’s entire suite.
Of course, that would be most of Pappy’s money gone. My enthusiasm for the lottery is waning. Anyway, isn’t the lottery a silly way to look at this? If I win, it won’t be a story at all – just blind luck. I could have seen my bottle of Pappy as a five dollar bill on the floor. Without the trace, would I really be excited to drink it? Wouldn’t I be tempted to turn my lottery winnings into $1,000 by selling them at street price?
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The other obvious place to look for a bottle of Pappy is of course to google that shit. And that’s how quickly I entered the not-so-dark underground of the bourbon black market.
Here’s a quick reflection on ethics. Yes, selling or buying alcohol without a license is illegal. It is also illegal to stream NFL games live using a reddit thread. I might pay $900 for a bottle of bourbon, but not a Red Zone package. However, the police do not agree. In 2017, the police caught a friend of mine trying to sell a bottle of William Larue Weller in my state for $750 on Craigslist (not a bad price!).
But instead of it being full of The Untouchables, it looks like the feds are just shutting down the biggest online store for the stuff. People were selling bottles on eBay; which was closed years ago. I hear legends from private Facebook groups where Pappy flows like cheap wine. Back room conversations, meeting for drinks. All closed – or maybe I just can’t find them. Bottlespot.com, a Kelly Blue Book-type site, helpfully tells me that the 15-year market rate was actually closer to $900, but offers no help in finding it. The last Twitter account @PappyTracker dedicated to finding Pappy clues is for the 2018 state lottery.
Craigslist, a place I’d rather be warm, shows me surrounded by Pappy’s junk: just two posts asking to buy stuff, plus one guy selling a red velvet bag that comes in bottles for $35.
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I will send the bag by email
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