Okay, so you love bourbon. You’ve been drinking bourbon for a while (or maybe you’ve just started learning to love it), and you’re branching out beyond what’s available at the local liquor store to find more highly regarded labels. If this sounds like you, then you’ve probably come across the name “Pappy Van Winkle” more than once. But what does it mean, really? Pappy Van Winkle is a distillery, yes, and it’s a very popular one. But most people, even those who consider themselves bourbon aficionados, often don’t know much more about this label than those two facts.
There’s actually a lot more to Pappy Van Winkle than many bourbon fans know, and learning about the distillery can make a big difference in how you interact with its products. Educate yourself on the basics of Pappy Van Winkle and decide if you want to embark on the journey of trying to find a bottle for yourself.
It’s Good—But Why is it Good?
Is Pappy Van Winkle really that great of bourbon, or is it only so popular because it’s popular? Rest assured, there’s more going on with this bourbon label than simply word of mouth. This bourbon has been around since just after Prohibition and continues to be some of the best bourbons on the market today.
Pappy Van Winkle was originally founded by Julian Van Winkle, Sr., who was nicknamed Pappy. He oversaw the production of his bourbon for thirty years, but after his death, there was some decline in the company’s popularity. Mostly, this could be attributed to the decline in popularity of bourbon in the United States. For some time, the Pappy Van Winkle distillery did not really take off again; it was monitored by Julian Van Winkle, Jr. until he passed away and left it to his son, Julian III.
Julian III knew what he was doing in the branding and production of the bourbon. He began marketing aged bourbons that were purchased from other distilleries before the aging process. When one of these scored a 99 in a tasting competition, Pappy Van Winkle was on the map once again.
But all that history still doesn’t really amount to a great bottle of bourbon. After all, many distilleries can trace their roots back to Prohibition or even earlier, so what makes Pappy Van Winkle stand out?
A big part of the popularity comes from the lore surrounding the label. Since Pappy Van Winkle sources its liquor from other distilleries—and sometimes combines these liquors before aging, too—there’s a lot of speculation and guesswork surrounding which types of liquor are present in any given bottle of Pappy.
Of course, the flavor also has a lot to do with this bourbon’s popularity. It’s a delightful combination of rich, complex, smoky bourbon and smooth, sophisticated accessible sipping. Together, these qualities create a bourbon that is perfect for anyone and often enjoyed even by those who don’t generally like bourbon with more traditional flavors.
It’s really up to each individual consumer to decide whether or not Pappy is really worth the value that’s so often placed on it. However, with a rich history, a unique marketing and branding concept, and a little bit of mystery in every bottle, it’s easy to see why so many get carried away by the hype.
How Can You Buy Pappy Van Winkle?
Once a bourbon fan has decided to try Pappy, the next question they will surely ask is where and how to buy it. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of other people asking the same question at roughly the same time, too, so it can be very difficult or even impossible to track down a bottle of Pappy. The best way to go about it is simply to get in good with a liquor store or a distributor—but this isn’t an option for everyone, and some people don’t have the connections to pull this off.
If you don’t know someone in the liquor business who can hook you up with a bottle of Pappy, then your next best bet is to make friends with your local liquor store. Go there often, do all your liquor shopping from them, and get to know the people behind the counter as well as the owner. Once you’ve made yourself somewhat of a regular, you can ask about being added to a waiting list for a bottle of Pappy. As a returning customer, you’ll be more likely to be included on the list than someone who wanders in asking for rare liquor the first and only time they visit the shop.
You might also try frequenting a liquor store in a less crowded part of town—or in a smaller town nearby. This will require more driving than you may have originally planned, but looking for rare liquor in a crowded city is not going to go as well as looking for it in a quiet suburb. Keep this in mind when choosing your liquor store.
Many liquor stores hold raffles to give people the chance to buy Pappy. This is a more fair alternative to the waiting list since everyone who shops in the store has the same chance. Of course, not everyone will get a chance to buy, but it can be an option.
Or if you don’t want to do any of those things, simply go to our Pappy selection and checkout today!
So what do you think? Does Pappy Van Winkle sound like the perfect bourbon goal for you, or is it something you’re okay passing up in favor of more accessible products? Any fan of bourbon should consider trying to locate a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle at least once, but in some instances, supply and price both will prevent that from happening. After all, Pappy Van Winkle is a popular label with fans all over the world, and it’s difficult for stores to ever keep it in stock.
Whether you ever find yourself faced with the opportunity to try Pappy Van Winkle bourbon or not, you can always show off a little bit the next time you’re out with your bourbon drinking friends by sharing some of the facts you’ve learned here today!