UPDATE: THE WINNER WAS CHOSEN! Congratulations Craig S. But please don’t let that stop any of you from donating to the Giving Kitchen. CLICK HERE TO GIVE.
Would you like a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle? If you’re reading this, I’m guessing the answer is YES. Well, it just so happens I have one to share. Here’s the story….
Four years ago, I got lucky. I came across a decent amount of Van Winkle bourbon and rye on the shelves of a Total Wine and More (what!?), and I had the foresight to buy as much of it as I could. Back then, Pappy had already hit the big time with bourbon enthusiasts, but there was little indication that Pappy mania would become so… maniacal. I’ve been enjoying the stuff ever since, sipping with friends, sharing a bottle with my neighbor who helped shovel ice and snow off my driveway during the Atlanta Snowpocalypse, breaking it out on special occasions. I’m thrilled to have Pappy in my house, especially when sharing with friends who appreciate both the elixir and the gesture of a glass. But I also have plenty of other great bourbon that I’m just as happy to enjoy.
Recently, I was organizing my bottles and, seeing that I had a few extra, gave a fleeting thought to selling one off or trading it. A few websites have popped up in the past year to enable the (basically illegal and frankly somewhat disgusting at current rates) sale of rare bourbon and other spirits online from person to person. I checked around, and found that I could probably get in the vicinity of $1000 for one bottle of Pappy from the heralded 2011 release. And then I came to my senses and remembered my anger with the whole rare bourbon aftermarket and the “flippers” who fuel it. In my opinion, anyone who’s out there buying up bourbon to flip and profit from is harming the industry. They’re making it harder for those who simply want to drink the stuff, and they’re profiting off the fine work of the distillers and bottlers out there who have invested so much in bringing bourbon to market that has aged in a barrel for 15, 20, 23 years.
Sure, you can chalk it up to the free market – if someone’s willing to pay $1000 for Pappy, and a flipper can offer a bottle to that person, that’s where supply meets demand. It’s true. It just happens to leave a bad taste in my mouth, and that’s the last thing I want when it comes to bourbon.
So with this one bottle of Pappy, I’m going to do something different. I’m not going to flip it. I’m not even going to sip it – I have enough other bourbon to sip for years. Rather, I’m going to give it, to a charitable organization who happens to be trying to raise money, whose supporters would surely appreciate the gentle nudge of the opportunity to win a bottle of Pappy in recognition of their donation to the charity. If everyone out there who was considering flipping a bottle did the same, maybe we could make a dent in the whole flipper ridiculousness going on right now – and do some good in the process. I know it’s an uphill battle, but at least we can try.
For those of you interested in where this bottle of Pappy is going, I’ve chosen to offer it to the Giving Kitchen – an Atlanta-based non-profit that provides emergency assistance grants to those in need in the Atlanta restaurant community. They’re doing good work. And I know they enjoy bourbon, too. So what could be better? Especially since this week they are working overtime to help address the unexpected shutdown of a major restaurant group in Atlanta that has left a whole lot of people out of a job. Watch the Giving Kitchen’s Twitter account in the coming week for details on their latest fundraising campaign and how this bottle of Pappy will be deployed to assist in supporting their mission.
UPDATE: THE WINNER WAS CHOSEN! Congratulations Craig S. But please don’t let that stop any of you from donating to the Giving Kitchen CLICK HERE TO GIVE.
Now for you bourbon geeks out there, this particular bottle comes from the heralded 2011 release. The bottle code is N2991109:43, which means it was bottled on Buffalo Trace’s N line, on the 299th day of 2011 (October 26), at 9:43 AM. The 2011 release of Pappy 15 was Whisky Advocate’s “#1 Whiskey” from their summer 2012 issue. Of that same release, Whisky Advocate’s John Hansell commented on the full Van Winkle range, saying: “I tasted my way through the 10, 15, 20, and 23 year olds recently at WhiskyFest San Francisco. My favorite was the 15 year old. That’s the sweet spot in the range.” I pretty much felt the same.
It’s a matter of debate on whether the 2011 Pappy 15 was bottled from the famed Stitzel Weller juice, Bernheim juice, or Buffalo Trace juice (or a mixture of two or all three of those), but critical response was overwhelmingly positive. The following year, Julian Van Winkle went on record saying that the 2012 release was a combination of all three sources that Van Winkle had on hand (Stitzel Weller, Bernheim, and Buffalo Trace). Current releases are assumed to rely more heavily on Buffalo Trace produced juice – not a bad thing, but worth noting for the bourbon-obsessed among you.