4-Shot Friday – November 30, 2018

A barrel of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old starts with 53 gallons. After 23 years, approximately 14 gallons are left. That's almost an 80 percent loss of whiskey. - Camper English, Alcademics

Happy Friday!

Looking forward to watching my Dawgs take on the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship this weekend. Here's hoping we get some payback form last year. If not, oh well, there's always good bourbon to take the edge off. If you're team is still in the hunt or playing for a championship, I wish you the best (unless, of course, your Bama!)

Now here's what's happening with Pappy Van Winkle's Bourbon 2018 release. It has made appearances in 24 states and DC --- North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Montana, Tennessee, Nebraska, Alabama, New Mexico, Maryland, Wisconsin, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Oregon (see lottery info below), Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, Colorado, and Utah.

It's coming soon to Virginia (see lottery info below). And if you want it by the pour there are a few new opportunities below. Plus, check out the Pappy List.)

More Pappy Resources

The Pappy Raffle/Lotteries/Auctions Page (Keeps you in the know about Statewide, Store-Specific or other opportunities to locate a bottle of Pappy.)

The Pappy Events Page  (Makes you aware of Tasting Events, Whiskey Festivals, etc. that offer and opportunity to taste some Pappy Van Winkle.)

Current Pappy Giveaway

Also, the next Pappy Drawing for a Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year is December 15. You can learn more here. Or buy more chances here

4 Shots

Virginia ABC is hosting Pappy Van Winkle bottle lotteries again this year

Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is holding what has become its annual lottery for bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, the celebrated and award-winning Kentucky bourbon.

And this year’s - like last year - Pappy lottery includes the chance to purchase a four-bottle Van Winkle Collection (it includes Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year, Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year and Van Winkle Special Reserve 10 Year bourbons) - for a mere $999.99.

Each of the bottles are also available for individual purchase via the lottery.

This is the fourth time ABC has done a Van Winkle lottery. ABC launched the lottery system in 2016 year for all its limited-availability products.

Just as with previous lotteries, anyone with a valid Virginia driver’s license who is of legal drinking age can register to win the chance to buy one of the bottles. Each lottery entry form will be available for five days at abc.virginia.gov.

The specific dates for each lottery and the product prices are:

• Dec. 5-9 – Van Winkle Collection package; $999.99

• Dec. 12-16 – Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year Bourbon; $269.99

• Dec. 19-23– Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year Bourbon; $99.99

• Jan. 2-6 – Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Bourbon; $69.99

• Jan. 9-13 – Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon; $59.99

Read More

Oregon Whiskey Hunting

Mostly wood flavors with hints of caramel, ripe apples, cherries, tobacco and chocolate to start and a long-lasting finish of sweet caramel. That may be as close as you ever get to tasting a 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Production is very low for the beloved spirit; Oregon received three bottles this year—for the entire state—but a recent change may make it easier for you to be the one to get one.

Pappy Van Winkle has a cult-like following. Listen to Alton Brown interview Julian Van Winkle III on "The Alton Browncast #15" and you'll hear the usually serious Brown act like a fan boy. Brown was 51 when he recorded the interview and said he was on several lists, in the low 400s, to get bottles of Pappy Van Winkle. He didn't expect a bottle until he was 63. It gave him something to look forward to.

Rarity in old whiskey is partly due to low production, but the angel's share, or the amount of alcohol lost to evaporation in porous oak barrels during aging, is also significant. According to Camper English's blog "Alcademics," a barrel of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old starts with 53 gallons. After 23 years, approximately 14 gallons are left. That's almost an 80 percent loss of whiskey.

Rare whiskey and bourbon aren't limited to Pappy Van Winkle. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulates the distribution of other rare bottles, too. Included this year is one bottle of Eagle Rare 17-Year, two bottles of Sazerac Rye and six bottles of Thomas H. Handy Sazerac.

Previously it was very difficult to get a rare bottle in Oregon, but an announcement by the OLCC is aimed at making the process more equitable. You had to figure out which liquor store in the state received the bottle and then inquire with that store on how they planned to award the bottle.

"We've been asked by many customers to establish new methods of distribution, such as a public drawing," said OLCC Director Steve Marks. "I'm pleased the Commissioners granted us this authority, as it will allow the maximum number of Oregonians an opportunity to purchase these very highly sought-after products."

Your chance to enter the public drawing to purchase from the Pappy Van Winkle and Buffalo Trace Distillery Antique Collection is happening now until Sunday, Dec. 2 at 11 pm. For full details, the list of rare bottles and to enter, visit the OLCC website. You have to be over 21 and an Oregon resident to enter. Winners will be announced the week of Dec. 2. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Pappy Van Winkle Isn’t Completely Unobtainable, Just Expensive

I always enjoyed reading my former colleague Steve Cavendish's reports in the Scene of his quest to find a bottle of the elusive cult favorite Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Whether sending an underling out to hunt for a bottle at retail, or going out himself to local bars in search of the elusive brown water or traveling as far as Texas to hopefully locate a liquor store that might not know what they were sitting on, Steve’s pursuit has been pretty relentless. (Note that he never asked me. I would have shared the bottles I’ve run across in the past few years.)

Little did he know that if he really wanted to taste his way through the Van Winkle family of products, he need only head as far as Wedgewood-Houston, where Hemingway’s Bar & Hideaway will be pouring pretty much the entire on-premise portfolio at a special event Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. They are offering up only a dozen seats at $400 apiece, but this admittedly steep admission fee entitles guests to 1-ounce tasting pours of Pappy’s 10-year, 12-year, 15-year, 20-year and even the super rare 23-year-aged editions of the coveted juice. As a bonus, they’ll add is a quarter- to half ounce-pour of the fantastic Van Winkle 13-year Family Reserve Rye whiskey, a personal favorite of mine.

Sure, it’s expensive, but even at the most tony of tasting events, you can usually expect only a quarter- to half-ounce pour of Pappy products if you’re lucky, barely enough to coat the bottom of a glass. Full-ounce pours are quite generous, and you’ll be in an exclusive club of people who have tasted all these remarkable whiskeys in one sitting. Plus chef Larry Carlile will be providing tastings to accompany the drinks throughout the evening

C’mon, Steve! Whip out that wallet full of NYT money and splurge on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then write about it here, promise? You and he can make your reservations by calling 615-915-1715.

Read More

The pursuit of Pappy Van Winkle: Is the crave-worthy bourbon worth it?

Here in Louisville we like to sigh at how absurd Pappy Van Winkle mania has gotten.

We all have our “I remember when...” stories — as in when you could still buy it like any other bourbon without having to enter a raffle to get your hands on a bottle.

I bought a flight a few years ago before prices got entirely out of hand, and have since had the good fortune to enjoy a pour now and then at special events. And like many Louisvillians, I like it just fine but like other bourbons as well or more. When a group of visiting journalists recently asked me where they could get a taste, I must not have kept my poker face.

“Asking locals about Pappy is tacky,” one read aloud as she texted her boyfriend back home.

Not tacky, per se, but it made me wonder: Who is asking for Pappy, and why? And what do they think after they've ponied up for it? (One local restaurant on Frankfort Avenue offers a pour of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 year for $125).

To find out, I went to the professionals, the folks running bars here in town. I talked with Nic Christensen, Lola beverage director; Troy Ritchie, the English Grill at the Brown Hotel manager; and Stacie Stewart, beverage director for Whiskey Dry.

Here's what they had to say about the pursuit of Pappy:

A Pappy shortage at Louisville restaurants

First, let's look at how tight allocation — the distribution system of sharing the Pappy Van Winkle wealth — has gotten. This year, the historic Brown Hotel, 335 W Broadway, got half of last year's allocation, Ritchie said.

Lola, the cocktail lounge above Butchertown Grocery, 1076 E. Washington St., “definitely got less this year,” Christensen said, and they got none of the most sought after — the 23 year. Chef Edward Lee's latest venture Whiskey Dry, 412 S. Fourth St., doesn't even have Pappy. And his restaurant on Main St., MilkWood, 316 W. Main St., went some time without any.

“Edward and Julian (Van Winkle of the Pappy Van Winkle family) are friends,” Stewart said. “Julian would come into MilkWood and I'd be like, 'Hey did I hear you have some Pappy for me?' and then I just stopped asking.”

There's been a steady stream of people asking for Pappy at Whiskey Dry, Stewart said, and most leave when they learn it's not available. So who are these Pappy hunters?

“The people who are looking for it, a lot of them kind of don't drink bourbon,” she said. “They know it's old, they know it's expensive, they know it's a status symbol. It's something fancy people do or rich people do.”

It's also a rite of passage for some, she said, to come to Louisville and drink Pappy.

And are they happy with their Pappy? As a psychology major, I've always wondered if people felt like they had to say they loved it to justify the famously high cost. Humans don't like cognitive dissonance, after all.

“I think it's a true thing,” Stewart said. “I'm not a psychologist but I've been studying peoples' reactions in restaurants for a long time. I think that the expectation is they're going to take the fist sip and have their minds completely blown by what just happened to them.

It is a good product and they craft it very well but it's not life altering," she said.

As a result, Steward said, a common response seems to be one of feeling underwhelmed.

“Or maybe not underwhelmed. It's worthy of being appreciated. But it's definitely not going to change anyone's life," Stewart said.

How much is that Pappy in the window?

But that doesn't stop the hunt, and Pappy can still be found — when the time is right, and for the right price. Both Lola and The Brown Hotel have received their fall allocation. Lola releases theirs around Thanksgiving, but most of the Brown's bottles are in a safe till next Kentucky Derby, Ritchie said.

So how much is it going to cost to get your hands on a taste?

At Lola, we're talking $42 for one ounce of the 20 year. And at The Brown Hotel, a 1.5 ounce pour of the 20 is $150. For the coveted 23 year? A cool $200.

“We charge the most of anyone in the city because we're a bourbon destination,” Ritchie said. “I have to find a way of managing that pain threshold so it's not so easy for them to just walk in and have Pappy. Obviously Pappy is a unicorn bourbon. My real job is to try to share it with as many people as I can.”

That's why he didn't let one customer buy the whole bottle. A couple of Kentucky Derbys ago, a gentleman bought ten pours of the 23 for his companions, Ritchie recalled, then asked to take the rest of the bottle back to his room.

“I had to politely say, 'I'm terribly sorry, I can't,'” Ritchie said. (He also personally breaks every bottle once it's empty; that's one less bottle that an unscrupulous seller can put on the secondary market filled with something else, he explained.)

Potential Pappy disappointment is a chance to introduce customers to other bourbons, all three pros said.

“One of the things that's cool about Pappy is people who are not super familiar with bourbon, they hear this Pappy thing and [ask] 'can I get some?'” Christensen said. “… If we don't have any, it still starts a conversation. 'Sorry we don't have any Pappy but try this because there's a lot of great bourbon.'”

How about sharing the Pappy Van Winkle?

And then there's the opposite: Sometimes it falls out of the sky for a lucky person. Another Brown Hotel customer bought the rarest bourbon they had, Ritchie said — an $800-a-pour Old Rip 25, “the other Pappy.”

When Ritchie brought out the bottle, “the entire kitchen came out,” he said. “I pour it, put it in a snifter, bring it to him. He smells it, hands it to his buddy and says 'I'll take one more.' He just smiled at his group and walked to a table of two celebrating their anniversary and he gave them that serving of Old Rip 25.

That sort of generosity is what I want to keep perpetuating. As much as I want people to enjoy the moment, I try to encourage people to share their moments.”

Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at thecjdish@gmail.com and follow @danamac on Twitter.


-Chris Brantley