I just wanted to take a few minutes to give you a quick overview of some of the perks -- besides winning a bottle of Pappy -- of your membership.
This Members-only email -- 4-Shot Friday -- goes out 2-4 times per month and brings you a quick snapshot of what's going on in the world of Pappy and other hard-to-find bourbons. It keeps you in the know about coming releases (particularly of Pappy and other rare, collectible) bourbons, ryes and American whiskeys.
We review tons of articles, blog posts, news releases, podcasts, etc. and cull it down to a handful of the best posts we've discovered that Pappy seekers will find relevant and informative. We'll also introduce you to other bourbon resources, blogs, podcasts, etc. that will help make you a savvy whiskey collector.
Plus, you get access to 3 members-only pages:
- Pappy (and other Rare) Bourbon Events (Includes tasting events categorized by state.)
- Raffles, Auctions, Lotteries, and Contests, Etc. (Overviews all these sources for finding Pappy and other rare Bourbons by state.)
- Pappy Opportunities or Private Listings ( A list of available bottles by private collectors who are willing to offer their excess inventory to others.)
Of course, prime Pappy hunting season occurs in the Fall and a bulk of the Events take place then and in the Winter. But it's always a good idea to check them out at least once a month to locate any new Pappy happenings!
Also, feel free to share any events in your area we overlook so we can keep the community up to date.
Monthly Pappy Raffles
Current Basic Members get 10 FREE entries and Premium Members get 15 FREE entries to each of our monthly Pappy giveaways. We email the Coupon Codes at least 2 weeks before the drawing. (They went out in the last week so if you missed the email check your spam folder.)
Also, if you join during a special promotion (Pappy Madness, Triple Crown, etc.), you'll get an email with those Coupon Codes at least 5 days before the giveaway takes place.
Members can also get 2-for-1 Members-Only tickets to increase their chances to win.
Ok so that's enough housekeeping, now sit back, grab your favorite weekend sipper and enjoy this week's reads.
When Sazerac released the current Weller packaging, about three years ago, it introduced a new claim for the brand, "The Original Wheated Bourbon."
We debunked that claim then and won't repeat it here, but that raised another question. When did the Buffalo Trace Distillery (BTD), where Weller is now made, start to distill wheated bourbon?
The answer comes from Sazerac President Mark Brown himself, in a letter written to me in 2003, in response to a question about a 12-year-old Old Charter expression they had just released.
"When we acquired Weller and Charter, we purchased enough stock to cover our selling needs until our own distillations come of age. So, the Charter whiskey being used all came from the Bernheim inventory.
"However, there is an interesting twist to the story ...
"We actually distilled some Weller and Charter for UD in the late 80's / early 90's and have been aging them at the Trace since then. In the case of Charter 12, it is actually the whiskey we distilled and aged. In addition, given that Schenley owned both BTD and Bernheim at the same time, there was / is a lot shared knowledge and expertise between the two distilleries, hence our ability to distill Charter competently. In the case of Weller, we had quite a bit of practice when distilling for UD."
Schenley, which became part of the Diageo roll-up in 1987, owned both Buffalo Trace and Bernheim until 1983, when it sold Buffalo Trace to Ferkie Falk and Robert Baranaskas.
Although they also bought the Ancient Age brand, their main business was contract distilling. As those were some of the darkest days for the industry, many distilleries had closed or were operating on very reduced schedules. United Distillers (UD, predecessor to Diageo) owned both Stitzel-Weller, where Weller was made, and Bernheim, where Charter was made, but both distilleries were dark for long stretches during that period. When they were, and UD's projections showed they needed some new make, they would contract it to Buffalo Trace.
In 1992, Sazerac bought Buffalo Trace. That same year, UD opened New Bernheim, closed Stitzel-Weller and Medley, and stopped needing Buffalo Trace's contract distilling services.
Buffalo Trace, like everybody else, also had plenty of room in its warehouses when it was contract distilling for UD. It didn't make sense to ship the barrels of new make over to Louisville to be stored there so they stayed in Frankfort. UD/Diageo owned the whiskey and would claim some of it from time to time, but some of it was still there and was included in the stock Sazerac bought when it bought the brands in 1999.
After Prohibition, only one distillery made a point of making wheated bourbon and that was Stitzel-Weller. The recipe they used probably came from the Stitzel family, but no one knows for sure. Wheat had always been an occasional ingredient in bourbon in the pre-Prohibition era but no one made a point of touting a wheated recipe, or a rye bourbon recipe either, for that matter. Nobody talked about wheated bourbon until Pappy Van Winkle did post-Prohibition.
Posted by Chuck Cowdery
Before the days of limited-release lotteries, savvy liquor aficionados would invade the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s website with internet bots in search of highly sought-after bourbons and whiskeys.
The web robots significantly slowed down the state website, said Shawn Kelly, a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman. Pennsylvania residents often lost out on the rare bottles to buyers from other states.
So the liquor control board instituted a lottery system for the whiskeys in 2015, open only to Pennsylvania residents and licensees. Since then, the LCB has auctioned off 13,661 bottles of hard-to-find whiskey and bourbon. And tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians have registered nearly 500,000 times for a chance to buy the uncommon booze.
“Even if you have 200 bottles, where do you put them to make it fair for our customers?” Kelly said.
The state offers a lottery sale several times a year.
The current lottery is offering seven opportunities at 338 bottles, including the $2,500 Old Fashioned Copper Bourbon 1993 (90 Proof). The LCB has 15 bottles in stock, out of the 822 that were released.
On the lower end of the price-point scale, 60 bottles of whiskey from the Buffalo Trace Distillery Experimental Collection will be available at $49.99.
Expect the lottery to be competitive. Depending on the bottle and the year, a potential buyer could be vying for a bottle with 10,000 other people.
Last November, for example, more than 13,000 Pappy fans registered in the lottery for one of 260 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year that sold for $149.99.
The least sought-after bottle? That was a bottle of Michter’s Bourbon Kentucky 25 Year in July last year. Only 1,356 consumers put their name in for one of five available bottles.
Pennsylvania residents and licensees will have until 11 p.m. on July 6 to enter the lottery. Registration is held on the LCB website, under the “Events” tab. The drawings will be held the week of July 8 and the winners will be notified by the end of the month.
The LCB declined to disclose the wholesale price it paid for the bottles in the lottery sale. The LCB, which operates the 600 stores selling wine and spirits in Pennsylvania, regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol and acts as wholesaler as well.
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
If you’re reading this, there’s likely a chance that you enjoy the occasional whiskey. It makes sense. Whiskey is (and has been) the darling of the drinks world for a while now. Folks are learning everything they can about their favorite barrel-aged, cereal-based tipple—and there are so many types to choose from! There are a lot of differences between the various whiskey types around the world, but most folks tend to pit bourbon vs scotch when claiming a favorite style.
An aversion or adoration of peat, a love affair with big charred oak, or a distaste for bourbon’s fattened sweetness are a few of the explanations for one’s particular predilections. Bourbon and scotch are figuratively (and literally) oceans apart. The flavor differences between these two whiskeys are huge. But the reasons for these differences go well beyond bourbon’s use of at least 51% corn in the mash. In fact, some Scotch whisky blends arguably have more corn in them than some bourbons do, but that’s another story.
BOURBON VS SCOTCH
Bourbon is characterized as having a so-called “fatter” and sweeter flavor profile, relying on new, heavily charred oak barrels for much of its character. The corn base does provide a grainy sweetness which is amplified by the fact that the mash is fermented and distilled with all the grain solids still in the liquid.
Old Forester’s column still / Photo Credit: Old Forester
These whiskeys are typically produced using a column still in conjunction with a doubler. A doubler is a technological relative to the thumpers used in moonshine production. It provides a simple second distillation for the bourbon. Folks studying the provenance of their favorite drams sometimes hear “column still” and think of neutral vodka. But when we’re talking about bourbon, the result is nothing but flavorful. The neutrality of column stills is very much a myth. Just like any other tool or instrument in the workspace, the results depend on how you use it.
Bourbon is most often distilled to a relatively low 130-135 proof (65-67.5% ABV). This type of distillation leaves a lot of flavor congeners in the distillate. The distillate is usually reduced to 125 proof or lower (125 proof is the legal maximum for barrel aging bourbon). Coupled with large charred new American oak barrels, which age in the hot and humid Southern climes of Kentucky and Tennessee, you get a big, chewy, caramel and vanilla-laden whiskey. It helps that the climate and lower barrel proof tend to age whiskey a bit faster than cooler climates with spirits of higher barrel proof. Speaking of which: segue!
BARLEY AND SOMETIMES PEAT
Scotch whisky behaves differently, even if some of its DNA has historically found its way into bourbon production. When thinking of differences between bourbon vs scotch, consider the barley. In the case of single malts, that’s all you can use. Maybe the barley has been smoked with peat moss (hello, Islay) or maybe it hasn’t, which is common in Speyside. Then there’s the fact that the barley is mashed and subsequently separated from the sweet liquid prior to adding yeast. This removes some of the more intense cereal notes that bourbon can take on.
The malting floor at Highland Park Distillery / Photo Credit: Highland Park
Scotch mashes are typically fermented a bit cooler than many bourbons which produces different types of aromatics. It’s a complicated subject so let’s just leave it at that. Next the fermented distiller’s beer is distilled in pot stills at least twice. The spirit comes out of the still averaging around 70% ABV, which is a smidge higher than that of bourbon. The higher ABV off the still as well as a higher barreling ABV (63-65% is typical) favors the maturation of a more subtle and delicate spirit (there are exceptions of course).
USED VS NEW BARRELS
Scotch barrels are usually, but not always, sourced from distilleries or wineries that previously used them for something else such as bourbon or sherry. Even then, they are often re-charred on the inside, so they aren’t as neutral in character as many folks assume. And finally, due to the different types of casks at the distillery’s disposal, there are a lot of options for blending an array of flavors together. This is not commonly done in bourbon land because the law says a new charred oak barrel must be used–yes, every time.
Barrels at Bowmore Distillery / Photo Credit: Bowmore Distillery
The previous paragraphs have really just scratched the surface here, but you can see that the differences of bourbon vs scotch are the result of much more than mere ingredient selection. Hopefully this gives a bit more insight into the inner workings of whiskey. Maybe it has made you curiously thirsty to revisit something outside of your preferred dram for some “research”. Of course, consumers have the luxury of choice and in the case of both bourbon and scotch, flavor and enjoyment are never in short supply.
by Brent Joseph
This past Spring I was invited by a personal friend to join him and his private barrel picking group on a trip to Buffalo Trace to select a barrel of Old Weller Antique. Since I live within a 2 hour drive to Louisville, KY and I like bourbon, this was a no brainer. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a part of multiple barrel picks in the past and even picked two barrels at Buffalo Trace (an Eagle Rare as well as a barrel of Blanton’s), I’ve never been a part of an OWA selection.
A barrel pick experience is without a doubt one the best things you can be a part of if you are a bourbon fan. Each one is different. Every distillery does it a bit differently and the people you are with all help to make each one unique. As I stated above, I’ve been EXTREMELY fortunate to have been able to participate in more than my fair share of these once in a lifetime experiences. Most bourbon fans can only dream of being a part of one of these picks. I decided to write about this experience for all of my fellow bourbon fans that either live way too far away from bourbon country, don’t have the access to do a private pick, or just don’t have the time in their busy schedule to put their work and home obligations on hold to travel to KY to drink bourbon. If you’re reading this you’re obviously a bourbon fan, these barrel pick trips are bucket list stuff.
So my buddy has a “Private Barrel Pick Group” that he is a part of. They have done multiple picks at many different distilleries. Apparently this one came about because one of the members of the group won a charity auction for the opportunity to select a barrel of Old Weller Antique at Buffalo Trace. Please don’t ask me for names and contact info of this group. It’s not my information to share, I was lucky enough to be invited along for the ride and able to share my experience of the day with you.
The actual barrel pick took place at Buffalo Trace on a Wednesday in mid-April. I arrived the afternoon prior so that I could get to spend some extra time with my friend who now lives out of town as well as meet a few of the group that were nice enough to include me. My friend had informed me that there would be a private bottle share the night before and I had no intention of missing out on the opportunity to hang out, talk and sip bourbon, and possibly make some new friends. One of the guys from the group lives in Louisville so he was hosting the bottle share at his home. By the time I got there my buddy had already arrived from the airport and two other guys from the group were already pouring their second samples. I ring the bell and the homeowner greets me at the door. He welcomes me to his home and leads me to the kitchen table where the group is comfortably gathered around 20 plus bottles.
This is where all of our passion for bourbon really shines through. You can all it a hobby, a problem, an obsession, an addiction, whatever you want. But most of the people that you meet through bourbon in general all seem to have the same friendly and welcoming demeanor. These aren’t guys that have a bunch of shelf queens that just want to show off to their neighbors or brag about on their social media accounts. I had never met this guy and now I’m sitting in his home at his kitchen table sharing rare and hard to find bourbons while discussing our likes, dislikes, jobs, families, etc. There’s not a lot of things that can bring strangers together to bond over a common thing like a good bourbon. Among some of the unique bottles shared were:
- A 2000 BTAC Sazerac 18, distilled in the Fall of 1981
- A 14 yr. old Barrel Proof (109.98) Traverse City Private Pick labeled “Gold is Best” that was distilled on 2-21-2005 and bottled on 3-15-2019.
- A Blanton’s Gold #136
- A OWA Private Pick labeled “Grandpa’s Wallet”
- A 2012 BTAC Eagle Rare 17
- A Van Winkle “Lot B” 12 yr. from 2008
- A 2010 BTAC Stagg
- A Willett Family Estate 9 yr. Bourbon Barrel 5323 (118.8 proof)
- A Very Old St. Nick 12 yr. at 114.3 proof
- A Knob Creek Single Barrel and a Single Barrel Rye that this group had previously picked
- I was also introduced to a FANTASTIC craft brewery in Virginia named Aslin Beer Company. If you can find any, I highly suggest you try it.
Again, all of this was the night before the actual barrel pick.
BUFFALO TRACE HARD HAT TOUR
We all arrived at Buffalo Trace and met in the Visitors Center/Gift Shop. Once our entire group was together (there were about 9 of us), we were introduced to Suzannah. She would be our guide for the day. I know everyone always talks about Freddie and how he’s the best guide at Buffalo Trace and I know that nobody has the tenure and family legacy that Freddie Johnson has, but let me tell you that this girl is a star. This was my seventh trip to Buffalo Trace and this was by far and away the best guided tour and experience that I’ve ever had there.
When you buy a barrel at Buffalo Trace they usually now give you the “Hard Hat Tour” which you can still do if you are not purchasing a barrel, you just have to make a reservation and book it in advance. It costs a bit more and the times are limited but if you can, I highly suggest it. You get to see a lot more behind the scenes of the distillery operations and some additional history that you don’t get on the standard tour and you get to go more places.
The tour started at Grain Dump and then continued to the Mash House where the pressure cookers are located. This is where the Mash, Yeast, and Rye cookers are housed. The Fermentation Tanks hold 93,000 Gallons each. If all of the fermenters are running at once, Buffalo Trace is cooking over 1,000,000 gallons of mash at one time!
From there Suzannah led us to “Bourbon Pompeii.” This is the area of the distillery that was uncovered while being prepared for renovations/distillery expansion in the spring of 2016. They discovered remnants and some of the foundations for the O.F.C Distillery from 1873. It’s really an amazing bit of bourbon history. There is plenty of detailed information about it online but I’ve included a few pics.
After that we were led to the infamous Warehouse C. This is the Bonded Warehouse that was hit by a tornado in 2010 that destroyed and took off the roof. The barrels survived and the barrels that were exposed to the elements were then bottled and sold as Col. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bottles that are so highly sought after on the secondary market today. Fun fact, all barrels that have green stamps on them contain the Wheated Mash Bill.
Our final stop on the tour was at the Albert Blanton’s Bottling Hall, which is my absolute favorite stop on the tour. The standard tour also stops here so if you can’t get on a Hard Hat Tour, you still get to stop here. This is where they do the bottle filling and sealing. If you are a fan of Blanton’s, this is where they add the cool pewter bottle stoppers and add the epoxy around the top to seal it. If you come at the right time, you can see bottles being filled and sealed before being boxed up for shipping. It’s amazing to me that all of those bottles produced are still hand sealed individually in this small building. I’ve included some pictures for you to see. They were also bottling Elmer T. Lee that day as well.
At this point the tour was pretty much complete and it was time to get down to business. This was my third barrel pick at Buffalo Trace. Every barrel pick is a bit different but the distillery follows pretty much the same format (at least from my experience). All of the barrel selections are done in Warehouse H. When you enter the rick house there is a room finished off with wood paneling. This room basically sits in the corner of the rick house. There is a large sliding door at the far end of the room. Behind that door is your typical rick house, except this is the warehouse that all of the barrels that become Blanton’s are stored and aged. There are a few tables along the left wall as you enter and there are a set of railroad type tracks that run down the back half of the room that disappear behind the sliding door. This is how they roll the barrels selected for tasting are brought in. A good portion of the group had never been to Buffalo Trace, let alone picked a barrel there. As a bourbon fan, it’s always fun to see the faces and reactions of people as they get to experience something like this for the first time.
When we walked in, there were four barrels of Weller lined up on the tracks waiting for us to try. Every distillery does it their own way. At Jim Beam they had the barrels lined up and let us actually hammer the bungs out of each barrel, which was really fun and provided some cool photo ops. At Wild Turkey we wandered around the rick house with Eddie Russel and he let us choose what barrels we wanted to try and opened them up for us right there. Four Roses and Heaven Hill does their picks in a private room and not in a rick house. They provide the barrel samples from bottles that have been filled and labeled with the corresponding barrel numbers and locations. Buffalo Trace had already removed the bungs so that our host (or guests) didn’t have to bang them out. Another thing that is part of the experience is that you get to sample directly from the barrel via a whiskey thief, this is also a special treat. There is just something magical about dipping the copper thief into a barrel, extracting the bourbon, emptying the sample into your glass, and tasting it right from the barrel.
There is one major thing that I feel negatively impacts the barrel pick process at Buffalo Trace, that’s the tasting glasses. At EVERY other barrel pick that I’ve been a part of, the host distillery has provided each guest a tasting glass. Usually it’s a Glencarin glass, sometimes it’s a rocks glass. Lots of the distilleries even provide you separate glasses for each barrel you are tasting. Not Buffalo Trace. They put one tulip shaped glass on the barrel stave that rests on top of the barrel you are tasting out of. This glass has a few lines drawn on it to act as a guide to add water to taste what your barrel will actually taste like once it has been proofed down. ONE GLASS! For an entire group. When I was at Buffalo Trace for an Eagle Rare pick, we had a very large group of almost 20 people. They still provided just one glass! I asked why we were all sharing the same glass at the time and our host told us that “the alcohol would kill all of the germs.” While that point can be debated, and I’m not touching that here, if you’re a germaphobe, you’re automatically out. Luckily I am not but that’s not the point. These groups come in and spend literally thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars at Buffalo Trace to buy barrels of their bourbon and the distillery can’t be bothered to get some clean tasting glassware for the individual guests? I’m not even asking to provide souvenir glasses. Just a glass for each individual taster. Is it really that hard or do they just not care enough because of their reputation and they know that at the end of the day you’re going to buy their barrel anyway? Whatever the reason, it’s a bad look for a company that should know how to treat their best customers better. Buffalo Trace needs to do better when it comes to this.
That being said, I had warned our group about this very issue and one of the group members came prepared with three cases of brand new Glencairn tasting glasses tucked in his backpack for each of us to use during the tasting. Pro move.
As Suzannah was giving the group a few final directions, she mentioned that while we were here to pick a barrel of Old Weller Antique, we also had the option to instead make it a barrel of Full Proof Weller! Whut!?! We didn’t know that they were even doing Full Proof picks yet! Immediately everyone in the group got really excited and decided that we were going to choose a barrel for Full Proof bottling rather than an OWA bottling. We were told that since the Full Proof Weller product had been officially announced, we could choose to go that route but since the distillery still didn’t even have the labels for bottling, it would be that much longer that we would have to wait to actually get our bottles. This didn’t seem to matter for the group. We were all excited. Once our glasses had been distributed, the group dove right in. We started at barrel one which was located the closest to the sliding door to the rick house and worked our way back to the barrels closer to the entrance. Buffalo Trace did provide some tasting notepads and golf pencils to take notes as well as water. We were advised to keep opinions to ourselves until everyone had gone through all four barrels. After some agreements, discussion, and some disagreements, we were able to get one additional barrel rolled out since nobody seemed to be in love with any of the first four we sampled. I’m not sure this is normal procedure but it happened.
I’m not going to get into the tasting notes of each individual barrel because if you’re reading this, you will probably never get to sample it anyways. That’s not meant in an arrogant way or a taunt, it’s just simple math. There won’t be that many bottles and they have all already been spoken for. Since I was just a guest and not even an official member of this barrel pick group, I’ll be lucky if I ever get to see a bottle or a sample of it.
I’m not sure how long our actual tasting went on for but we were eventually pushed along to make a final decision so that we could get to the lunch that Buffalo Trace had prepared for us as well as get our host to her next group for the day. In the end, the group decided on the fifth barrel that they rolled out for us. It was close to an unanimous decision.
I hope this gives you a bit more insight and detail as to what the experience of picking a barrel at Buffalo Trace is like. Thanks for reading.
The Glencairn Tasting Glass is the vessel of choice for those who truly enjoy bourbon. Glencairn Crystal spent decades crafting a glass that was similar to the copita used by master blenders, but would be a practical fit for bar use. A tapered mouth for ease of tasting, while still capturing the nose of the whiskey. A widened bowl for full enjoyment and a solid base to fit neatly in the hand.