Josh Ozersky Offers “Idiots” Fill Ins for Pappy Van Winkle

Esquire MagazineI admit it. I love to read Esquire magazine. The edginess and yes, the women ain't bad either. But, I'm happily married so I like the writing best -- especially the articles on drinking bourbon.

Charles Pierce is always interesting as well. I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but he's passionate and thought provoking.  In the end, that's the best compliment I can give to a writer of any kind. Whether I agree or not I keep reading and I...THINK.

Josh Ozersky's article about finding alternatives to Pappy Van Winkle is a good read. My favorite quote:

"But there is another answer, too, which we hinted at, but will now further explain: You need to find something else — something as similar as possible. Which is problematic."

When I first started my Pappy journey I was a bourbon neophyte and latched onto the best idea I found. I am a reader and gravitated to Pappy because a talented writer (Wright Thompson) wrote a damn good article about it. He also wrote one about an old bottle of Jim Beam.

It started my pursuit and then when I found it -- it more than met expectations. But I had tried so few bourbons at that point. I was, as I said before, not much of a connoisseur.

Ozersky is right. There are a lot of "damn good" bourbons -- at least close, if not as good as Pappy Van Winkle -- so don't fret if you can't find the big kahuna. Just be glad you saved a few bucks and enjoy some of the other great bourbons out there.

Ozersky names a few:

  • Maker's 46

  • W.L. Weller 12 YR

  • Jefferson's Presidential Select 18 YR (from 4 years ago)

  • Four Roses Single Barrel

  • William Larue Weller

He notes that W.L. Weller is the closest (according to Julian Van Winkle 7 Year Weller) or William Larue, then Jefferson's as it has some of the same mash bill and then Maker's 46 (which is merely wheated) and Four Roses Single Barrel if you can't find those.

"Of the original lot of Pappy produced in the twilight of the Stitzer-Weller, before it closed in 1992, most of what remains was snatched up by the Van Winkle family, and now constitutes Pappy 23. But the Van Winkle family didn't get all the juice; some made its way into the hands of the resourceful Trey Zoeller, the founder of Jefferson's, who sold it as Jefferson's Presidential Select 17- and 18-year-old four years ago. Some of those bottles are available on the gray market for a high sum indeed, but nothing compared to black-market Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old."

I, myself, am a Weller Special Reserve 7 Year drinker (everyday bourbon) it resembles Pappy Van Winkle though aged at a lower clip. A drop of water and it's worth much more than it's $12.99 price tag.

Read Ozersky's article here.

What's your favorite alternative to Pappy? Share it in the comments section.

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Chris Brantley

Stumbled across bourbon via Walker Percy. Like to read, write and drink bourbon. Also, I enjoy living on the coast, grilling steaks, eating seafood and listening to good music. Great song on Spotify, fine bourbon in the glass, and something interesting to think about = BLISS.