Thirsty (No Pappy Van Winkle in 2013)

Elmer-T.-LeeThis year I came up short.

After two very good years -- beginner's luck, I guess -- I didn't score any Pappy Van Winkle in 2013.

Maybe my bottle was in one of the 65 cases stolen in October.

October's always been a weird month. I used to work for a company that analyzed the stock market and the market always seemed to go into crazy fits and starts during the month of October -- maybe it had something to do with the dark side of the moon. And speaking of the Dark Side of the Moon, the greatest album ever -- by Pink Floyd -- celebrated its 40th anniversary in March of 2013.

But let's get back to the brown stuff.

I did try a few bourbons that were new to me and in a much more affordable price range than Pappy. Elmer T. Lee's Single Barrel was one of the best. I think I paid $29.95 for a 750ml bottle. I bought it on July 16, the day Lee died after 93 years. I thought it was a good way to pay tribute to the first master distiller. Out of all the new bourbons I sampled in 2103, I enjoyed Elmer T. the most.

I was on a tight budget so most of the bourbons I purchased were in the $25 to $35 range. Elmer T. Lee SB, Four Roses Small Batch, and Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 and 2000 provided the greatest taste for the dollar. All the bourbons tasted respectable for a bargain price. Each is hearty enough to sip neat and inexpensive enough to enjoy regularly.

If you want to save $5 or $10 more a bottle, there's always Buffalo Trace -- the best value in the bourbon universe. For a few dollars less, try W.L. Weller Special Reserve and Evan Williams Black.

So 2013 is in the books.

Truthfully, it hasn’t always been an easy one, but the joy of sipping a strong and tasty glass of bourbon after a hard day is one of my simple pleasures.

It’s a ritual of slowing down, lubricating the mind and emotions, and tasting life again.

One of my favorite things to do -- if the day has sucked me dry -- is pour a glass of the good stuff, turn on some music -- Miles Davis' Kind of Blue works best or maybe some Wilco or PFs Dark Side -- and  enjoy the good warm feeling that rises up inside as I sip a glass of fine bourbon.

Have a Pappy New Year, or (if you can't find Pappy -- who can?) -- celebrate with whatever bourbon makes you laugh, leave 2013 behind, and move on to the adventures of 2014.

May you all find a bottle of the best bourbon in the world this year!

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The Best Bourbon You May Never Taste – Pappy Van Winkle

A Bourbon as "Scarce as Mermaids"

Thanks to @BourbonBanter for bringing this article to my attention. And as @CLTBourbonClub told me via Twitter. "Pappy's #bourbon is about as scarce in these parts as mermaids." Oh well, I guess I will have to be happy with my one bottle a year. Give them both a follow if you haven't already.

Read the Article in Louisville Magazine.

My last PVW November 2012
My last PVW November 2012

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Pappy Van Winkle Virgin Tries 20 Year

Pappy Van Winkle BourbonI had my first taste of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year in 2012, at the ripe old age of 44.

Christmas Eve to be exact. It was smooth, rich and delicious as expected.

I even gave a taste to my wife, a wine drinker. She drank it neat and loved it.

After a relaxing day (the first Christmas Eve that has ever been relaxing) I made some oyster stew from a recipe from Esquire Magazine. It's my new two-year tradition. I enjoyed a few bowls of that with a Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada, one of my favorite seasonals.

Then as the evening grew to a close, and the kids' bedtime grew closer, I pulled the red velvet bag down and gave myself a Christmas Eve present.

Don’t know about you, but we used to open one “special” one the night before Christmas when I was growing up. And this was indeed a special one.

Now I am not one to break down every nuance of flavor when I drink my bourbon. Ok if you do, but just too much detail for my taste, I prefer to savor the moment.  Maybe I’ll get there one day, but for now you’ll have to settle for a more ambiguous description.

The first thought that comes to mind is the color as you pour it into the glass. Much darker and fuller than most of what I drink. When it comes to taste, it is subtle, full-bodied and thick. It goes down smooth, like liquid silk, finishing nicely with no overly ethanol kickback.

Now I had planned to stretch this bottle out until the next one became available in the fall, but that didn’t work.

I did save it for a few special occasions.

New Year’s. My birthday. And once I ran out of my everyday and didn’t feel like getting out so I had to have a taste then as well.

Finally I took my last sip on February 21st in celebration of the writer, David Foster Wallace’s birth. I found out later he was a Wild Turkey drinker.

Unfortunately, he PVW didn’t make it to the birthday of one of my favorite writers and bourbon drinkers, Walker Percy.

Possibly that's part of the charm in Pappy Van Winkle. It is scarce. You can run out of it and then you have to wait for it.

In a way, the expectation and the anticipation make it even more glorious.

When you find it, you want to savor it because when it's gone, it's gone.

You know you can’t just rush out and get another bottle like you can with 99.9% of the things you want.

Winning the Pappy Van Winkle Lottery

I received the news about an hour after the Pappy Van Winkle’s bottles arrived at my local liquor store.

It was a day or two before Thanksgiving.

The email said the PVW was here and did I want 15 or 20 year? I thought for a moment and then called back as fast as I could.

I was going to go for the 15 since I had tried the 12 last year (good stuff but not what Pappy was famous for). The 15-year was spoken for so I was left with the 20 year.

Tough break, right?

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year, 20 year, 23 year

I asked for the price and was told $136.99 a bottle. Sold.

I then thought about what the wife would say if she knew I spent $150 on a 750 ml bottle of bourbon.

I am not a big spender when it comes to bourbon. Normally, I go for value. My everyday is Evan Williams Black and when I splurge I usually go for Buffalo Trace – the best tasting bang for your buck in the bourbon universe at least that I have run across so far.

As I drove to the store, I felt giddy like I was going on my first date.

I had heard so much about this bourbon and now I had scored a bottle after about 18 months of trying. I had recently visited the Old Rip Van Winkle Facebook site and realized how hard it was for most people to find.

I had planned to go to Husk in Charleston, SC and put down about $47 for a pour if I did not find it by my birthday, January 31st. The wife would have loved that one too!

When I got to the store the cashier said I was one of the “lottery winners” -- and someone went to the back and got me my first bottle of 20-year Pappy Van Winkle.

The bottle sits unopened in its hiding place waiting for Christmas Eve.

On that night, I will take it down after the kids are nestled in their beds with dreams of sugar plums dancing in their heads, gingerly remove it from its red velvet bag and pour it in my whiskey snifter to savor.

I will take a long draw of the aroma and then take my first sip of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year, the best bourbon in the world.

Can’t wait. Cheers!