Pappy Van Winkle Season – Bourbon’s High Time

Most bourbon lovers relish this time of the year.

College football season gets serious—at least for the four to six teams who still haves hopes of winning it all. The weather cools so you can sip your favorite pour outside by the fire. And rabid bourbon hunters everywhere dream of scoring a unicorn (otherwise known as some of the best and hardest to find bourbons on the planet).

For most bourbon hunters the priority list looks something like this:

  1. Pappy Van Winkle (including Old Rip 10, Van Winkle 12 and if released Rye)
  2. BTAC (also known as the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection): Includes William LaRue Weller, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17, Thomas Handy Sazerac and Sazerac  Rye.
  3. Take Your Pick
    1. Four Roses Limited Editions Small Batch
    2. Old Forester Birthday
    3. Michter's 20 (some years)
    4. Parker's Heritage Collection
    5. Elijah Craig 18, 20 or 23 (some years)
    6. High West A Midwinter's Night Dram

Plus, there are always a few new ones like Old Fitz BIB, Evan Williams 27 Year, Michter's Toasted Barrel, Kentucky Owl, etc.

Who can describe how it feels to find and buy that first unicorn? It's like when the Atlanta Braves went to their first World Series in 1991 after being nothing but losers all their lives. Or on the flip side, coming up short. Dawg fans it's akin to the hope you felt in the National Championship game after a big OT sack—and then watching Tua hurl the ball through the Atlanta sky and into the hands of a wide-open Crimson Tide receiver.

But life can get a bit mundane if you don't create Holy Grails to go after. It is built into our genes. We've been hunting and gathering something for ages.

Walker Percy said:

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”

Now he was talking about a big thing, God in fact. But it's not necessarily the object of the search but the search itself that matters most. The desire, the blood rush, the energy surging through the veins as you seek "it." And when it comes to rare bourbons, the satisfaction of the first sip after you find it.

If you just want crotch shots or bottles to flip, you will lose that feeling fast. Go ahead and give up now. It ain't worth the hassle.

But...if it's about the first sip, the taste, the satisfaction of partaking of what you worked so hard to find you may never lose the obsession. If you get more than one—hell yes, do anything you want with the extras. But if you only find one, pop it open and give it a taste.

I'm betting the bourbon gods, karma, or just good fortune will reward you next time around. If not, here's some inside info: there's tons of damn good bourbon that's on most liquor store shelves every single day at a fair price.

Dirty little secret #2: Right now, distilleries have cranked their stills to the hilt and one day supply will crush demand. Or a fickle public will move onto ice-cream flavored vodka or some type of exotic rum. The bourbon bubble will burst. Manias always end. Just ask the Dutch who collected tulips or 99% of the dot-coms that went belly up in the early 2000s.

But here's the silver lining for us (those who love the taste of the best bourbons in the world). We'll walk away with today's unicorns for pennies on the dollar.

If all you care about is making a buck, sell your bottles now while the bourbon market is in a frenzy. But if you also love the bourbon, sock away some of your dollars so you can buy up all the lonely unicorns stuck on the shelves in 10 to 20 years.