Pappy Van Winkle — The Search for the Elusive Kentucky Bourbon

“Sorry, it’s been reserved it for our ‘best’ customers,” says a Louisville, Ky.-based Evergreen Liquor salesperson on the phone. I asked what I needed to do to become a “bestie.” He hung up on me.

Or even worse, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. liquor store employee refused to sale it to a 20-something hipster. According to the Ders Report, when the hipster asked if the salesperson had any behind the counter, he said, “I sure do, but I’ll be damned if I sell it to a Nancy Boy like you. I’d sooner pour it out than take your money.” Really? A Nancy Boy?

I’m talking about the elusive Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve. In the late 1800s, Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. surely didn’t want his brand to become the go-to bourbon of America’s snobs and elitists. But that’s what happens when your product becomes rarer and rarer each year.

Why is Pappy so special? Maybe it’s the corn, wheat and barley recipe instead of corn, rye and barley that most bourbon’s use. Or, it’s just fun to say Pappy over and over gain. “Pappy, Pappy, Pappy, Pappy … happy?” Yes, I think I sound richer now.

Aged 15, 20 or 23 years, these babies are released twice a year with about 7,000 cases up for grabs, or 42,000 bottles. Each, selling upwards of $300, goes off the shelf as quickly as it was unpacked from the cardboard.  Channel soccer moms and their former beanie baby obsession, Twihards attempting to get Rob Patterson’s autograph, or the insane Black Friday shoppers at Wal-Mart trampling one another. And some employees have been caught sneaking a few bottles in their backpacks to later turn a pretty penny on eBay. Well, not anymore since Ebay has been cracking down on booze sales.

My husband and I began cold calling our local liquor stores last month, with the rumor of a October or November shipment. Word got out last week our Kroger Liquor would receive its shipment today. Unfortunately, no such such shipment. When I called other locations, including Liquor Barn, Beverage Warehouse and Old Time Liquor, it was as if I had said “666” or yelled “fire.” Continually getting an assertive “no” or “we sold out last night,” I thought I would have to just try the process over again next Spring.

But then something magical happened. I called Store X (keeping anonymity to increase my chances of acquiring said subject of this blog) and an actual happy person engaged in conversion. She told me about a lottery occurring Friday night. I should arrive at 6 p.m., write my name on a piece of paper, throw it into a hat and hope for the best.

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4 thoughts on “Pappy Van Winkle — The Search for the Elusive Kentucky Bourbon

  1. No other clues? 🙂 I have called nearly everyone but the one that mentioned a lottery said it was already over, not Friday night.

    • Argh … Just now saw your message. The lottery was at Party Mart off of Brownsboro Rd. The good news, they had about 30 bottles to give out. The bad news, there was more than 100 people. So I had no luck. You?

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