Rare Pappy Van Winkle From The Original Distillery Is Going To Auction

Here at Tasting Table, we're all about budget bourbons – and we're also all about luxury bourbons, the opus of which is inarguably Pappy Van Winkle. Under regular circumstances, Pappy Van Winkle is already a rare find. In fact, only 84,000 bottles of Pappy 23 are released every year. But, that hasn't stopped fans from going wild for it. (Anthony Bourdain once tweeted "I am considering a full back Pappy Van Winkle tattoo.") 

But, now, an especially rare bottle of Pappy is going to auction, according to Robb Report. What makes it so special? This bottle is from the original Pappy Van Winkle distillery, which has been shuttered since 1972. In fact, the spirit is labeled as "Stitzel-Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon," aka Pappy before he was called Pappy. 

The "real" Pappy was Julian P. Van Winkle Sr., who (according to the Buffalo Trace Distillery website) was known to say, "We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon." Following his passing in 1965, his son Julian Jr. oversaw the Stitzel-Weller distillery until it was bought out by Buffalo Trace in 1972, where his son and grandson (Julian III and Preston) run operations today. 

What makes the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle newly up for auction so special and rare is that it comes from the Stitzel-Weller distillery before its sale and subsequent rebrand. Here's how fans can get it (if they're lucky).

A taste of industry history

The auction is being facilitated by Sotheby's, the world-renowned auction house purveying fine art, fashion, ceramics, historical books, and of course, rare liquor. According to Jonny Fowle, Sotheby's global head of spirits, for a liquor to be considered "rare," it must be historically significant, unique, and "unrepeatable" (as in, they come from distilleries that are no longer in operation). 

Some of the selections, Fowle tells Robb Report, have only ever been enjoyed at tasting sessions in the '90s and have never before been sampled by the public. Indeed, by these standards, Pappy Van Winkle is the rarest of the rare, a knockout quality spirit as much as it is a piece of industry history.

The Stitzel-Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon is part of Sotheby's Rare American Whiskey Selection 1976-1982. The five-bottle collection also includes 21-year Old Quaker Indiana Corn Whiskey, Taylor-Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon, George T Stagg Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, and Buffalo Springs Kentucky Rye Mash Whiskey. Bidding starts on April 14 at 9:00 am EDT with a starting price of 7,500 GBP (roughly $9,300). Interested whiskey fans can register now via Sotheby's website to bid at the auction, which is to be held in the U.K. (International shipping will be available.)