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Food - Drink
Why Is Pappy Van Winkle So Expensive?
Even if you don't know much about bourbon whiskey, you probably know the name Pappy Van Winkle. This brand of bourbon helped solidify the spirit's popularity, which is at an all-time peak today, and has a cult-like status among collectors and aficionados — but the price tag on the bottle can be eye-bugging. Why exactly is Pappy so expensive?
Named for Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., founder and long-time president of Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve was added to the Old Rip Van Winkle brand by his grandson Julian Van Winkle III. When we talk about Pappy Van Winkle, we’re talking about three products: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve bourbons aged 15, 20, and 23 years.
When Julian Van Winkle III first launched Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-Year Family Reserve in 1994, it was the world’s first 20-year-old bourbon and was given an unprecedented rating of 99 by the Beverage Tasting Institute. Two years later, Pappy scored another 99, this time at the World Spirit’s Championships, and the Pappy cult began growing.
Between 2000 and 2010, Pappy Van Winkle’s selling price increased from about $125 to $200, and soon after, it achieved a mythological status, costing bar patrons hundreds of dollars for a round of shots and bringing in enormous prices at auctions. Even empty bottles of this bourbon fetched higher prices than full bottles from other brands.
Finally, Pappy Van Winkle was cemented in pop culture in 2013, when the theft of half a million dollars worth of bourbon took place at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, as detailed in the Netflix documentary “Heist.” This legendary bourbon is still hard to find, and many liquor stores auction off their bottles for charity.