The long anticipated annual release of the Van Winkle bourbons is nearly here, but unfortunately some of the angels were extra greedy over the past two decades, leaving us less bourbon than in previous years.
“When bourbon ages over 15 years, much is lost to the angel’s share. Many of the 53 gallon oak barrels often yield less than 20 gallons,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director. “Unfortunately this year we experienced poor yields on the older Van Winkle whiskeys. Furthermore, we have strict quality standards here at Buffalo Trace and several of the older Van Winkle barrels did not meet those standards. This makes a drastic difference in volume, considering we have very few barrels as it is. The result is less 15 year-old Pappy Van Winkle than usual, and far less 20 year-old and 23 year-old. Frankly, about half as much as last year.”
Known for their smoother and sweeter flavor, Van Winkle bourbons are aged years longer than most others and garner an impeccable reputation among connoisseurs. Although the bourbons have become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years, very little is sold overseas, so that most of these coveted bottles are available in the United States.
The Van Winkle collection consists of several whiskeys. Suggested retail prices are as follows:
“Although a lot of retailers charge more than our suggested pricing, we are not asking them to do so,” said Julian Van Winkle, president, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. “We have not raised prices and do not intend to do so drastically in the future. We are committed to our quality and our pricing.”
The Van Winkle line of whiskeys has won a multitude of awards through the years, including the 15-year-old being named “Excellent/highly recommended” in the 2014 Ultimate Spirits Challenge; the 20 year-old awarded “Extraordinary/ultimate recommendation” in the 2013 Ultimate Spirits Challenge; a double gold for the 20 year-old in the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition; and the Chairman’s Trophy and “Extraordinary/Ultimate Recommendation” for the 20 year-old in the 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
The Van Winkle Whiskeys will be available starting in November, but please be mindful that supply is quite limited and bottles shall be hard to find in stores, bars and restaurants. They will be packed three bottles per case.
About Van Winkle Bourbon
The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery has a four generation history. The Van Winkle family’s involvement in the bourbon industry began in the late 1800s with Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. He was a traveling salesman for the W.L. Weller and Sons wholesale house in Louisville. Pappy and a friend, Alex Farnsley, eventually bought the wholesale house and also partnered with Mr. A. Ph. Stitzel on the purchase of Mr. Sitzel’s distillery. The three of them merged the two companies and became the Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
In May of 1935 at the age of 61, Pappy opened the newly completed Stitzel-Weller Distillery in South Louisville. Its prominent brands were W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still. Pappy had a heavy influence on the operations there until his death at the age of 91. His son, Julian, Jr. took over operations until he was forced by stockholders to sell the distillery in 1972. The rights to all of their brands were sold to Norton Simon, Inc. Later, United Distillers, who eventually ended up with the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, sold off all of the original labels around 1999.
After selling the distillery, Julian Jr. resurrected a pre-Prohibition label, the only one to which the Van Winkles kept the rights, called Old Rip Van Winkle. He used whiskey stocks from the old distillery to supply his brand. Julian Jr.’s son, Julian, III took over in 1981 when Julian, Jr. passed away. Julian III has continued with the Van Winkle tradition of producing high-quality wheated bourbon. His son, Preston, joined the company in 2001 and the Van Winkles look to continue that tradition for generations to come.
In 2002 the Van Winkles entered into a joint venture with Buffalo Trace Distillery in Franklin County, Frankfort, Ky. All of the Van Winkle’s whiskey production now takes place at Buffalo Trace Distillery under the same strict guidelines the family has always followed. For more information on the Van Winkle family of bourbon please visit www.oldripvanwinkle.com.