Thursday, October 4, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

My four-day tour of wheated Bourbons ends with Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 year old. I am always very hesitant to drink this, not because it isn't good (it's fantastic) but rather because I don't know how I'll be able to replace it when it's gone. I've seen this exactly once in my life, and I bought it then. It's possible to get the 20 and 23 year old versions without too much difficulty because of the high prices -- the bottle or two allocated to Spec's just sit on the shelf for months because not many people are in the market for a $100 bottle of Bourbon. Not so the 15 year old. It's expensive compared to most other Bourbons, but not relative to similarly-aged Scotches. That, and its reputation, quality, and rarity, must mean that it flies off the shelves when it comes in.

You may recall that Stitzel-Weller distillery, whose whiskey Julian Van Winkle has culled from for years to assemble his various bottlings, closed in 1992. That means that the youngest S-W whiskey left is 15 years old. The Bourbon in my bottle of 15 year old Bourbon (purchased in 2006) is probably still all from S-W, but that won't be the case in the future. Supposedly, Van Winkle's stocks of S-W whiskey are getting low, and it just doesn't make sense to keep the 15 year old exclusively S-W when all of the remaining S-W whiskey is older than 15 years.

This brings me to a comment that VaAu made recently on the post I wrote the last time I had Pappy 15:
I stumbled upon some 12 year old PVW—noticeably better than most bourbons in my opinion. Sought some 15 year family reserve—even better. Now I am real curious about Pappy in general. Assuming one can find the following (I have!), what would you guess the price to be:

PVW, 15 year
PVW, 20 year
PVW, 23 year

Also, I am told there is to be a September 2007 bottling of PVW 23 year. What will this do to price of PVW 23 year remaining on shelves?

Finally, will there ever again be a bottling of PVW 20?

How much 20 and 23 remains to be bottled?

Pappy 15, when you can find it, goes for around $45 a fifth. Pappy 20 can be had for around $90 a fifth. The Pappy 23 would be around $120 a fifth. Julian Van Winkle periodically bottles more of all three, depending on demand. I would assume that as long as the 20 year old is still selling, he will continue to bottle it. Stocks of twenty-year-old Stitzel-Weller whiskey will give out after 2012, but there will be sufficiently-aged Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill wheated Bourbon available by that time for this not to present a problem for the continuation of the older Van Winkle bottlings.

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