Pappy van Winkle Ballot and History

Pappy van Winkle Ballot and History
Introducing Whisky Loot's Pappy van Winkle whiskey ballot and the history of this remarkable Bourbon.

Whisky Loot is delighted to announce our Pappy van Winkle Ballot.

Pappy van Winkle is widely regarded as some of the best whiskey of any style on the planet. Because of Pappy’s rarity, Whisky Loot has decided to do something a little different with these bottles – a whiskey ballot. Scroll down to learn more about Pappy, and see how to enter our ballot.

What is Pappy Van Winkle?

Pappy van Winkle is the most sought after Bourbon whiskey in the world. Rarely seen outside the United States, full bottles of this Bourbon can go for many thousands of dollars on the “secondary market” (auctions and private sales). Many bottles go into collections, never to be opened or seen again, becoming infamous “dusties”.

The spirit itself is produced at the illustrious Buffalo Trace distillery, and is notable amongst Bourbon whiskies for being long aged. Compared to Scotland, the climate of Kentucky is considerably warmer, meaning that the rate of whiskey evaporation is higher, and the maturation process is accelerated. Pappy van Winkle’s age statements of 15, 20 and 23 years are virtually unheard of in the Bourbon world.

Moreover, Pappy gets prime real estate in the Buffalo Trace rickhouses and warehouses, given the optimum spots for cask management and aging. The results are densely flavoured, complex and decadent whiskies.

Why a ballot?

At Whisky Loot, we’re all about tasting, enjoying and drinking spirit. We don’t want these bottles to sit on a collector’s shelf somewhere - we want people to taste this incredible whiskey.

With this in mind, we’ve taken the radical decision to open up our Pappy bottles and produce a Whisky Loot Pappy pack – probably the best Bourbon tasting box in the world, and an extremely rare chance to taste all three Pappy Bourbons at once. Due to scarcity of the spirit, there are only 10 packs up for grabs.

The pack contains 60ml premium tasters of Pappy van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year Old, 20 Year Old and 23 Year Old – with a combined RRP in excess of $6,500.

To make things fair, we’re opening a ballot to win the chance to purchase our Pappy Pack for $689. Enter the ballot here.

The ballot opens on Saturday 15th May 2021, and closes on the 5th June. The draw will take place on the 7th June. Active Whisky Loot members will receive another entry, and you’ll also increase your chances if you refer a friend who enters the ballot. Full T&Cs here.

Pappy van Winkle is more than just a brand; there’s a man and history behind the name. Read on to get the full story.

Pappy van Winkle – distiller and industry legend.

The story of Pappy begins in 1874, with Julian Proctor van Winkle. Julian was born to a family of lawyers and teachers, leaving the family home to be a liquor salesman in 1893 aged just 19. He joined the W. L. Weller company, which sold Bourbon and so-called “cologne” spirits - essentially flavoured and coloured neutral grain spirit.

When William Larue Weller died, himself a Bourbon legend, van Winkle and Alex Farnsley (a fellow top-performing salesman) purchased the company. Julian had already begun to produce whiskey with another distilling firm, A. Ph. Stitzel, based in Louisville, Kentucky.

Unlike proud rectifier Weller, the Stitzel family were extremely particular about the spirit they produced. Everything was to be distilled from scratch, with no additives, colouration or rectification allowed. These were beliefs that chimed with van Winkle’s own whiskey ethics. Notably, the Stitzel family made a wheated Bourbon - where wheat replaced rye as the “flavouring grain” in the mashbill.

Initially, this spirit was produced as an experiment, but just prior to Prohibition, Old Rip Van Winkle was launched. Later, when the distillery wanted to re-enter the market following the repeal (though Stitzel were allowed to continue operating as a “medicinal facility” during the era of the 18th Amendment), they found that the wheated recipe Bourbon was drinkable at a younger age compared to other mashbills. This meant they could sell some whiskey whilst they waited for their older stock to mature.

Julian van Winkle rose to become the President of the Stitzel distillery, acquiring the nickname “Pappy”, and as Prohibition fell in 1933, the legendary Stitzel-Weller company was formed. The era of “Pappy” van Winkle was here. Van Winkle’s original distillery opened on the day of the Kentucky Derby, May 4th 1935.

Pappy ran his distillery to an ethos: to make fine Bourbon “at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine Bourbon.” Signs proclaiming his approach were dotted around the distillery, with another stating “No Chemists Allowed” at the entrance indicating the art of distilling practiced at Stitzel-Weller.

Pappy not only built a reputation for being one of the friendliest distillers in the industry, but also for the quality and exclusivity of his spirit. The brands he created, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell and Old Weller, continue to be successful to this day. Pappy’s whiskey-making creed was always to make less than you can sell. At the distillery’s height, it employed about 220 people, and produced 800,000 cases a year, but only had around 50 accounts.

He had enjoyed the finer things in life, and a famous image of van Winkle smoking a cigar continues to grace images of Pappy van Winkle Family Reserve. At the time of his death, aged 91, Pappy was the oldest active distiller in America.

“There’s Pappy van Winkle, then there’s everything else.” Chef John Currence

Pappy van Winkle – the whiskey

After Pappy’s death, the distillery passed to his son, Julian Jnr., who relaunched Old Rip Van Winkle as a 7 to 8 year old Bourbon. Stitzel-Weller Distillery was sold (Bourbon sales were falling and the warehouse was filling with spirit they could not move), but Julian Jnr retained a selection of barrels, which he continued to release as “ORVW”.

It must be noted that during the famous distiller’s own lifetime, Pappy van Winkle as a brand did not really exist. The creation of the Pappy brand is largely due to one man – Julian van Winkle III, Pappy’s Grandson. Julian took control of the brand after Julian Jnr died in 1981, bringing a new sense of vitality to the previously meandering company.

He held onto his stock, added a little from the old Boone distillery and gradually increased the proof and age of Old Rip Van Winkle – until it reached 53.5% and 10 years. The Van Winkle brand moved into the still nascent premium Bourbon market in the early 1990s, releasing 12 and 15 year old Bourbons, then some of the oldest expressions ever released.

At this stage, Julian III was pretty much running the business single handed – pressing hands and knocking doors to sell his product, much as his grandfather had. In 1994, he had his great breakthrough, bottling the first 20 year old Bourbon. Julian labelled it with a picture of his grandfather smoking a cigar, and named it ‘Pappy van Winkle’s Family Reserve’. The rest, as they say, is history.

Julian "Pappy" van Winkle Smoking Cigar

Pappy van Winkle Today – Buffalo Trace

Julian’s business acumen and ingenuity saw the van Winkle brand survive and flourish. He has been named “the true master of whiskey” by Bourbon historian Michael Veach. In 1998, a bottle of Pappy scored 99/100 at the World Spirits Competition, putting the whiskey in the national limelight. Suddenly, everyone wanted Pappy. Unfortunately, the Stitzel-Weller distillery closed in 1991, meaning that the original home of Pappy was no longer operational and stock was slowly dwindling.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Since 2002, Pappy van Winkle Family Reserve has been distilled at the Buffalo Trace distillery, widely recognised as the best distillery in America. Buffalo Trace agreed to distill and age spirit to Julian’s specifications, maintaining the high standards set by Pappy.

Pappy van Winkle has gone from strength to strength ever since, and is now without a doubt the most desirable and highly esteemed Bourbon line in the world. This is why we’re so excited to get our hands on some, and for our lucky winners to get a chance to actually taste it.

Don’t forget to enter the ballot here.

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