American Bourbon By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / October 10, 2019 One of the true crescendos of the annual fall higher end American whiskey release, hunt and collect cycle is the upcoming drop of Van Winkle whiskeys from Buffalo Trace/Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. As is always the case information about these bottlings from the distillery powers that be come with the official caveat of “we cannot control the price retailers charge” which, by extension, also means the secondary market. That being said, here is what you need to know. Like previous years, according to those behind the Van Winkle whiskeys, yields from the barrels are low due to evaporation during the long aging cycle. As a result said inventory of the five bourbons and one rye in this line up is always very limited and hard to come by. Official pricing as set by the distillery and other information indicates the following for each whiskey: Around $70 – Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10 Year Old 107 proof Around $80 – Old Rip Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12 Year Old Around $120 – Old Rip Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Year Old Around $120 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15 Year Old Around $200 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20 Year Old Around $300 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23 Year Old Now, make sure to snap shot those prices in your head. The likelihood you’ll actually see them anywhere at the MSRP is extremely, extremely, and we do mean extremely, unlikely. The Van Winkle whiskeys will be available starting in November, but it is said to “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. The Van Winkle whiskeys of fall 2019 (image via Buffalo Trace) “Unfortunately we cannot control the price retailers charge, so some retailers mark it up beyond our MSRP, even though we ask them not to,” said Julian Van Winkle, president, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, in a prepared statement. “We are committed to releasing a quality product and hope retailers will honor what we suggest as a fair retail price.” Particularly, upon release of the Van Winkle whiskeys this fall, Buffalo Trace seems to be strongly warning consumers to be wary of online resellers such as Craigslist and other online marketplaces, especially private Facebook and MeWe groups. “Trading and selling bourbon online is an unlicensed and illegal sale,” added Kris Comstock, senior marketing director at Buffalo Trace Distillery. “Purchasing bourbon online from unlicensed parties is dangerous. The product may be counterfeit and unsafe. If you are not a licensed retailer and you are selling Van Winkle products, we are prepared to take action to curtail the activity.” As an aside, here is the history of the Van Winkle whiskeys, the folks behind it and Buffalo Trace’s role in it for your consideration: 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. Stitzel’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.