Interesting Van Winkle Notes

I'm often asked about the Van Winkle bourbons (why they're supposed to be so good, who makes them, etc.) and I found that there was onc question that I got asked this year which I was unable to answer: "If Stitzel-Weller closed in 1992, then how is the whiskey still 15 and 20 years old?"  I was pretty sure that all of the stocks were sitting in stainless steel vats (so that they remain 15 and 20) just waiting to be bottled every year.  I knew that was the case with the Sazerac 18, but I wanted to make sure so I emailed Preston Van Winkle to find out.

Interestingly enough, I was right about the 15 and 20, but wrong about the others.  Apparently, the Pappy 15, 20, and 23 are the only entries that are still being sourced from old Stitzel-Weller reserves, making them true Pappy whiskies.  The 10, 12, and 13 rye are now whiskies that were made either at Bernheim or at Buffalo Trace, so they are new generation Van Winkle whiskies from Preston and Julien, rather than reserves. For those of you who are clueless as to what I am talking about, I'll fill you in quickly.  The "Pappy" is the grandfather of Julien and Preston who made whiskey at Stitzel-Weller distillery which closed in 1992.  When you see the Pappy smoking his cigar on the bottle, you're drinking his distillery's whiskey that is still sitting in a tank and is being slowly bottled over the years.  However, it will eventually run out, which is why Preston and Julien have been making new Van Winkle whiskies at Buffalo Trace.  They don't have any 15 or 20 year old bourbon yet to sell, but it appears they do have 12 and 10 year old stock because that is what you are drinking this year (and maybe for the previous few for all I know).

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll