How to Score a Bottle of Pappy Van Winkle

Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle
Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle
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Pappy Van Winkle may be one of the most famous bourbons around, and it’s not just because of its quality, although the quality is at the highest level and to be respected. Still, it’s a little bit about the mystery of it as well. Where do all the bottles of Pappy Van Winkle go? Why is it so hard to find?

The hefty price tag

According to Distillery Trail, in October of 2022, Buffalo Distillery released six different Van Winkle whiskey expressions and encouraged fans with the exciting news that there would be more of their infamous whiskey available than usual. Still, the bottles vanished quickly. And they don’t go cheaply. Pappy Van Winkle’s retail suggested prices range from about $70 to $300, depending on the bottle. Unfortunately, when it leaves the shelves and is sold on the secondary market, prices skyrocket.

One of the reasons Pappy Van Winkle is so expensive is because of supply and demand. Bourbon fans want it, and they’ll pay to get it. It isn’t the distillery’s fault that so little is released at a time (usually about 84,000 bottles). When a bourbon ages 10, 15, 20, or 23 years, a lot of the alcohol evaporates. They don’t get back out what they put into the barrel. Even so, there is hope.

Auction online

The online auction is a unique way to find a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. It’s also a way to spend a lot of money on bourbon. A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 once sold at a Sotheby’s auction for a mere $52,000. These auctions mean business. Still, every auction is different and certainly worth a shot.

A rare liquor auction works just as any auction, awarding the bottle to the highest bidder. You hop on when it’s time and place your bid. If you win against other bidders, the bourbon is yours. Just make sure you read the fine print at an auction. There are sometimes hidden fees and commissions you could end up paying as well. Rare liquor auctions vary depending on the site, so it’s wise to find a couple to follow so you’ll be notified as they come up.

Enter a lottery

This isn’t the type of lottery where you can win cash; however, you might have a chance at a bottle of Pappy. Many liquor stores try to keep the Pappy Van Winkle purchases fair by offering a lottery where customers enter their name, and if it’s drawn, they get a chance to buy the latest release of Pappy.

Chris Blandford, who is a Kroger Adult Beverage Field Specialist in Louisville, Kentucky, tells The Courier Journal, “Bourbon should go to everybody, and I want it to be fair,” Blandford said. “It’s one of the things I’m really proud of because it gives everyone in Louisville a chance.” That’s exactly why a lottery is a great option. It gives any person an opportunity to try an exceptional bourbon.

Lotteries also help the liquor stores because it’s a fair system, and they don’t have to worry about a crazy rush of people running in, trying to score a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery recommends that Pappy fans get on as many waiting lists as possible and sign up for multiple lotteries when the time comes.

Get Social

Facebook image

Everything and everyone is on social media. Whether you enjoy it or not, if you’re a business owner or in search of something, it’s foolish not to make your presence known on social media. When searching for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, social media platforms like Facebook are very helpful.

There are different Facebook groups where you can find like-minded people. That means you can get to know others who are looking for Pappy as well. Even better, you can connect with stores that stock it and create waiting lists. Connecting with other bourbon fans is fun since you all have something in common, and when it comes to Pappy, it’s also resourceful.

Someone may have information that you don’t have about an auction, a lottery, or a location. According to Esquire, Facebook played quite a role in the bourbon boom these past years. Bourbon took a back seat to clear spirits, such as vodka and gin in the 1960s. Then in 2006, when Facebook came to life, coincidentally, so did bourbon.

Some feel that Facebook helped it along since people who had never even met each other could now discuss and sell bourbon online in Facebook groups. Many groups have since been shut down because it’s not legal to sell liquor without a license. Even so, you can still make social connections online with bourbon enthusiasts, which leads to helpful Pappy Van Winkle connections.  

Good luck

Some guys have all the luck and you could be next. Once in a great while, a liquor store sets out a bottle of Pappy as if it’s no big deal. Customers usually assume there is no Pappy sitting around. Look high and low at stores and you might find a fun surprise, especially at stores that are off the beaten path.


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Meet Melissa

Bourbon stole my heart a few years ago when I had several opportunities to write about it. Food stole my heart when I was lucky enough to be raised by a mom who managed to make nearly everything from scratch when we were growing up.