One wonders what Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr. would think of all the ruckus over his bourbon today.
Winkle started selling bourbon in 1870. In 1935 he opened his own distillery and sold brands such as “Rebel Yell,” “Cabin Still,” and “Old Fitzgerald.” His bourbon sold at a time when milk was 47 cents a gallon, gas went for 19 cents and 3 cents mailed a letter. Work, if you could find in during the Depression, paid as high as 72 cents an hour but often much less.
The bourbon that bears his name – “Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve” from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery – now sells for as much as $75 a drink in trendy bars. In 1935 that would have been $4.40 a shot. Pappy’s is so popular that there are websites that list whether bars and liquor stores have any to sell.
Those stores fortunate to have a few of the bottles usually have a long list of potential customers. Others, such as Southern Spirits of Fort Mill, sell their allotment by lottery. The deadline to put your name in at Southern Spirits is Dec. 6, and the drawing is Dec. 9. You must be present to collect your bottle.
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The October theft of 65 three-bottle cases of 20-year-old Pappy and 9 three-bottle cases of 13-year-old Pappy – worth more than $25,000 at retail prices – is still big news. Franklin County, Ky., Sheriff Pat Melton has a Dec. 2 news conference scheduled to discuss what he believes was an inside job at the distillery.
The fact that only 7,000 cases are released each year is one reason Pappy is so much in demand.
Pappy’s recipe is a big reason too. Pappy’s is a “wheated” bourbon. Fifty-one percent of the mash is corn. The recipe also includes malted barley. But what makes Pappy’s so smooth, say those who can find it, is the remainder of the blend is wheat not rye. The result is a softer, smoother taste than bourbons made with rye. Pappy ages gracefully in charred-oak barrels. It is meant to be consumed neat, no ice or mixer, just pure Pappy.
At a recent auction a 20-year bottle of Pappy sold for $1,190.
Doug Hinson, owner of O’Darby’s Fine Wine & Spirits of Rock Hill wants to beat that mark – for a good cause.
Hinson is auctioning off one bottle of 23-year-old Pappy to benefit Family Promise of York County. The bottle, and the limited amount of other Pappy vintages O’Darby’s received, are so precious they are locked away and not on the shelf.
Family Promise of York County is a not-for-profit organization that provides meals, shelter, support services and life skills training for homeless parents and children with the assistance of area churches, social service agencies and volunteers.
Family Promise’s goal is that homeless families regain and maintain self-sufficiency and independence in permanent housing.
Hinson is a board member of Family Promise.
“O’Darby’s benefits so much from being in Rock Hill, we have to give back,” Hinson said.
This is the first auction Hinson has held to benefit a local non-profit.
Bids are being accepted only by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Pappy Van Winkle.” All bidders must be 21 or older.
The auction started Nov. 18 and ends midnight Wednesday. The winner will be contacted Friday, and payment and pickup must be made within 24 hours. The winner must pay by check, made to Family Promise of York County.
Any amount over $349 – the retail price of the bottle – is tax deductible. O’Darby’s is donating all of the winning bid to Family Promise.
So far, the high bid is $1,849.
At a time when all area non-profits are graciously accepting any donation, $1,849 would be a big help to Family Promise. So would more money. Will the final bid be more?