Its November, and just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving. That means that Pappy Van Winkle Hunting Season is in full swing. It has become practically a blood sport, and it is ridiculous. Ridiculous because people that know how to get them are buying them and flipping them by selling them at a profit at 5-10 times what they paid retail. It is even more ridiculous because you can more easily just buy a bottle of Michter’s 10 or 20 year bourbon, or even Orphan Barrel, and get a far better bottle of whiskey that has a lot more character and flavor. But this is just my opinion.
I have seen posts online about people attempting to follow/stalk delivery trucks and people who buy a bottle at a store and offer them cash on the spot. Not just ridiculous but insane. If someone approaches anyone in any parking lot they are asking for trouble.
To answer the obvious question and to help those in “need” I am going to tell you the easiest way to get a bottle, but you are not going to like it.
1) The easiest way is to just buy a bottle from a retailer at secondary prices. You will pay $1-3k for it, and it sucks, but that is the most simple, easiest way to get a bottle.
2) Join a bourbon or whiskey group on social media such as Facebook and enter a raffle. This still does not guarantee you a bottle, but for $50 per slot, you can buy a number and hope you win. Let’s say there are 30 spots at $50 each. You pick a number from 1-15 and whatever that lottery’s winning number is that night ending in the last digits, you win. Not to worry if someone else picks lucky number 7 or 13, you have to be the first to claim a spot. Obviously the more spots you buy the better your chances are of winning.
3) The last way is the most difficult by far and if you read this far you are a day late and a dollar short as they say. You have to build a personal relationship with a retailer. This too has no guarantees. I’ve been going to the same retail chain for over 20 years and never was able to get a bottle. Needless to say I only go there to purchase minor items like beer or wine. The stores I go out of my way to purchase 90% of my spirits from often find a way to get me at least one bottle, and only one bottle. I spend thousands of dollars each year in these stores, I know the staff, I engage in conversation, they know I am a regular, and so if they see me and I am on the list, I might be so lucky to get a bottle at retail cost.
The real question is why do you want a bottle so bad? I totally get that as a bourbon enthusiast you need to know what is so special about this whiskey. If so, go to a bar that has it, and pay $75 for a 1.5 ounce drink of it and be done. If it is to impress someone, but you are in no hurry, build a relationship with a retailer that gets an allotment of it each year. If you are trying to impress your boss, or girlfriend’s father so he will say yes when you ask to marry her, then just pay the $1-2k and be done with it.
Just so you know my experience, I’ve done all of these things. Regardless of if I can get a bottle or not, I am in the liquor store often enough, about once every other week to buy beer, wine and of course, whiskey. I drink wine with nearly every meal because I am Italian, it’s always been on the table since I’ve been alive and it cuts cholesterol, so its easy to see that I go through at least 2 bottles per week. You do the math, you see how one can easily spend over $1k/year on spirits. But the people scoring these bottle are spending well over $5-10k per year.
I got a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle in 2013, I paid $90 for it and thought it was a lot. It was good, really good, best I’ve had, so I was ok with having spent that on Thanksgiving to enjoy with my brother.
The following year I got a bottle of the 20year old and still have it. I never drink it, because I could not justify opening up a $200 bottle, especially knowing that if I was desperate I could sell it for $1,500. So, it is still in my “bunker”, but I was still very curious as to see if it was all worth the hype.
I first tasted Pappy in a bar in Kentucky and I don’t remember the price but it was under $100. I even took a photo of it because it was so ceremonious for me to finally taste it, but I was disappointed. Its good whiskey, no doubt, but having just had Michter’s 20 at the hotel I was staying at blew it away. Later that night, I had Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 22 year old and that too was better.
The next time around I went in on online Facebook raffles. My friend won 3 times in a month, I lost three times then gave up. Again, its just not worth it, even if you gamble for fun.
The very last time I drank Pappy was when I was friendly with a fellow co-worker. She was rolling her eyes and telling me that her husband was out camping online in the rain outside a liquor store to get a bottle of “Paddy”. I eventually became friends with her husband and we clicked and one night we went out and he presented a bottle of the Van Winkle Reserve Lot B (aged 12 years). Again, it was good, but I was far more impressed with the Dickle 13 year sour mash. In fact, when he offered me another drink of the Pappy 12 (which is not officially Pappy since it only comes with his face on the bottle in 15, 20 and 23 year), I politely declined and asked if I could have the Dickle instead.
Again, I understand one’s need to taste it, which is why I say just go to a bar and buy a shot of it. It is expensive but you get it out of the way. But if it is to get a bottle to resell at and make money, not only is that illegal, but you have a ton of competition. If you are trying to impress someone, pay full secondary price for it, or plan in advance to do a lot of research and spending a lot of money from retailers hoping to score a bottle.