Local News
6:00 am
Sun December 2, 2012

What Were You Drinking Last Night? Probably Not Pappy Van Winkle.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

A elusive Kentuckian named Pappy has New York City hearts aflutter.

On Tuesday, the New York Post's website ran a story bearing the headline, "This Season's Most Wanted." The story was about bourbon -- bourbons from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, to be exact -- that's made in small batches and confronting big demand.

Other stores don’t even bother with a list: Paul Bressler, the spirits buyer at 67 Wine and Spirits on the Upper West Side, used to keep one, but it led to too much frustration, he says.

“You’d have 50 people on a waiting list, then 10 bottles come in, and you have 40 unhappy people,” says Bressler. “Everybody wants it, and nobody will accept the fact that they’re not going to get it.”

Poor New Yorkers, coveting Kentucky's signature drink with no satisfaction, right? Well, you're not much likelier to get a sip of Pappy, as aficionados call the various bourbons produced by the Kentucky distillery.

The bourbon -- in any variety, but especially the most coveted Family Reserve 23 Year -- is difficult to find in any populous area, said Chris Zaborowski, co-owner of Westport Whiskey & Wine in eastern Louisville. 

"They want anything with Van Winkle on it," he said.

And, no, Westport Whiskey & Wine doesn't have any in stock.

Zaborowski's shop had a small shipment near Election Day, but all of the bottles were quickly claimed. Pappy seekers may have better luck at a small town liquor store, where others aren't thinking to look, he suggested.

"I'm talking country," he said.

Kentuckians are into bourbon -- but New Yorkers despairing over an inaccessible bottle isn't so common. A few years ago, whiskey publications gave rave reviews to Pappy's Family Reserve 23 Year and set off the frenzy, Zaborowski said.

That's great news for the Van Winkles, except that bourbon isn't an iPhone -- production can't simply be accelerated to meet the demand.

Bourbon is aged -- the youngest Van Winkle bourbon is aged 10 years. The really good stuff is aged 23 years.

It's difficult to predict demand 23 years out; the bourbon market was slumping when this year's 23-year batch was sent to the barrels, Zaborowski said.

About 7,000 cases go out, the New York Post reported, and that's that.

The other option to get Pappy, besides heading on a road trip to nowhere, is finding a seller on Craigslist.

I found a couple of listings recently posted to Craislist.com's Louisville page. A listing out of Middletown asked  $500 for a bottle of the 23 Year. Another listing to the Louisville page asked for $600 for the 23 Year, $400 for the 2o Year and $300 for the 15 Year -- and with this caveat: "Must be picked up in Chicago."