The Washington Post

Pappy Van Winkle is on its way to D.C.

Bill Thomas, shown here with a fraction of Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s massive bourbon collection, expects the much-sought-after Pappy Van Winkle bourbons to arrive in D.C. next week. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

[Update: It’s here.]

All Pappy and Old Rip Van Winkles back in stock! Plus Classic Cocktails on special all night...Drink More Bourbon

— Bourbon DC (@BourbonBarDC) December 7, 2012

[Original post]

Psst: The country’s most sought-after whiskey is on its way to Washington again.

Pappy Van Winkle, the ultra-rare, much-in-demand bourbon beloved by both connoisseurs and casual whiskey drinkers, could arrive in Washington “in the next week,” said Bill Thomas, the owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon and Bourbon. He has spoken to sources at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, where Pappy is made under the auspices of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, and the question now is just how much his three bars are going to get.

That’s actually the question every bar and liquor store in the area is asking, since Pappy Van Winkle is a true small-batch bourbon. Only 7,000 cases of the spirit — a blend of wheated bourbons from the Buffalo Trace, Bernheim or Stitzel-Weller distilleries, depending on the age of the bottle — are produced each year.

Do the math: That’s 42,000 bottles of Pappy for the entire country, distributed among liquor stores, bars and restaurants.

If you’re curious about sampling the Van Winkle collection, it won’t come cheap. Thomas is guessing the 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve will cost $65 per two-ounce pour, once it’s actually at his bars. The 15- and 20 year-olds will be in the $40 range, while the rye and the 12-year-old Lot B should cost around $25.

The price “has literally gone up 300 percent in three years,” he said, as the bourbon’s mystique grew and more bars and restaurants began trying to get their hands on it. Five years ago, both Bourbon locations received their own cases of the 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, the 15-year-old Pappy and the 23-year-old Pappy. Last year, Thomas received one bottle of the rye between all three of his locations. “The rest of the city caught up,” he said ruefully.

Speaking of other restaurants, Smoke and Barrel and Bourbon Steak both said they’re definitely getting an allocation, and have gotten it in the past. We should know more about other restaurants receiving an allotment once the whiskey actually hits D.C.

Those trying to score bottles at liquor stores are going to have it tough, and not just because bottles can cost up to $350 each. Plain Old Pearson’s in Glover Park has a five-year waitlist for the 23-year-old Pappy, with a wait of at least two years for the other varieties.

Schneider’s of Capitol Hill has been receiving calls daily asking whether the Pappy has arrived. There’s a good reason for that: Last year, the whole shipment was gone in less than an hour. The Old Rip Van Winkle distillery Web site has a handy list of liquor stores that have sold Pappy in the past, so you might want to put them on speed-dial.

If you’re lucky enough to find Pappy, get it. I sampled the whole line in Louisville back in September, and while the smooth, oaky-sweet 23-year-old was fantastic, my favorite of the bunch was the 15-year-old, which has a fine bite of spice to go with butterscotch and caramel flavors. Happy hunting.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.


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