Drambox Issue 2: The Legacy of Pappy Van Winkle


Accurate and completely true screen capture.

Accurate and completely true screen capture.

These days, it's easy to feel like Jan Brady if you're involved in the whiskey industry, or serve any sort of whiskey at your bar, or own a liquor store, or randomly walk past a rich guy on the street. Someone will bring up Pappy Van Winkle. There are people out there who have never had a sip of bourbon in their life who know about Pappy Van Winkle. 

If you go drinking in Kentucky (and I certainly made a point to go hard there recently while trying to figure this out), you'll find that many bartenders and distillery employees roll their eyes and are ambivalent about the bourbon that every tourist asks them about. The Van Winkles are nice people, they say, but the hype is out of their control and out of control, period.  

So, why do an issue about the very thing that everyone is tired of hearing about? To change the framing on the whole Pappy phenomenon, away from the chase of overpriced bottles, and focus on the stories that are actually interesting. Also, if we do every possible story about Pappy Van Winkle in one shot, we'll never have to do one again. 

  • We brought in one of the best bourbon writers in the world (if not the best) to drop some long form knowledge on you about Pappy Van Winkle: the man, the myth, and the bourbon. >>
     
  • Stitzel-Weller is the distillery that Pappy Van Winkle used to run, but all anyone tries to do these days is chase and overpay for whiskey made there long after the purview of the Van Winkle clan. The story of how it came to be goes back to before Prohibition. You can still visit it today, but it's now owned by the largest liquor company in the world. >>
     
  • Van Winkle bourbons are wheated, and there are other wheated bourbons out there. How can you decide that Shake Shack is the best burger if you don't try In-N-Out? (FYI, In-N-Out is better.) >>
     
  • Several more pieces as part of a second drop in a few days, because putting out six articles all at once every six weeks feels like kind of a waste. 

I hope that some of the stories that we tell really make you re-evaluate what you think about people who freak out about Van Winkle bourbon and make it their be-all and end-all. There are a lot of other good producers out there who deserve your attention as well. At the same time, we hope that the sloppy journalists that regurgitate the same listicles about Van Winkle, using and fueling the hype, will stop. When fully published, this is going to be everything that anyone can ever write about Van Winkle, from pretty much every angle except organoleptically, in one place. It's over. Time to move on.