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Even if you don’t know much about bourbon whiskey. You probably know the name pappy van winkle bourbon. It has become something of a cult among. Collectors and aficionados of the classic American spirit. But why is Pappy so expensive? One might as well ask why. Ferraris are so expensive, or why bottles of Screaming Eagle. The long-time king of California cult wines, consistently fetch such exorbitant prices.

Why Is Pappy Van Winkle So Expensive?

BY CHRIS SANDS/UPDATED: APRIL 14, 2022 11:33 AM EDT.
Even if you don’t know much about bourbon whiskey, you probably know the name Pappy Van Winkle. It has become something of a cult among collectors and aficionados of the classic American spirit. But why is Pappy so expensive? One might as well ask why Ferraris are so expensive, or why bottles of Screaming Eagle. the long-time king of California cult wines, consistently fetch such exorbitant prices.
The answer is quite simple in purely economic terms. This is what happens when limited supply meets very high demand. It’s the scarcity principle in action. For supply and demand to reach an equilibrium, The Business Professor explains, the scarcity principle dictates that the price of a rare product be increased until only a favored few can afford the limited offerings available. You can ultimately get some of the best bourbons for under $50, but an occasional splurge is always worth the fun.

It’s an excellent explanation for how some products become outlandishly expensive, but it does little to explain what it is about these products that so utterly captured the imagination of consumers in the first place. In the case of Pappy Van Winkle, the backstory is as much a part of the allure as the well-aged liquor in those notoriously hard to find bottles.

What is Pappy Van Winkle?
Before, we dive deeper into Kentucky bourbon history, let’s first establish exactly what the Pappy brand entails. As Wine Enthusiast notes, when we talk about Pappy Van Winkle, we’re really only talking about three products: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve bourbons aged 15, 20 and 23 years. The 20-year-old was first launched in 1994, the 23-year-old in 1998, and the 15-year-old in 2004.
The bourbons are name for Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr. A founder and long-time president of Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Shively, Kentucky. Until his death in 1965 (via The New York Times). The Old Rip Van Winkle brand, created by Pappy, was kep alive by his son Julian Van Winkle Jr. after Stitzel-Weller sold in 1972 (it’s now closed), and Julian Van Winkle III added to the portfolio after his father’s death in 1981.
At a time, Old Rip Van Winkle is only available in 10-year-old 90- and 107-proof bourbons. It was Julian Van Winkle III who introduce the now-legendary Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbons, which, since 2002, have been make in a joint venture with Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. A 12-year-old Van Winkle Special Reserve and 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye have since be adde to the collection (via Buffalo Trace Distillery).
Both the Old Rip Van Winkle and the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve labels are produce at Buffalo Trace Distillery and remain in high demand. Our Van Winkle bourbons are crafte with Pappy’s original “wheate” recipe. Distilling with corn, barley, and wheat allows the whiskey to age more gracefully giving it a softer, smoother taste. This time-honore aging produces some of the most sought-after bourbons in the world. It is also one of the few bourbons to remain flawless after aging more than 20 years.
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