Monday, April 14, 2014

The Pappy Van Winkle Time Line


Given the popularity of the Van Winkle whiskeys and the number of detailed questions I see about these bottles, I thought it would be helpful to put together a chronology of the various Van Winkle releases.  I've attempted to list all the key release dates and have also tried to document changes to the appearance of the bottles so that people can better date their Van Winkles.

As you'll notice, this list includes general releases only, not private bottlings, of which there were a number in the early days.  In addition, it deals only with bottle appearance and release dates, not with where various releases were distilled.

Our chronology begins in 1972, the year the Van Winkle family sold the Stitzel-Weller distillery to Norton-Simon but kept the rights to the Van Winkle name.

1972:  Old Rip Van Winkle 7 yo 90 and 107 proof released.

1983:  Old Rip Van Winkle 90 & 107 proof changed from 7 to 10 yo.

1989:  Old Rip Van Winkle 15 released, barrel bottle.*

1990-1992:  Van Winkle 16 and 17 yo released for export only.

1991:  Van Winkle 12 yo Lot A and Lot B released (Lot B would continue).

1994:  Pappy Van Winkle 20 released.

1997:  Old Rip Van Winkle 12 Rye released, barrel bottle.

1998:  Pappy Van Winkle 23 and Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 yo released (Rye might have been released in '97).

1999:  Regular bottles for Van Winkle series changed from (very light) green glass to clear glass.

2002:  Address on Van Winkle whiskeys changed from Lawrenceburg to Frankfort when Van Winkles partnered with Buffalo Trace.

2003:  Second release of Pappy 23 (late 2003/early 2004).

2004:  Old Rip Van Winkle 15 (barrel bottle) replaced with Pappy Van Winkle 15 (regular bottle).

2007:  Digital bottle codes showing date and time of bottling begin appearing on each bottle.

2009:  Old Rip Van Winkle 23 decanter released.

Fall 2011:  Last release of Old Rip Van Winkle 10/90.

Spring 2012:  Last spring release of Van Winkle whiskeys.

2013:  Old Rip Van Winkle 10/107 changed from barrel bottles to regular bottles.

It's harder to pin down this information than you would think, and I had lots of help on this list so my thanks go out to everyone who assisted.  Particular thanks go to the Van Winkles for digging through their records to find some of the more elusive dates.

*"Barrel bottles" are the squat bottles that were used for the Old Rip Van Winkle and Old Weller lines, so called because the base of the bottle looks like a barrel, sort of.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sku,
Great info. Could add that "green glass" was faintly green. Most bourbon geeks know it but some may not.

Anonymous said...

I believe the ORVW 23 Decanter set was released in Fall 2009.

sku said...

Anon 1, good point on the glass.

Anon 2, you are correct. Thanks!

Funky Tape said...

Any info on the different color wax tops on the early 23's? I want to say 2005, but I'm not well versed on the history.

sku said...

Funky Tape, I've got no clue on the wax. Details like that (and more subtle label changes) are tough because the Van Winkles generally didn't keep records of them.

Anonymous said...

I think that you should mention the time when it went from the old juice to the newer BT barrels. And the time frames when if was mixed. The whisky geeks even know the bottle date codes. Saw some shopping specifically for the bottle dated codes last year.

Anonymous said...

A couple export notes to add:
- 700ml in bourbons until 2011. 2012 forward was all 750ml.
- rye changed to 750ml in 2009.
- 10 yo was in a current style bottle until 2011 but 700ml. 2012 was barrel style 750ml.

Anonymous said...

Sku, thanks for this immensely helpful post. One thing I am a little foggy on is from 1972 to 2002, whether the Van Winkle brands were still being made at Stitzel Weller distillery under Norton-Simon ownership, or were they simply bottling from existing stock from the Lawrenceberg warehouse.

sku said...

No one knows the answer to that question (well, no one who's talking). We know that not all of the Van Winkle brands from that period were bottled from Stitzel-Weller stocks because the Van Winkles have stated that the first editions of the 15 and 20 year old releases were distilled at the Boone distillery. Beyond that, it's certainly likely that much of what they bottled had been distilled at SW, but we don't know.

Trent said...

How do I find out what batches two bottles of Pappy 23 are? One is C2971 and one is C1870. There is no laser code that I can find looking closely.

sku said...

The written numeric codes aren't helpful. If it doesn't have a laser code (assuming it wasn't rubbed off by an unscrupulous dealer), it is from 2007 or earlier (but do look carefully for the code; it can be very hard to see against the dark whiskey). Beyond that, you would have to use the markers listed in the timeline: Does it say Lawrenceburg or Frankfort? Is it green or clear glass? Those answers will give you some idea of the date.