Monday, May 6, 2013

The Pappy Bubble

Not surprisingly, last week's Bonham's auction featured some pretty ridiculous sales.  Someone, for instance, coughed up $380 for the good but not great Ardbeg Alligator released two years ago for $100 (Keep in mind that Bonham's charges all kinds of fees so the seller didn't make anywhere near $380 but the buyer did pay it).  But what really had me scratching my head was the price for Pappy Van Winkle.  A 20 year old Pappy went for $654 and 23 year olds went for $892 and $773.  Unlike the Ardbeg Alligator, these are bottles that are in current release.  At last fall's release, the 20 year old was selling for $125 and the 23 year old was $240. If you go to places like the new Bourbon Exchange Facebook page (a site apparently set up for those who miss the pleasure of getting gouged on ebay), you will hear similar stories.  Keep in mind, the Pappys listed at the Bonham's auction did not include a date; they did not appear to be older bottles.  They were likely bottles that someone purchased within the last few years for the standard retail price.

This is exhibit one showing that there is a whiskey bubble in the secondary market that will likely collapse sometime in the near future. Currently, you have a situation in which people are willing to pay extraordinary prices for whiskeys like Pappy and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection that are not truly rare.  They may be hard to find right now, but they aren't rare in the literal sense in that there are plenty of them out there, and they are released every year.  In fact, that's the Beanie Baby model.  The product appears scarce because the company closely controls production and allocation, and in response, people hoard them.  It's very easy for a market like that to collapse.  

As an independent bottler, Van Winkle currently has a limited number of casks available for bottling, but that could change.  Tomorrow, the company could find a way to acquire additional stock allowing it to double production, or Diageo could buy the brand and quintuple production, and pop goes the more secondary market.  Some more savvy collectors would still look for certain bottle codes, but that's not most people who are driving this market, as demonstrated by the amount paid for standard bottles in the Bonham's auction.  

Even if production stays at current levels, there will eventually be a crash.  As noted above, the allocations have led to hoarding (just go to any bourbon forum or website and you'll see photos of people's collections of dozens or in some cases hundreds of Van Winkles and BTACs).  The fact that there is so much product out there is going to leave some hoarders holding so many that they will eventually have pressure to unload them.  They will move, lose their job, go into debt...or die, and their massive collections will start to trickle into the secondary market.  Eventually, people will realize that these are not so hard to come by.  And by the way, the same is true of A.H. Hirsch 16 (the most common version with the gold foil cap); even though there isn't new production and it's from a closed distillery, there is a huge amount of it in collectors' hands.  

Preston Van Winkle is none to pleased with the idea of a secondary market for his current products.  As he told me:

As for auctions, I have no problem with people selling true collector bottles, ones that will never see production again or that are truly non-existent at retail. I have a BIG problem with people buying our products purely for profit. It takes away from legitimate fans who just want a bottle to drink. Often times the people who are in it for the gain are the ones who manage to get their hands on large amounts so that makes the problem that much worse.
For my part, I look forward to a market correction which injects a modicum of sanity into this situation. It saddens me to see enthusiasts who had once preached "drinking the juice" now trying to capitalize on Pappy  fever by unloading their bottles at ridiculous prices.  It's especially ironic given Pappy Van Winkle's own creed, that he would make fine bourbon "at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must."  He had his priorities straight.  Maybe we can all take a lesson from the man whose picture is on that $892 bottle of bourbon.



Anonymous said...

"There's a sucker born every minute."

Josh Feldman said...

There are ton of new people sucked into the whisky & whiskey scene over the past few years. Many of these people hunger for "peak" or "ultimate" experiences. In the Scotch world they tend to be drawn to very old bottlings - without apparent reference to quality. I haven't tasted the $20,000 Macallan 60 year old release, but Paul Pacult gives it one star and calls it an "over oaked disaster". That didn't stop it from being in the window at Park Ave. Liquors over Christmas - in its lovely Lalique crystal decanter. The Van Winkle name has the same glamor as "50 years old" does in the Scotch world. It's the allure of the Sitzel Weller rarity story, unobtanium, and common blogosphere consensus of "amazing bourbon". Certainly some of that Sitzel-Weller juice was extraordinary (thinking Pappy 15 2009 & prior here). I haven't tried the new BT Pappy because I can't find it in NYC. It's as scarce as hen's teeth. As good as Sitzel Weller Pappy was, however - it was Bourbon. Excellent Bourbon - but there are other excellent Bourbons out there too. The mania has attached to the brand name and isn't based on rational factors.

Your expectation that the bubble will burst is based on some likely outcomes, but isn't a sure thing. Gem quality diamonds, for example, enjoy vastly inflated prices thanks to a carefully curated scarcity created by the monopoly DeBeer's. That game has been going on over a century with no end in sight. There's no reason to expect that, with manufactured scarcity and careful market management the Pappy mystique could last and last. I, personally, wouldn't bet on it either, though.

Dogleg said...

Van Winkle has been my favorite bourbon for about 10 years now. My practice has been to buy 2-3 bottles of VW 12 yr Lot B and 1-2 bottles of PVW 20 yr every 2-3 years. I'm on my last bottle of each, and have belatedly realized that the hype has guaranteed that I won't be able reload before I run dry. So now I'm on a hunt for a replacement brand. I'm going to taste WL Weller 12 yr and Jefferson's 18 yr to see if they'll work. If they do, then Van Winkle will have lost me as a long-term customer, due to the tiny allocations and the ridiculous hype. Is that really what they wanted to do with their market?

ilium55 said...

Sadly Dogleg, Jefferson's 18 supply is limited to whats on the shelves (they ran through all the barrels of it they have). I suspect that eventually tastes will shift and people with turn away from Van Winkle products, but $800 for a bottle is insane.

Anonymous said...

You see what I believe to be fake Overholt at that sale? "1911" Overholt with a SCREW TOP!?! Bonham's is total nonsense.


Anonymous said...

Agreed Anon, Bonhams is nonsense. And Dogleg, the allocations have always been there, as has the hype/brand fetishism --on a smaller scale. That's not new to long-time customers. What is new (as you know) in the ten years you've been enjoying Van Winkle bourbons is: Facebook, Twitter, forum/blog traffic, whisk(e)y critic sites, podcasts, mainstream media/online news coverage, prime-time TV celebrity chef's (Anthony Bourdain, etc.) raving about Pappy Van Winkle. Not to mention that today's entertainment media lives much longer thanks to DVR, Hulu, Netfix, iTunes, Google Play, etc. None of these realities were apparent to (much less subject to the Van Winkle's control) ten years ago. So today a sea of iPad or Android tablet users who may have never tasted whiskey--may not even know what Bourbon is--are curious why Anthony Bourdain just seemed so smitten by this booze they'd never knew existed. Just a handful of the many reasons wayyyy more people are aboard the bandwagon for a bottle... as you had been, "for about ten years now." Every consumer has their own reasons, in their own time. Your own comments suggest you never envisioned the current scale of hype ten years ago, so isn't it also plausible that even if "2003 Julian Van Winkle" totally envisioned today's cultural and technological advancements and prophesied their connection to his brand's 2013 success, that "2003 others" probably would have likely all viewed him as if he were planning a great big ark. Things are as they are, I don't think you (and many others) can unilaterally blame the Van Winkle's for that. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Not Bonhams, but how about a $303 Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams? Decent malt, I could understand $150-ish, maybe, but $303 is puzzling.

Anonymous said...

Anon, that's funny, the Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams is a current product on the LCBO shelves in Ontario for $99.95. It appears whisky auctions are now just in the business of shifting stock across jurisdictions.

Matt L said...

While it can be extremely annoying to see these prices, IMO the person buying it is to blame. The only thing that can be done is to not buy those bottles with absurd prices. Isnt that capitalism?

And while it is ridiculous and does make me agitated, I have to realize, with regard to the Bonhams auction, we're only talking about a couple of bottles. I also think looking at a place like Bonhams and seeing a few regular bottles go for exorbitant amounts of money is not totally representative of the real world. There are idiots out there with so much money that to them the MORE they pay for a bottle the better. The two bidders could have been Arab princes or Russian gajillionaires with piles of gold to swim in for all we know. They could be from anywhere in the world when it comes to an international place like Bonhams. And buying from an auction only adds to the prestige for them. Only takes 2 morons to make an auction lot go sky high. I am a frequent customer of Bonhams, buying decorative antiques, rugs, paintings, etc, and I see this type of thing happen at those auctions too. Ordinary pieces going way too high on the auction block because somebody has more money than knowledge(or sense).

The lesson here for all those who read this blog is this: don't feed the beast. Do not buy regular releases like Pappy or BTAC with ridiculous prices. If you do you can not complain. Instead, I will continue researching and calling and hunting down bottles, hoping to land one a year, if I'm lucky, at reasonable prices from retail stores. And if I don't, I'll have the self control to wait until next year.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I went into my local store here in DC, saw the classic Pappy 20 red bag and asked how much they were asking. $600. Retail. And they were confident it would move. I chuckled and left.

Adam H said...

The problem with Pappy, along with Stitzel-Weller, is that it is a fad. Fads have little to do with the actual focus of the fad itself -- instead, it's about a mentality, it's the feelings of status and importance that a fad imparts to its participants.

In this case, we're not talking about the flavors of a product. We're talking about an image and maybe a *perceived* flavor, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most of what we might call the "New Bourbon Community" haven't even tasted much of what they own (or what they aspire to own). Nor do they have the experience to be able to say why their coveted bottles are better than others, since they've tasted few others. They just parrot what they've been told by various people they look up to in the bourbon forums, on TV, in magazines, etc. They find excellence in what they've been told is excellent. That's not uncommon social behavior in any area, actually, and it's not really a "bad" thing -- just the way people are -- but it's worth pointing out.

What I've found is that many people in places like Bourbon Exchange don't even know what to *ask* for when presented with the theoretical situation, "I can trade you nearly anything you can think of. What would you like?" All they know to ask for is Stitzel-Weller and Van Winkle. I keep running into "collectors" who would rather have bottom-shelf Stitzel-Weller products than top-shelf anything-else. Which is their prerogative, of course, but it strikes me as a sad if puzzling one.

A basic blind tasting would do many of these folks heaps of good.

Matt L said...

Well obviously Pappy 20 for $600 is a ridiculous price, even if it is at a retail store. Let me just take the retail point to the next level and say close to the "suggested retail price".

Those are excellent points Adam. The problem is, all people starting out in bourbon hear about these days is Stitzel-Weller. And it becomes this mythical whiskey to them. We all read so much about Stitzel, what else are people supposed to think? Even the guys on the most well known bourbon forums that have been posting for years with thousands of posts and have been bourbon drinkers for decades talk about it like its the best that ever was. I confess all that I've ever had of it was my first bottle of Pappy 20 from back in 2008. So, I'm just as curious about a bottle of Old Weller Original as the next guy and would jump at the chance to buy a bottle of it. But for a price I considered reasonable. The difference between that and Pappys though is that they don't make it any more. And I feel different about Pappy and Stitzel Weller. Stitzel weller is a part of bourbon history. Pappys, like you said, is I think a fad. But a tasty one. ;)

Anonymous said...

Not an auction, but I nominate Highland Park Loki is $250-$270 retail, depending on the shop. That's ridiculous. Then there's Glenlivet Alpha... jeez. I've heard next year we'll see" Glenlivet Goldbrick". It's "mysterious" like Alpha, except instead of buying without knowing what you're buying, you'll pay (automated billing only) without knowing what you're paying.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure the bubble will be bursting anytime soon. The Chinese have "discovered" various luxury items and currently prop up a lot of over-priced (IMHO) products. There are other emerging markets that will further support outrageous prices for products perceived to be the "best of the best". And like the many wine drinkers that have moved on from first growth bordeaux because of pricing, we too will look for better products at better QPR's.

sku said...

There is a difference between the general retail prices and the secondary bubble I'm talking about here. Retail prices may well continue to increase, particularly because of international demand, though I think they will flatten out at some point.

The Pappy Bubble is a domestic phenomenon which has to do with secondary prices being far beyond the current retail price. It's this secondary bubble that will likely burst in the not too distant future (though apparently Robert Parker is now talking up Pappy so look for increased competition from monied wine robots who dutifully buy whatever Parker tells them to).

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand this statement: "Tomorrow, the company could find a way to acquire additional stock allowing it to double production, or Diageo could buy the brand and quintuple production, and pop goes the bubble."

I am assuming that PVW has a particular mash bill and has a particular aging scheme (specific locations in the rack house). Hence, I don't see how "additional stock" from someone else would be PVW. In fact, even if that could occur, then you'd have collectors paying yet higher prices for the original "real" PVW.

It also doesn't make sense that quintupling production would burst the bubble. This stuff takes 15 - 23 years to age.

EllenJ said...

The problem is that a diamond -- even a diamond with a lump of black coal big enough to see with your naked eye -- is STILL a DIAMOND. Nothing else looks like it, no matter how well-set. The finest cubic zirconium ring may look drop-dead gorgeous, but only if a diamond ring isn't anywhere near it. If Pappy really weren't so FAR superior to just about anything else in the bourbon world, it would be easy to write it off as a fad. IMHO that IS the case with George T. Stagg, which is another outrageously hoarded bourbon. Stagg is certainly very good, but it's essentially Blanton's on steroids. Pappy is not anything on steroids; at 107 proof for the 15-year-old and just over 90 for the twenty, people aren't ignorantly buy it for it's exhorbitant alcohol content. And there are other bourbons with that kind of age on them that are far easier to find: Elijah Craig 18 is one example.

No, the fact is that those who have tasted Pappy know and honestly can report that it is like no other bourbon. In some cases, not even itself. That is, Pappy from the pre-Buffalo Trace Lawrenceburg days when Julian was selecting old whiskey from a number of now-depleted sources had a different character than the Pappy he produces today using only Buffalo Trace juice. You can think of today's version as "more United Distillers-like than Stitzel-Weller-like". But since nearly all of the SW disciples have NEVER TASTED any Stitzel-Weller that was produced before United Distillers, that isn't a problem. Ironically, I find the Pappy 15 produced at Buffalo Trace (in the wine-type bottle) to taste BETTER than the old Lawrenceburg Pappy 15 (in the squat bottle), a phenomenon that NEVER seems to happen when brands get "upgraded" or moved to a different bottler. That anomaly is NOT true, BTW, of the 20 and 23.

Still, while rich (if temporarily so) investors continue to glom up all of the diamonds, then what we, as jewelry enthusiasts, need to do is to counter with a two-part defense:

(1) Start looking for, and discussing, and praising the features of, the best emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and so forth. And don't talk about diamonds any more. At all. No praise; no censure. Nothing. Nada. Zilch point $#!%. Even if, privately, we'd give our left nu... uh, finger for a set of real diamond earrings. If nothing else, this will make our conversations more meaningful to new bourbon... uh, jewelry collectors who are far more likely to be able to join into them and add to the environment. In the process we will all benefit from learning more about more accessible products.

(2) A marked failure to recognize and contribute to the current aftermarket (and retail) Stitzel-Weller message frenzy will stop feeding the fire. In addition, many of those "investors" whose sole purpose seems to be to hold for future sale are rank amateurs who will quickly panic and begin dumping their holdings before the price drops below the what they paid for it. Understand that none of this affects the Van Winkles or Buffalo Trace; only the aftermarket hoarders.

(Although, to be fair, it must be said that the aftermarket prices DO affect the equity value of the current inventory. That was the REAL deal with the Beanie Babies; by only releasing a fraction of the products to a more-or-less brainless "investor" base, the value - and therefore equity basis - of the remaining stock increased logrithmically. Who knows just how many cases of VW15, 20, and 23 are already bottled and sitting in Frankfort's own little Fort Knox?)

sku said...

Anon @ 9:05,
The Van Winkles currently use a variety of bourbons in the Van Winkle bottlings from three different distilleries. It may be unlikely but is certainly possible that they could find more that meets their need. Part of my point is that many of the people on the secondary market do not seem to be acting rationally, looking for date codes, etc. It's just a frenzy.

If Diageo bought the brand tomorrow and flooded the market with Bulleit in a Pappy bottle (and remember, the original Pappy expressions were not wheated so they could claim it was consistent with the Pappy heritage), the bubble would burst. Sure, some consumers would look for the older Pappys based on bottle codes or other indicators, as some do now, but that takes a lot of work and it's not most people, and certainly not enough to sustain the secondary prices we are seeing at Bonham's.

And by the way, this bubble will inflate even more now that legions of Robert Parker adherents will be looking for it, and I'm guessing most of them don't care about its provenance and haven't even heard of Stitzel-Weller.

ilium55 said...

That Parker thing is a real nightmare. I collect wine (and have done so for far longer than I have been serious about Whisky) and once Parker starts talking something up it means total insanity. Wine people (especially Parker followers) won't hesitate to drop alot money for something, and many have a great deal of clout at big liquor stores (ie the buy 1000's of dollars worth of wine per year, some on standing order). This will only make things worse.

Anonymous said...

The Robert Parker Bourbon Experience is hilarious and terrible. Hilarious because I've never been into Bordeaux and now understand how full of $%*# he is. Terrible because I am into Bourbon and I don't want to share it with orotund oenophiles.

Trey said...

As far as bourbons go, PVW is desired the most by the greatest number of people, and your opinion (which is a popular one) that it's objectively better than any other product is widely proclaimed by TV shows, Bourdain, the New York Times, and any men's magazine that needs a fluff piece on American whiskey. So when your average non-bourbon drinking yuppie/hipster finally gets to taste PVW after the hype has programmed them to know it's the best, they are going to keep calling it the best. But do they have any breadth of knowledge to back up that statement? Would they have the same opinion after tasting 5 more bourbons side by side? What about 100? The blind taste test might be a bit much for your average novice, but it's the gold standard for determining objective personal preference. The people that tend to call things "the best" are the people who take shortcuts, and just feel the need to check something off the top of their cultural experience bucket list, just like people hopscotch over the first 99 entries in the best movies/books of all time to watch Citizen Kane and Ulysses.

The enthusiasts are well tired of the PVW chase, so like sku, I agree it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets sick of it too.

Matt L said...

Can't believe the Parker thing. We are all screwed. And I'm not just talking about Pappys.

EllenJ said...

I think we're saying pretty much the same thing, although there IS an objective difference that is real. Whether that real difference equals "superiority" is subjective though, BUT ONLY TO THOSE OF US WHO ACTUALLY ENJOY BOURBON WHISKEY. The unfortunate truth is that a large portion of the people (nearly all young males looking to imply privileged social status) who are the main support of publications, television shows, books by "experts", and yes, even blogs such as this one, are mainly (if not solely) concerned with "what bourbon should I be seen drinking". The man who buys a Lamborghini to drive 20 blocks to the office, checks the time occasionally on his Rolex, and wears a Forzieri jacket in a standard rack size would be mortified to be overheard ordering "J.T.S. Brown, neat”. Or was that Eagle Rare? Rare Breed? Whoops! Better check that issue of Whisky Advocate again just to be sure what the score is this season. Oh, and what shoes should I wear?
It’s a pity, but those are the people that our hobby depends on. Our self-assigned “mission” may be to educate and enlighten them, but the very media we need for that is contingent upon their continued ignorance and dependence for guidance from writers and speakers whose own “knowledge” is often gained secondhand from each other’s own writings. When was the last time you read a critique by a pundit deploring the awful taste of a Van Winkle bourbon? If one ever did, that would likely be that writer’s last published review, n'est pas?
What I’m suggesting is that we might do a better service to those who follow our conversations to let discussion of the “icon brands” be handled by all those other sources and not mention them at all. If a brand becomes difficult to find, that should NOT be a reason for imagining it to be more desirable (although that may well be the truth), but rather a reason not to discuss the merits of that brand as though a reader not already familiar with it is likely to ever try any. Instead, we should make it a point to focus on brands (of quality, of course) that ARE within the reach of someone who needs to decide what s/he can afford to pay for a bottle of booze, and has many choices available.

Anonymous said...

I read this as someone preaching to the masses "Oh, woe be unto all of us! The hysterical masses have come to take our fish, when there was barely enough fish to go around before. Now each fish is more highly prized. We, who are the right and just, should still be allowed the same number of fish, at the same amount as we paid before, as we are the ones who are important. Those others who want our fish aren't worthy and their huge piles of money shouldn't be given preference over our meager stack of coins"

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath about this bubble bursting soon, I think you are a little out of touch with who is buying a lot of this bourbon, where it is going and the money these type of people have. You also mention this being a domestic issue, and while that may be the majority of it, I assure you there are plenty a collector/hoarder/investor/drinker overseas throwing money at it, and they have a lot of money to throw. When you have millions, or even billions in wealth this is not a bubble and these prices aren't high. The best thing that could happen to Van Winkle bourbon right now would be a 50-100% price increase, that might keep some on the shelf longer and deter those with less discretionary income from clearing shelves when the profit isn't as great or easy to turn.

@EllenJ, Really? BT Pappy15 better than the Lawrenceburg Old Rip Van Winkle 15 year old?!?! Are you crazy? The current 15 isn't even as good as the current Lot B 12 year old. It is fine to express your own personal taste, but make it clear that is just your opinion.

Anonymous said...

... Also, another point that needs made, the more you promote and talk about these auctions, the higher the price is going to go. There are a lot, and I mean, A LOT of people out there who don't know some of these auctions even exist, so all you bloggers and facebook posters who keep posting links to this bottle and that are just your own worst enemies. Keep things to yourself, seek less attention online and maybe you'd start seeing things change a little.

Barturtle said...

I think I should start a blog, complain about all the crazy prices I wouldn't pay, but instead of listing actual sale prices, I should double them, just to try to increase their values even more...daddy needs a new bicycle.

$4000 A.H. Hirsch 20? Check. $2400 Stagg '02? Check. $1300 Van Winkle 15yo? Check. $10,000 50's Old Fitz? Check.

sku said...

I'm not really speaking as someone who wishes he could buy more Pappy. Even when it was easy to find, I wasn't a big consumer of it. It's good enough, it's just never been my favorite, and I'm not much of repeat buyer of anything.

I was simply trying to illustrate a situation where I think the secondary market has gotten out of hand on a current product and will likely correct, maybe not tomorrow, but I believe it will.

EllenJ said...

Of course it's my own opinion. Why else would I be posting it? Duh! I'm sure you aren't offering your own postings as some kind of objective, authoritive wisdom that transcends mere "opinion". Right?

Anonymous said...

What we're seeing with ORVW product is how dominate asset classes always operate within secondary markets. Buying a heavily allocated retail product for 800% MSRP predominately on a gamble for future equity. CDO housing crisis anyone? People don't change.

Anonymous said...

My wife works at a big box liquor store in a big city. She has people every day asking for Pappy. And people who will pay whatever it takes to get a bottle or six. It is true that the overseas element is increasing the scarcity. They make so much more in Taiwan they would be foolish not to. They have gone from two yearly allocations to once a year. And they line up around the corner in anticipation. Bribery is not unknown or a seldom occurrence ( the attempt, anyway ).
The hype is pulling the bull by the nose, but there's a lot of bull behind it to keep the momentum.
Funny thing is, I remember the days when eBay sales where allowed and it just seems as if Bonham's is filling the void left behind by eBay. From a ground perspective at the retail level, this bubble still has a lot of hot air behind it.

Anonymous said...

Another perspective that has not been mentioned. Those outrageous auction prices are not such a big deal if you are a retailer (it is legal for them to buy product this way in New York state where the Bonham's auctions occur) who has an established presence and a list of ready buyers. Even if the merchant did not make a huge profit, it would be a great way to maintain a relationship with clients in a competitive environment.

And while I do not know if bars have the same legal means to purchase via auction, I can imagine that at least a few have been tempted to offer their best patrons a glass of something rare at an exorbitant price. Even at $600-800 a bottle, a profit can be made. I have seen Hirsch 16 on a menu for $100 for a 1 oz taste.

@alligatorchar said...

"...there is a whiskey bubble in the secondary market that will likely collapse sometime in the near future."

It's easy to underestimate how long it will take a bubble to pop. If the "data" points to a bourbon bubble popping in the next 1-2 years, then I'll bet on 4-6 years.

Anonymous said...



The bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 23 that are selling at $800+ are due to collectors desperate to get their hands on the original STITZEL WELLER juice which is true PVW!!!

All PVW 23 made in last couple of years is Buffalo Trace and is therefore not true Stitzel Weller PVW!!!!

BT can limit the supply to one bottle a year and make the bottles from solid gold if they like - It'll never be true Stitzel Weller PVW!!!

Given the fact that the Stitzel Weller distilery has now been dismanteld and thus can never be recreated, true Stitzel Weller Pappy Van Winkle can never again be produced and thus IS the true holy grail of bourbon and worth every cent of the $800+!!!

I'd pay $1000+ for a 23 if the the bottle number tells me it's the original Stitzel Weller juice because once it's gone it's gone! Even if we bring good old Pappy back from the grave I'm not sure even he would be able to put the stills back together the same way again and produce what is now without doubt the most sought after legendary bourbon known to man!!

sku said...

Anon, I agree with you that if it was just about Stitzel-Weller, it would not be a bubble, since Stitzel-Weller bourbon is truly scarce. The issue with the Pappy bubble, though, is that it's not about Stitzel-Weller. Sure, there is a subset of knowledgable buyers looking for SW juice, but most of the Pappy customers have never even heard of SW. There's a guy in New York unloading Pappy 15 for $1,000 per bottle, and the 15 hasn't had SW juice in it for several years. That's the bubble I'm talking about.

As to my personal tastes, I think Pappy 23 is over oaked. I regretted the $200 I dropped for a bottle five years ago, but certainly, if it's what you like, feel free to sell of your mutual funds.

Anonymous said...

I used to buy Pappy years ago when it was just a regular item on the local liquor store shelf. Why? Simply b/c it was a darn good bottle of bottle of bourbon for a reasonable price. It was the same for the Hirsch 16. What did I do with these bottles. I drank them or gave them to friends as gifts. Like the rest of you, I had opportunities to purchase the Pappy 23 and declined. I did not think it was worth twice what the 20 sold for.

This was of course before the current explosion of the premium bourbon market. Granted, I do wish I had a Hirsch's left to compare it against the great bourbons being released today.

Pappy is a great bourbon, but not worth the hype or craziness that follows a release. It would be nice to have a few Pappy 23's just to resell to help fund the acquisition or new bottles, like the Parker's Heritage line.

The rarity of it being from a closed distillery is nice, but not so much in an ever expanding diverse spirits market. Then again, the hype isn't even about that.

I'm skipping the Pappy from now on and putting my efforts into trying releases from new distilleries across the country. Let the bubble pop! This stuff is meant to be enjoyed, not collected.

Anonymous said...

I really hope your right on this and that Buffalo Trace finds a way to triple even quadruple production of PVW. Just go on wine-searcher, or Clubwhisky forums to check out the outrageous prices people are demanding for VW. A hoarder I personally know has paid secondary prices for dozens of bottles of PVW24 and nothing would make me happy than to see that guy be forced to drink the stuff instead of trying to keep it in the hopes of further profiteering.

Unknown said...

It's 2014 and the prices you cite look like bargains. Pappy is the holy grail of bourbon.