First there was Julian Van Winkle, also known as Pappy. Then there was Julian Van Winkle, Jr. And now, Julian P. Van Winkle III carries on the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
His Pappy Van Winkle label, the name given to the 15, 20, and 23-year reserve bourbons, have inspired what some have dubbed “Pappy Fever.” Because they’re made in small batches and with high standards—the family motto is “We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon”—those in the know are in high competition for elusive bottles of Pappy.
As Julian says in the above video, produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, his product is “softer, smoother, and sweeter on the tongue” than others because he makes his mash with wheat instead of spicy rye. It also might be thanks to Kentucky itself: Hot summers and cold winters means the aging barrels are constantly expanding and contracting, and that back-and-forth action is partly what produces color and flavor. “It’s a buttery whiskey—smooth, like a Cognac after dinner.”
Watch the video for the full behind-the-scenes look at Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery.
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Are you a bourbon fan? What’s your favorite?