Buffalo Trace announced this week the imminent availability of the most-coveted bourbon in the country: Pappy Van Winkle. The bottles of this much-beloved liquor are already shipping, and will be on sale next month.
2020 isn’t exactly the same as past years, with pandemic conditions creating a lot of shipping and shopping nightmares of would-be bourbon hunters.
For the uninformed, the annual release of the Van Winkle bourbons (and one rye!) sees bourbon nerds scooping up as much of the six expressions of Van Winkle as they can, sometimes to stockpile, other times to re-sell for a profit.
The official releases will begin at the start of November, depending on your local liquor market. Whether you’re going to brave the hellscape yourself or just watch from the safety of home, here are three things you should know about this year’s Pappy hunt.
1. The Total Supply Is Different This Year
While Buffalo Trace never reveals how many bottles of each Van Winkle bourbon (and rye) are actually filled each year, the distillery explained that for 2020 there would be less of the 20-year and 23-year bourbons to go around, because the barrels allotted for 2020, “yielded far fewer bottles this fall.” Stuff happens—in 2015, for instance, the distillery was only able to release about half of the supply they put out in 2014.
The good news, though, is that a larger supply of the equally coveted (and less expensive) Van Winkle 13-Year Rye will be made available—we hope that means a lot more.
2. Secondary Market Prices Haven’t Gotten Any Better
While the price list for the Van Winkle whiskeys looks fairly affordable, the reality is that with less than 100,000 bottles of whiskey produced across all six expressions, there aren’t a lot of these to go around, and after the first-come frenzy has subsided, up-sellers and secondary marketers still dictate the market. Here’s how Buffalo Trace prices the line:
$70, Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10 Year Old 107 proof
$80, Old Rip Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12 Year Old
$120, Old Rip Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Year Old
$120, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15 Year Old
$200, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20 Year Old
$300, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23 Year Old
However, the real prices can be more than six times the price—just like in years past.
Buffalo Trace hates this secondary market (and its pricing), but they’re not able to do much about it other than reporting what they see to the likes of Facebook, Craigslist, and other platforms where the bottles are resold.
As a general reminder, it’s illegal to buy or sell alcohol without a license, and there’s a robust counterfeiting problem in the space, so the best advice really is to not buy second-hand bourbon.
3. Buffalo Trace Wants You to Call the BBB on Overpriced Bottles in Retail Shops
Exhausted by the complaints they have to field, the folks at Buffalo Trace are going on the record to condemn all the retailers that mark these whiskeys up to exorbitant prices. The entire line of whiskeys from 10-year up to the infamous 23 are all priced between $70 and $300—same as always. But retailers have begun ratcheting up their own prices to capitalize on secondary demand, pushing some of the retail prices up into the thousands.
Buffalo Trace has worked with distributors to try and dissuade retailers from doing these markups, but they can only do so much. Senior Marketing Director Kris Comstock says that if you are a customer “trying to buy a bottle at a licensed retailer who has marked it up above MSRP, we encourage you to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or contact your state Attorneys General office.”