EXCLUSIVE: Rare “Pappy Van Winkle” arrives in Utah liquor stores

SALT LAKE CITY — The rare bourbon known as “Pappy Van Winkle” has arrived in Utah liquor stores, and it’s being sold at deeply discounted prices thanks to the way state alcohol laws are written.

Bottles of the exclusive Kentucky bourbon were handed out to a swarm of people lined up outside a liquor store near 1300 South and 300 West on Wednesday morning, who had heard whispers it had arrived. Liquor store employees would only sell one bottle per person.

“It’s so coveted that everybody wants to have a piece of it,” said one man, who bought a bottle of the 20-year-old bourbon. “It’s just a truly artisan crafted bourbon that is so rare, that the scarcity of the product and the quality just drives demand for it. Crazy!”

The liquor stores that had bottles of Pappy Van Winkle sold out in minutes after word spread it was there. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would not say much about it.

“Utah received one shipment of Pappy Van Winkle,” the agency said in a written response to FOX 13’s questions. “The supplier identified two allocations of the shipment: one to clubs and restaurants; and one to state stores.”

Many state stores were slated to get shipments Thursday, but the DABC refused to say which ones were getting bottles because of security concerns. On Twitter, people traded locations and reports of which stores had them — or had sold out.

At a store near 200 South and 300 East on Thursday, dozens of people lined up early in the morning for a chance at a bottle.

“There’s none left,” an employee at the liquor store said as he stepped out to inform the crowd gathered outside.

“Noooooo!” a man said, throwing his hands up in the air and wailing. Others chuckled as they turned and walked away.

Liquor store manager Ron Harris said the 30 bottles he had were gone in 14 minutes.

Pappy Van Winkle is so coveted, 65 cases were heisted in Kentucky last year. Bottles can sell for hundreds of dollars. At an auction last year, a bottle of the 20-year-old bourbon sold for nearly $1,200.

But under Utah statute, Pappy Van Winkle is being sold for a bargain — the 20-year bottle is being sold for $140; a bottle of the 10-year Rip Van Winkle bourbon was purchased for only $42.

“By statute, the price is cost plus 86-percent (markup),” the DABC told FOX 13.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, who has sponsored liquor legislation in Utah, said it was a case where state control of liquor worked against it.

“It’s definitely a direct consequence of the state’s control of the market,” he said. “That can work in your favor with revenue collection, and it certainly in this case can work against you.”

Wilcox has favored privatization of liquor sales in Utah, with the state maintaining taxation authority. He called the sales of Pappy Van Winkle a “missed opportunity.”

“The market is reacting to control price that doesn’t exist outside of a controlled market,” Wilcox said. “We have bottles selling of that particular brand upwards of $1,200 in other states and where we could be making over a thousand dollars a bottle, we’re making a lot less than that.”

The DABC warned against people attempting to buy Pappy Van Winkle and turn around and sell it.

“It is illegal to buy a bottle and sell it to someone else in Utah or selling it to someone outside of Utah if the transaction originates in Utah unless you are a licensee, military installation or the DABC,” the agency said.

One customer who snapped up a bottle said he wasn’t planning to sell it.

“It’s worth more in my hands than anywhere else,” he said.

11 comments

  • Paul Racchetta

    Utah has no problem poisoning it’s citizens with low cost liquor, but heaven forbid two men get married. Shows what kind of morals they have.

  • Bob

    This is not incredible pricing, these are the RETAIL prices suggested by the manufacturer. The stores selling bottles for $1200 are price gouging, and the owners of the Van Winkle distiller have publicly spoken out against this. Way to figure a legislator would be all for price gouging.

  • japhy

    Just to be crystal clear – they are selling these bottles essentially at MSRP. Do a little research next time FOX

  • Mike

    “Truly artisan-crafted bourbon?” Many bourbons are. Scarcity is the primary driver of this craze. I’d be willing to wage a considerable sum that most of the individuals purchasing this stuff, at a premium or otherwise, know very little about the juice in the bottles and the fact that–with the exception, I believe, of the 23 year–it’s Buffalo Trace whiskey, not the original [crazy good stuff] from Stitzel-Weller.

    As we all know, people want what they can’t have. Perception can profoundly impact how much we think we like something which is important to keep in mind; whoever throws down $1200 for a bottle of 20 year old bourbon will most likely declare it to be the best bourbon on the face of the planet…but there is always a chance they will also be very disappointed when, if they know anything about bourbon, they realize it isn’t much different than your average higher-end bourbon.

    Is it good? Yes. Is it worth getting stupid over? No.

    • Bourbon

      All ages of Pappy are produced within buffalo trace’s facility in partnership with the Van Winkle Family (who still markets and sells it all). Demand is driving the price sure but the 15 year consistently wins first prize in blind taste tests all over the world, it’s not at all the Buffalo Trace knock off you suggest.

      FYI

      • Mike

        I was actually just commenting that the product is not of the same supply as the original stuff that put it on the map (that stuff was truly limited and scarce), and many people are lacking that perspective. People can become very irrational very quickly. If you re-read my original comment, I was merely suggesting that the hype has created frenzy around the product. You are correct; demand will drive the price but what’s more is that perception is the key driver of that demand, not the product alone. This perception is a product of the hype, and I can assure you the hype is by design; Buffalo Trace has no shortage of bourbon and could fill the shelves of our local stores with Pappy Van Winkle if they wanted to.

        BTW, I have no qualms about the 15 year Pappy consistently winning prizes, it’s good stuff but most people aren’t experienced high-profile judges of whiskey and really wouldn’t be able to discern between it and a $30 bottle of 10 year Eagle Rare. At the regular/reasonable tag of $80 a bottle, the 15 year Pappy is great bourbon.

    • Trevor Gowe

      I’d be willing to bet YOU know very little about it. In fact, it’s clear you know very little about it when you comment that it’s Buffalo Trace.

      It’s clearly not. It’s made in the Buffalo Trace distillery. The recipe and methods of production remain the same as ever though.

  • Mike

    Having tried many many bourbons…including Buffalo Trace, the Van Winkle 20 years IS NOT Buffalo Trace. It also sells in most cities for about $229…not like the $1200 from the auction. But, the idea that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the 15 year pappy and 10 year Eagle Rare is a far reach…granted the Eagle Rare is good…but there is NO comparison. I’ll even test your theory tonight with a few people,

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