Pope Francis called it “very good bourbon.” The late journalist and chef, Anthony Bourdain, said, “If God made bourbon, this is what he’d drink,” and later went on to tweet that he was considering getting a “full back Pappy Van Winkle tattoo.” Yes, the cult of Pappy is that serious.
There’s something about this bourbon brand that has the “it” factor, and though it fetches a pretty penny, demand is insatiably high. People really, really want it and boy, are they willing to pay for it.
Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle can cost well over $2,000 — on the low end — and there’s even a black market for the bourbon. Eager buyers should beware, however: For every legit bottle of Pappy, there are also a lot of fakes for sale created by opportunists set to prey on folks who want to spend their hard-earned dollars on the stuff.
How Much Does a Bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Cost?
The true answer to how much a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle costs is that it varies, depending on which Van Winkle product you’re looking for and how voracious the demand surrounding that particular bottling is.
Bottles from the brand have clearly reached unicorn status and are definitely not priced for casual drinking. In fact, these rare, exorbitantly priced whiskeys often fall within the alternative asset category.
Platforms like Rally allow people to invest in Pappy Van Winkle without even purchasing a bottle, according to Robb Report. Though this makes it harder for whiskey aficionados to get their hands on a bottle from the Van Winkle family, an educated buyer who really wants to get their hands on one of these whiskeys can still snag one.
Because the Van Winkle bottles are so furiously hunted and few bottles are allocated, it’s nearly impossible to find any Van Winkle bottle at retail value, unless you enter a state lottery and get very lucky. For the 99.99% who can’t get a bottle at retail, the hunt begins to find these rare whiskeys on the secondary market.
Below are the MSRPs (manufacturer’s suggested retail prices) for the core expressions from the Van Winkle family and the wide range they actually go for in the marketplace today.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year
MSRP: $69.99 | Actual Price Range: $800 – $1,200 | Read Our Review
Old Rip Van Winkle clocks in at 107 proof, and Buffalo Trace says it was bottled “as close to barrel proof as possible” at the Buffalo Trace distillery. The spirit has an addition of Kentucky limestone water added after a decade of aging. Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year has a buttery and fruity aroma of caramel fudge, coupled with brown spices and a finish infused with cherry tobacco aromas.
Van Winkle Special Reserve “Lot B”
MSRP: $79.99 | Actual Price Range: $1,000 – $3,000 | Read Our Review
This 12-year-old spirit is bottled at 90.4 proof. Buffalo Trace and Van Winkle describe the whiskey as having light aromas of dried mango, cocoa and spiced peach. This fruitier-toned whiskey has honeyed and tobacco flavors on the palate complete with a balanced, lingering and dry finish.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year
MSRP: $119.99 | Actual Price Range: $2,000 – $5,000 | Read Our Review
The 15-Year Pappy is a liquid ode to the passage of time. The wheated-recipe was selected from barrels in the warehouse and left alone to age for 15 years in charred oak.
Pappy 15 is sweet through and through, with cherry, honey, toffee, oak and tiramisu on the nose; more honey, toffee and cherry, plus vanilla, on the palate; and a long finish with toffee, caramel, strawberry and cherry yet again.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year
MSRP: $119.99 | Actual Price Range: $5,000 – $10,000 | Read Our Review
As far as star power goes, the Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year has more than its fair share. The Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year scored an unprecedented 99 at the 1998 World Spirits Championships. The 20-year-old whiskey is bottled at 90.4 proof, and its lengthy aging process lends it plenty of character, according to the brand.
This whiskey features plenty of leather, pepper, cherry and bright cocoa on the nose. It coats the palate pleasantly with notes of vanilla, toffee, caramel and cherry. The finish is remarkably long but quite tannic and dry.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year
MSRP: $299.99 | Actual Price Range: $10,000 – $40,000 | Read Our Review
This spirit is incredibly rare and took generations of distilling know-how to make. The barrels are all hand-selected after aging for 23 years in the Buffalo Trace warehouse.
The 23-year bourbon presents aromas of sweet cream, oak, toffee, tobacco, cedar, pine and red berries. The palate delivers more sweet cream and red berries, as well as powerful oak and tobacco. The finish is short and aggressively bitter, tannic and drying.
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
MSRP: 119.99 | Actual Price Range $2,000 – $4,000 | Read Our Review
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye gets our stamp of approval as the best whiskey among the Van Winkle lineup. Whiskey Raiders spirits critic Jay West selected this as one of the 10 best rye whiskeys he’s ever tasted.
The 13 years in oak lend the spirit loads of complexity, with leather, tobacco, rye spice and toffee on the nose. The palate is thick and rich with oak, toffee, pipe tobacco, stewed fruits and cocoa. The finish is long with more tobacco, cream, rye spice and a faint herbal note.