The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery says it's releasing fewer of its oldest bourbons this year, but the prices haven’t budged.

By Mike Pomranz
October 07, 2020
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Certainly, 2020 has been one of those years where whiskey has seemed a solid choice all year long. But for bourbon collectors, one day always looms large on the whiskey calendar: the annual Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery release announcement. That news has just arrived, and, as usual, if you want all the details on all the different bourbons you have very little chance of obtaining—or even trying for a reasonable price—we’ve got you covered.

For those not hip to the Van Winkle scene, these whiskies—and in particular, the top-end “Pappy Van Winkle” bourbons—are some of the most coveted around and regularly sell for massive markups beyond their already stiff prices. Part of the expense comes from the brand’s incredible reputation: And for any doubters, this year’s announcement reminds us that recent awards include “the 20-year-old receiving a double gold medal, best bourbon, best small batch bourbon at the 2018 New York International Spirits Competition and the 15-year-old nabbing a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.”

Credit: Old Rip Van Winkle

But an even bigger component of the fervor is scarcity—despite the fact that Van Winkle has been part of the Buffalo Trace umbrella since 2002—and, as usual, low stockpiles are a big part of Old Rip  Van Winkle’s tale in 2020. “While the amount of 10, 12 and 15-year bourbon will be about the same as previous years, unfortunately the 20 and 23-year-old barrels yielded far fewer bottles this fall,” the distillery laments. “Good news is there is more 13-year rye than in years’ past.”

Otherwise though, compared to last year’s release, nothing has changed. Even the pricing, which increased a bit after 2018, is the same for 2020. Here’s the list and suggested price:

  • Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10 Year Old 107 Proof ($69.99)
  • Old Rip Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12 Year Old ($79.99)
  • Old Rip Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Year Old ($119.99)
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15 Year Old ($119.99)
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20 Year Old ($199.99)
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23 Year Old ($299.99)

Of course, speaking of prices, the distillery has offered up its usual warning/caveat. “Unfortunately, even though we suggest what we believe to be a very low and fair MSRP, we cannot control the price retailers charge, and some retailers mark it up even though we and the distributors that those retailers buy from ask them not to,” Julian Van Winkle, president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, stated. “We are committed to releasing quality whiskey at a reasonable cost and we hope retailers will honor what we suggest as a fair retail price.”

All six whiskies will begin hitting select stores, bars, and restaurants next month. However, if you’re serious about trying to score a bottle, your best bet is to keep an eye out for things like statewide release lotteries or scheduled tasting events starting now since it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to simply waltz into your local liquor store and find one behind the counter.

Meanwhile, if paying a monster price tag for limited run bourbon isn’t your thing, how about shoes? Last month, the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery announced a collaboration with the apparel brand Wolverine to release a limited-edition Wolverine 1000 Mile Old Rip Van Winkle boot which, beyond being whiskey-colored, also features American white oak barrel heels. Unsurprisingly, these $400 boots are already sold out, however, a few pairs are currently up for auction to support the Mike Rowe Works Foundation which promotes careers in skilled labor.