Buffalo Trace Distillery and the Van Winkle family proudly announced the release of 2022 Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and the rest of the Van Winkle collection of whiskeys, which go on sale as early as this month.
You’ve seen plenty of critics, influencers, whiskey nerds, and journalists remark on the whiskey’s high demand, uber-rarity and deliciousness over the years, and while we could expound on the same thoughts about one of the most coveted bourbons on the market today, we thought we’d spare you the sales pitch.
After all, these whiskeys sell themselves—so well, in fact, that many bottles of Van Winkle bourbon never actually touch a shelf before they’ve been spoken for.
Most people get their hands on Van Winkle whiskey on the secondary market or after-market, which Buffalo Trace warns can be dangerous due to rising incidence of counterfeiting. That’s not to mention the elaborate crime organizations that have existed in the past to steal and resell this whiskey from its own distillery.
Anyway, rather than retread that ground, we thought we’d give you information you actually need this year. Here are five things you should know about Pappy Van Winkle bourbons and ryes in 2022.
1. What will Van Winkle whiskeys cost this year?
Buffalo Trace always shares its suggested retail prices for Van Winkle bourbons and rye with the public, perhaps in hopes of promoting market transparency, and perhaps just as a way to cut down on death threats.
In all seriousness, the Van Winkle whiskeys have generally held fair prices at the distiller level for the entire time the brand has existed. Take this year for instance, where the entire line of six whiskeys ranges from a fully affordable $70 to a still-manageable $300 for the most coveted bottle. While that range represents a 13-year age spread, it’s nevertheless in keeping with (or more affordable than) comparably aged products on the market today.
Here’s a complete list of 2022 prices for the six whiskeys:
- Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10-Year-Old: $70
- Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12-Year-Old: $80
- Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13-Year-Old: $120
- Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15-Year-Old: $120
- Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20-Year-Old: $200
- Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23-Year-Old: $300
2. Why will I (almost certainly) pay more than suggested retail?
You’ll pay more than what we listed for two reasons. First, pretty much every liquor store that we’re aware of legally has to charge you a sales tax. Depending on where you live, that might be pennies or dollars—a lot of that depends on liquor and sales taxes in your area.
The second and far more impactful price modifier is demand, and the secondary market. While some state-run liquor stores are forced to sell products at standardized prices, other privately owned stores can essentially mark these bottles up to whatever they want—and they can get it.
That’s because the secondary market value of these bourbons can reach into the thousands—a whole set can go for an excess of $14,000 in some cases, and those prices do keep heading up.
“Although we would prefer for retailers to charge our suggested retail pricing, unfortunately we cannot legally force them to do so,” Julian Van Winkle III, president of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, said in a statement. “The best chance to find our products at a fair price is through lotteries offered by many retailers, where fans have a chance to buy our bourbon at MSRP. Many of these lotteries benefit charities, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The hallowed 23-year-old bourbon is always most likely to see a markup, so train yourself not to be excited to see this bourbon on a shelf until you eyeball the sticker first.
3. Why is 20 years of Buffalo Trace important?
2022 is the 20th anniversary of Buffalo Trace’s partnership with the Van Winkle family and brand. It was 2002 when the Van Winkles began switching certain products to the Weller mash bill—the wheated bourbon recipe now used for most (and probably all) of the new bottles of Van Winkle whiskey.
Weller bourbons were actually produced by the Van Winkles until 1972, when Weller was sold off. It was acquired by Buffalo Trace Distillery later on.
In the past, the Van Winkles had sourced whiskey from other distilleries, including buybacks of old bourbon from the Stitzel-Weller Distillery and others that had been sent off to Canada for the production of Crown Royal in previous decades. Try not to think about how many potential bottles of Pappy ended up in Crown and Cokes in the ‘90s and early 2000s.
4. Which bottle does Buffalo Trace say is the best in 2022?
While it’s rare to see a distillery play favorites, Buffalo Trace’s sensory panel commented this year that the most outstanding bottle of the 2022 collection is the 15-year-old bourbon, which in our opinion is generally considered the under-appreciated middle child anyway.
Sensory experts at Buffalo Trace called it particularly delicious, saying of the whiskey that it’s, “An unbelievably opulent and flawless bourbon that takes wood and distillate to its absolute pinnacle.”
It’s something to think about in the unlikely event you’re given a choice between labels.
5. When is Van Winkle bourbon typically available?
When a distillery bottles up their product, there’s a bit of lag time between its departure from their warehouse and its arrival on your local shelf. The whiskey has to be sent to a distributor because of the three-tier system, and those distributors then sell the product to stores and bars.
And frankly, they may take their sweet time doing it. Some people may see Van Winkle Labels this week, while others may not see them for weeks or months.
In certain markets where lotteries are held, you may not see Van Winkle until the year is almost over. It’s best to check with your local shop to ask when they typically get the product.
And know this: if you have to ask them now, they probably won’t be able to help you get a bottle.
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