If you're a bourbon fan, a brand like Pappy Van Winkle needs no introduction. It might, however, require a search party to track down. Each fall, a new batch of Pappy Van Winkle hits the shelves. At least theoretically. In reality, it rarely makes it that far. By Halloween, almost every bottle will have been allocated, leaving bourbon fans who didn't have the foresight to start their hunt 10 months earlier out of luck and out of bourbon. Obviously, there are always a few bottles to be had on the bourbon black market, but if you'd rather keep things legit (and preferably not have to remortgage your home in the process), there are a few tried and tested strategies that will help you score a bottle. But make no mistake... it won't be easy. You'll need to hustle like you've never hustled before, schmooze like you've never schmoozed before. If you're ready for the challenge of your life, here's how to get your hands on Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
Do Your Homework
The first step to getting a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle involves research. And not just a little bit of research either. If you're serious about scoring some of the finest hooch on the market, you're going to have to get serious about your homework. Start as breakingbourbon.com recommends by analyzing your local stores to work out which ones get the limited releases and which ones might give you a chance of having one. Don't call or send an email - go there in person. Nothing beats the personal touch. Nothing beats starting early either. Unless you're the only bourbon fan in your part of the world, the chance of there still being any bottles sitting around the shelves in the middle of the year is next to none. Stores get their allocation in the fall, and that allocation goes almost before it arrives. To be in with a shot of scoring a bottle, you'll need to start laying the groundwork by at least July. Show up in October with your inquiries and you'll be laughed out of the store.
Once you've found out which stores are likely to get a supply of Pappy Van Winkle, do as pursuitofpappy.com says and start schmoozing. Don't just be a customer to your liquor store owner, be their best friend. Talk to them constantly (and not just about bourbon), buy from them frequently (preferably the expensive, top-shelf stuff), and court them so relentlessly, they end up practically giving you a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle just to make you go away. Don't just do it at one store either - if you know of any stores within driving distance that will be getting an allocation, apply the same strategy with them. Obviously, this might not work and you could end up spending a ton of money on liquor without getting so much as a whiff of PVW. But you've got to try to find out.
Track Release Dates
Not all liquor store owners can be schmoozed, and not all are going to let you know when they get their allocation of PVW. In these kinds of cases, you're going to have to be the one that keeps track of release dates in your state. Some of the tools you can use for that include bourbon-focused Facebook groups, bourbonr.com’s Pappy and BTAC release trackers, and bourbonseason.com’s posts. As soon as the bottles begin to hit the market, hit the phone to as many stores as you can.
Don't Miss the Second Wave
Very few PVW lovers will add their names to just one allocation list. As a result, most stores will end up with several unclaimed bottles after they've worked through their lists. Sometimes, the stores will send out a blast email to all customers on their mailing list to let them know they've got a second chance at a bottle. Other times, they'll simply add the bottles to their stock ready for the first customer who finds them. Either way, if you missed your chance the first time around, now's your shot at a second one.
The heavier the footfall at a liquor store, the less chance you have of getting lucky there. So hit the road. Stores in remote, rural areas are more likely to have a few dusty bottles of Pappy Van Winkle taking up shelf space or hidden in the back. You might have to spend a fortune on gas, but the reward of coming home with a bottle or two of PVW in the trunk will more than make up for it.
Play the Lottery
Because of just how popular PVW is, some liquor stores have given up trying to manage all their requests the all fashioned way and have turned things over to Lady Luck. Anyone who makes inquiries about a bottle gets their details added to a hat, with the opportunity to buy the bottle at retail price if their name gets drawn. Other stores have decided to abandon the suggested retail price and will ask you to part with several times the MSRP if you get lucky. Regardless, it's worth trying.
Believe it or not, getting online is one of the best ways to buy a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. You might have to try various sites before you get lucky, but according to whiskeybon.com, some of the best places to try include...
Drizly is a US-based site that lets you order from multiple local stores across the US. Because of the number of stores using the site to compete for your business, you stand a good chance of landing a bottle at a relatively affordable price - you might even be able to pick one up at retail pricing.
De Wine Spot
De Wine Spot is a New York-based store with an excellent online presence. They carry an exceptional range of whiskey, including a few bottles of Pappy.
Hard To Find Whisky
Hard To Find Whisky is a UK-based site that offers worldwide delivery. They specialize in hard-to-find liquors, and you'll usually be able to find a few bottles of PVW. Just be prepared to shell out... rare Pappy doesn't come for cheap.
Potomac Wines and Spirits
This Washington-based store has a huge assortment of spirits, and will usually have a few bottles of Pappy lurking around.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith