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Pappy Van Winkle

Sara Sparks | July 19, 2019

How the Whiskey Came to be Coveted

Part living history and part American heritage, Pappy Van Winkle is a whiskey with an allure unachieved by any other bourbon. 

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle started in the whiskey business as a traveling salesman in 1893. His prowess and popularity as a bourbon man helped save his business when Prohibition shuttered almost every distillery in the US. In the dry years between 1920-30, Pappy made “medicinal” whiskey to fill 11 million prescriptions written yearly to assuage ailing Americans. This paradoxical boom in production enabled Pappy to open the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1935.

Julian Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, running the family business until selling the distillery in the 1970s. Yet he kept a hand in the industry by creating a label, Old Rip Van Winkle, and since then his son and grandson continue the tradition of making great whiskey.

The lore of Pappy Van Winkle grew out of a family’s dedication to making a top-quality spirit. In the past ten years huge demand has outstripped the whiskey’s meager supply, proving Pappy’s legacy is stronger today than ever.