Buffalo Trace

Some Pappy Fell Off the Back of a Truck

Eli Thompson helps carry a box of Canadian Club Whisky. Eli is the former Atlantic County Sheriff and the younger brother of Atlantic City crime boss Nucky Thompson.

Eli Thompson helps carry a box of Canadian Club Whisky. Eli is the former Atlantic County Sheriff and the younger brother of Atlantic City crime boss Nucky Thompson.

How much is too much for rare whiskey these days? I'm sure you've walked into a bar, spotted whiskies priced over $50 per drink and thought WTF? You aren't alone in that thought however, the quantity of rare whiskies going for $50 or more has increased over the past few years. Last night, I saw Pappy Van Winkle 23yr for $74 for 2oz. That's quite the juiced up price. Limited whiskies like these are difficult for restaurants to procure and down right impossible to find at your local liquor store, so why not charge the price? People pay $1000+ at a club for $40 vodka, why not make almost $1000 per bottle when it costs over $150 retail?

Actually, you can't even get Pappy Van Winkle 23yr retail. It doesn't make it to BevMo shelves as most bottles are spoken for long before they become available. (A quick Google search, populates these results.) So what's your best bet to get a bottle for your home? Maybe you're hoping a bottle or nine "fall off the back of a truck." Well, some did in Franklin County, Kentucky, or as a nine-person organized crime ring indicted on racketeering would have you believe. Yes, along with trafficking the more traditional juice of steroids, the group had barrels of Wild Turkey Whiskey amongst bottles of that juicy Pappy Van Winkle 23yr. How much did someone offer for nine bottles of Pappy? $3000. Only $333 per bottle? That's a steal. That's probably only a 100% mark up. Darn straight, I'd take all nine, too.

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Let's get back to Pappy Van Winkle 23yr offered at $74. A whiskey list looks a lot more juicy to whiskey aficionados when those hard to get ones are on it. So maybe it's listed on the menu for $74 in the hope it doesn't sell. Scroll down further on the list for another whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Perhaps you'll find W.L. Weller Wheated Bourbon. Weller is made from the same wheated sour mash recipe as Pappy. This sour mash is composed of corn and wheat, whereas most bourbons use corn and rye. The wheat makes Weller, and Pappy, more mellow. Weller is delicious when served neat or in a classic cocktail. In fact, that's why the Wheat & Water House Old Fashioned is made with it.

Here's a link to the original article: Buyer offered $3K for 9 stolen Pappy bottles

The Holy Grail & One Species of Tree

Four years ago, Buffalo Trace Distillery piqued the curiosities of self-proclaimed whiskey enthusiasts (i.e. nerds) and casual whiskey fans alike with an intriguing and mysterious experiment in "The Single Oak Project." Put simply, Buffalo Trace selected 96 white oak trees for whiskey barrels; Buffalo Trace would make 192 barrels out of said trees with 96 of the barrels coming from the top of the trees and the other 96 barrels come from the bottom; additional variables on wood grain and sour mash recipe were selected; then wait 12 years. Would the whiskey taste different? In 2011, the whiskey was still in barrels, so readers would have to wait and come up with their own hypotheses.

At my previous job, our owners afforded us a little bit of freedom with our menu direction. We embraced this liberty and opted to purchase an entire barrel of Elmer T. Lee Bourbon; though it wasn't one from "Single Oak Project", it was another label from Buffalo Trace. It was a great way to high-light our whiskey list, and we got a discount on a great whiskey. So, on a sunny afternoon, our cocktail director, beverage director, a couple whiskey enthusiasts on staff and I sat down to test four samples sent to us. It was easy an easy selection - Barrel #16. Then we received 140+ bottles of whiskey, which understandably did not necessarily please our owner. But the whiskey was delicious, our customers embraced it, and we flew through those bottles.

When it was time to select our next barrel, the committee gathered again. We tried the first four. Nothing. We requested an additional three samples. None of the samples jumped out, but we eventually settled on Barrel #41. It was really good, but it was no Barrel #16. I wouldn't be able to tell you what caused the drastic differences between those eleven samples, or what made Barrel #16 so special. #Barrel16RIP

The actual barrel samples sent to us from Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The actual barrel samples sent to us from Buffalo Trace Distillery.

When you purchase an entire barrel, Buffalo Trace sends you the barrel. I'll offer ideas on what to do with empty barrels in another post.

When you purchase an entire barrel, Buffalo Trace sends you the barrel. I'll offer ideas on what to do with empty barrels in another post.

In the case of Buffalo Trace's Single Oak Project, the best whiskey writers in the world received samples to taste, and now they are sharing the results. Would there be a recognizable difference in flavor? Or, would the experiment be a total waste of time and money? Would the distillers get in trouble with the owners for such an expensive experiment? Would they find the Holy Grail of bourbon? Tune in next time for the answers.

I'm just kidding here's a link to the article: Could this be the Holy Grail of bourbon? (Spoiler alert: Yes. Not that I know of. Also, not that I know of. According to the author, Barrel #80.)