Clicky

Pappy Van Winkle Alternatives: 10 Bourbon Substitutes (2023)

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Pappy Van Winkle began hitting the spotlight right after the Beverage Testing Institute scored their 20-Year Old expression an impressive 99/100.

One thing that sets Van Winkle apart from most bourbons is its mash, using red winter wheat instead of rye as the grain’s second layer after corn, making it a “wheated bourbon.” 

However, its limited commodity makes Pappy bottles rare and expensive, leading to fans looking for alternatives.

To end the long search, we’ve listed the best Pappy Van Winkle alternatives, suitable for beginners and experienced drinkers.  

 Top 10 Worthy Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Alternatives 

10. Laws Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey

Bottle of Laws Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey

Average Price: approx. $79.99/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV 

Why We Like It: Bottled at 100-proof, this wheat whiskey is a delightful complex spirit with light floral notes and wheat creaminess. 

Its mash bill is made of pure centennial white spring wheat, aged for at least five years in charred oak barrels, creating a deliciously smooth bonded whiskey.  

If you want something beyond rye and bourbons, or you can’t buy the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, this Laws Centennial wheat expression is worth considering.  

9. Maker’s 46

Bottle of  Maker's 46 with glass on top of a barrel

Average Price: approx. $40/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 47% ABV 

Why We Like It: Maker’s 46 is a wheated bourbon whiskey [1] with a heavy-wheat mash bill compared to other bourbons.

The distillers aged this bottle in French oak staves and bottled it at cask strength.

Expect toffee notes with a richer and more complex flavor– unique to other bourbons distilled from the same brand.   

8. Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon

Bottle of Eagle Rare 10-years-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Average Price: approx. $30/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV 

Why We Like It: A bottle of Eagle Rare 10-Year is one excellent alternative to Pappy Van Winkle– another expression from the Buffalo Trace Distillery

Although this bottle is hard to find, its rarity is no match to how rare Pappy spirits are.

Also, you may find Eagle Rare available at a reasonable price, given its limited commodity. 

Eagle Rare’s flavor is close to Pappy’s but somehow lacks complexity.

But the caramel and sweeter notes of this bourbon and its long and sweet finish make it a great sipper.  

7. Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Bourbon

Bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Average Price: approx. $32/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV 

Why We Like It: One of the best bourbons today, Russell’s Reserve 10-Year has an excellent balance of spice and sweet taste. 

Expect a maple syrup note on the nose with vanilla and citrus hints. As you sip, the notes of caramel, baking spice, vanilla, and pumpkin pie dominate your mouth. 

Close to the smoothness of Pappy Old Rip Van Winkle, Russell’s Reserve also has a satisfying, delicious, and long finish. 

6. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

close up shot of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bottle

Average Price: approx. $59.99/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 62.4% ABV 

Why We Like It: This barrel-proof bourbon features sweet flavors: butterscotch, honey, and vanilla. 

The higher proof of this Elijah Craig expression is comparable to the Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year bottle, but dont expect the same finish. 

But, it isn’t easy to find this expression, and you can only purchase it at the Heaven Hill Bardstown location.   

5. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Kentucky Straight

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Kentucky Straight Bottle and a glass

Average Price: approx. $27/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 46% ABV 

Why We Like It: For those looking for affordable alternatives to Pappy, Larceny offers unique and smooth bourbon– great for sipping neat, where you can taste the bread, honey, and toffee hints. 

This expression uses wheat as its second grain (next to corn) instead of rye, which produces a rounder and smoother character.  

4. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Bottle and Glass on Top of a Wooden Table

Average Price: approx. $185/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV 

Why We Like It: This Old Fitzgerald BIB is aged 9-15 years in barrels and bottled at 100-proof. 

Crafted and distilled in the same distillery, its character is similar to Old Rip Van Winkle. 

It’s quite expensive but still considered a poor man’s Pappy whiskey as it is way low-priced compared to the hefty price tag of Van Winkles.  

3. Maker’s Mark Bourbon 101

Maker's Mark 101 Bourbon Bottle and Glasses with Shelves of Liquor on the Background

Average Price: approx. $40/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 50.5% ABV 

Why We Like It: Maker’s Mark 101 is a wheated whiskey– close to Pappy Van Winkle’s wheated bourbon, which used wheat as the secondary grain in the mash bill.

This expression delivers a well-balanced smoothness and complexity but is a bit harsher than smooth Van Winkle bottles.  

Although there’s nothing unique about this wheated whiskey, bourbon geeks will find its mellow flavor satisfying with hints of sweetness, vanilla, and caramel notes. 

2. Redemption Wheated Bourbon

3 Bottle of Redemption Wheated Bourbon on Top of a Wooden Table

Average Price: approx. $45/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 48% ABV 

Why We Like It: This expression is the only wheated bourbon among MGP’s line, which is known to produce rye and high rye bourbons

Redemption Wheated Bourbon is 96-proof, featuring pecan, cedar, and hazelnut notes, delivering sugary flavors and aromas. 

If the price of Old Rip Van Winkle is too much for you, then Redemption Wheated expression is a good alternative– available at a price you can surely afford.  

1. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon

man holding Weller Special Reserve bottle

Average Price: approx. $25/750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV 

Why We Like It: The best Pappy Van Winkle alternative is the Weller line, particularly the Special Reserve Bourbon. 

Each bottle shares the same recipe, proof [2], and specifications of barrels, according to Fred Minnick and Freddie Johnson.  

“Drinking Pappy is about sharing a rare bottle with friends. You take it slow, and you tell them the story of how you got it. In that sense, Pappy is priceless.”

— Freddie Johnson from Buffalo Trace 

The Stitzel Weller Distillery pioneered wheated bourbons but is now produced under Buffalo Trace Distillery.

You’ll find Weller a younger version of Van Winkle, but it’s not as complex as the latter. 

Overall, it is the closest among Pappy alternatives and comes at an affordable price.  

Expert Tip: Other expressions worth considering include Barton’s 1792 Sweet Wheat, Wyoming Whiskey, and Cowboy Texas Bourbon (by Garrison Brothers).    

FAQs

What bourbon is the same recipe as Pappy Van Winkle?

The Weller Special Reserve bourbons share the same mash as Pappy Van Winkle– using at least 51% corn and wheat as its second grain. 

Besides the Special Reserve, the Old Weller Antique and William Larue Weller are also worth considering. 

Why is Pappy Van Winkle so expensive?

Pappy Van Winkle is expensive due to its insanely high demand but limited supply. It’s considered rare, contributing to its hefty price tag.

Is Pappy Van Winkle hard to find?

Pappy Van Winkle is really hard to find due to its limited supply. Since Pappy Van Winkle expressions have a 10-15 year aging process, the brand can only sell limited supplies. 

Final Verdict 

One thing is certain – Pappy Van Winkle expressions are one-of-a-kind, so it’s one of the rare spirits that you can’t easily find. 

Good thing there are excellent alternatives that you can try– from affordable to pricey expressions. 

If we could choose just one, that would be the Weller Special Reserve. The profile is almost identical at a budget-friendly price. 

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/bourbon-whiskey 
  2. https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/news/2017/07/why-alcohol-content-is-measured-in-proof 

Leave a Comment