Last Updated on September 15, 2022 by Lydia Martin
Pappy Van Winkle’s brand name might summon all whiskey connoisseurs and collectors of bourbon whiskeys because of its premium quality and rarity. It’s a luxurious brand that’s hard to come across in regular liquor stores.
It stood out among other brands and became the holy grail for bourbon aficionados.
But why is Pappy Van Winkle so expensive and almost impossible to find? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
8 (Real) Reasons Pappy Van Winkle Is So Expensive
8. Black Market Surge
Pappy Van Winkle whiskey products have become more difficult to find in a normal liquor store.
This phenomenon causes bourbon fans and avid collectors of the classic American spirit to buy Pappy Van Winkle bottles on the black market.
Unfortunately, many people take advantage of its rarity to double or triple its MSRP.
The black-market surge and the secondary market takes over even though the prices are way higher than retail prices. 
7. Excellent Reputation
Throughout the years, Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve gained a high reputation.
From the Old Rip Van Winkle brand managed by Julian Van Winkle Jr. to Julian Van Winkle III, the third family generation kept its high reputation in the market.
It is marketed to the world’s top tasters and got appraisals from different whiskey experts.
In 1997 Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, Pappy got a rate of 99 out of 100 – the highest rating given to a whiskey. 
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve always define as a fine bourbon. The luxurious label started on Derby Day by Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which makes high-quality wheated bourbon brands such as W.L. Weller and Old Fitzgerald.
Many bourbon connoisseurs believe this kind of bourbon results in sweeter and smoother bourbons.
Its smooth mouthfeel taste, hints of caramel, cherry, vanilla, oak wood notes, and satisfying finish make Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve one of the finest wheat bourbons in the world.
5. Rich In Lore & Scandal
Pappy’s history is one of the reasons why it’s popular. The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery started with Julian Van Winkle Sr., a traveling liquor salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons in the late 1800s.
The distillery was sold in 1972, but the family generations sustained the brand.
Julian Van Winkle III, who introduced Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve bourbons, added its bourbon portfolio after his father’s death in 1981.
In 2002, Van Winkle III made a huge joint venture with Buffalo Trace Distillery, which now produces their bourbons.
Pappy Van Winkle bourbon made a prestigious name, winning numerous awards like the “Spirit of the Year” for Wine & Spirits magazine last 2010.
Also, it won its gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and a silver medal for Wine & Spirits in 2019. 
Pappy Van Winkles’ fame and popularity made it a rare bottle that drives up its price. Even the empty bottle of Pappy Van Winkles had become desirable to many.
3. Aging Process
Pappy Van Winkle bourbon has a unique flavor profile from its remarkable age statement produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Most bourbons are aged in barrels for at least four years, but their Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon is a well-aged liquor with a minimum of ten years.
The long process of aging reduces the sharpness of the alcohol and makes the flavor profile richer and more complex, among others.
2. High Demand
Pappy Van Winkle whiskey bourbons have a high demand on the market, making it a rare product. Due to its gained appraisals and popularity made it to the top of most bourbon fans’ want lists.
In economic terms, when a limited supply meets a high demand, the scarcity principle takes in.
Therefore, the price of a rare product like Pappy Van Winkle continually increases.
1. Limited Supply
Each year, only a limited number of Old Rip Van Winkle bottles, including Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, are produced. Pappy trademark has a high-standing quality control for its age and maturing process.
The supply and demand of Pappy’s results in limited releases of its products, and bottles are often sold for hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Some Pappy Van Winkle Alternatives
Old Weller Antique
W.L. Weller and Pappy’s bourbon have the same distiller. They both have the same “mashbill,” so Weller somehow resembles Pappy’s taste while being cheaper.
However, they have differences in barrel management because OWA is younger and not aged well as Pappy.
Eagle Rare is a good alternative for Pappy because of its lower price and comparable flavor. However, it lacks the complexity of flavors, such as the fruity notes Pappy offers.
It is also made by Buffalo Trace and is nowhere near as rare as Pappy.
Blade & Bow
Blade and Bow are made of wheated bourbons, which can be a substitute for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
But like Pappy, Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Limited Release bourbons are expensive and hard to find.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
The good limited edition bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a good alternative for Pappy’s if you’re into a rare bottle collection.
Elijah Craig’s caramel sweet and fruity notes are also present in Pappy. But the smokiness didn’t have a smooth finish like Pappy.
Maker’s Mark is a popular wheated whiskey remotely close to Pappy, especially Maker’s Mark 101.
A bottle of this wheat bourbon is aged around six years, it’s cheaper, but it has balanced flavor complexity. However, it still doesn’t have the smooth finish Pappy has.
What is the poor man’s Pappy Van Winkle?
The Poor Man’s Pappy Van Winkle is a blend of two Weller bourbon that closely replicates the Pappy Van Winkle. It comprises two parts or 40% of W.L. Weller 12 Year variant, and three parts or 60% of Weller Antique 107.
How many bottles of Pappy Van Winkle are made in a year?
Approximately 84,000 bottled products of Pappy Van Winkle are made in a year. It’s about 7,000 cases of produced Pappy Van Winkle products. It’s so rare that it only has a limited number of Van Winkle releases to allocate to each state.
Pappy Van Winkle is so expensive because of its limited supply and extremely high demand. These high-quality bourbons are always at an all-time high, but the yearly supply is limited.
Nowadays, you can consider yourself fortunate if you have a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, as it’s perceived as rare.
But don’t be sad if you can’t have one. Some wheated bourbon substitutes won’t break your wallet.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.