Few companies, even among rare luxury brands, actively spurn promoting their products, but here’s one: the maker of Pappy Van Winkle.
The scarce and pricey bourbon, made in Frankfort, Ky., by Sazerac Co.’s Buffalo Trace Distillery, let wholesalers know this week how many bottles they could expect to receive to distribute to select retailers this fall. The spirit, which typically sells in the hundreds of dollars for the current year and as much as the thousands for vintage bottles, is so scarce some liquor stores sell it via a lottery system.
The bourbon craze sweeping the United States for more than a decade hit a high point last year when Kentucky distillers, who make 95% of the world’s supply, filled nearly 1.9 million barrels and broke 50 years of production records, according to the Kentucky Distillers Assn.
How many Pappy bottles will be released, and where will they go? Well, that’s a secret, although it’s been said the distillery rolls out around 84,000 bottles each year. “We really don’t share details as far as the number of bottles released or the allocations,” Buffalo Trace spokesperson Amy Preske said in an email.
So what kinds of information does the distillery’s media department discuss with the media? “We generally do not actively seek publicity for the Van Winkle line,” she wrote. “And in general do not give interviews regarding it.”
John O’Brien, the wine specialist at Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits in Atlanta, said the Pappy bourbon usually arrives in November but the stores don’t know how many bottles they will get or what they will cost.
“Last year we got 20 bottles, I think,” said O’Brien, who lamented that he can’t even reserve bottles for top customers, who must go through the lottery system like everyone else. “It’s more tragedy than comedy — their hopes are dashed. We make more enemies than friends. Americans are given to fads — I’ll be glad when this is over.”