Here’s Why Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Is So Expensive

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Getty Images

Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is one of the best drinks on the market, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Here’s why.

If you are a fan of bourbon, but you’re lost trying to sort through some of the top-shelf options out there, perhaps you should try Pappy Van Winkle. That is if you can find it and afford it. Not only is it relatively rare to come across, but it also just so happens to be one of the most expensive brands on the market.

Depending on where you buy it, Pappy Van Winkle bourbon can easily cost you a couple of grand per bottle. With that said, it’s possible to find a bottle that only costs a few hundred dollars. It all depends on where you’re looking and the time of year. As a matter of fact, head on over to the Old Rip Van Winkle website. There, you’ll see that the 10-year, 107-proof bottle is currently listed for $69.99. Meanwhile, for the 23-year, 95.6 proof special reserve bottle, you will have to shell out $299.99.

According to the website, the special reserve bottle is created by using one of the most careful and expensive distilling methods available.

“The barrels were carefully selected from the heart of the warehouse for an added three years of aging. This signature whiskey is best enjoyed neat. Any ice or water will dilute its uniqueness.”

Speaking of that uniqueness, you’ll notice right away that the special reserve bottle sports a deep amber red color.

“Taste the various hints of caramel, ripe apples, cherries, oak wood, and tobacco with a hint of chocolate. This bourbon finishes with a long0lasting and pleasant taste. Starts with a lot of wood flavors but leads to a nice sweet caramel finish.”

Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Is Expensive Thanks to Supply and Demand

That’s right, Outsiders. It’s as simple as supply and demand. Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is so dang expensive because of this most fundamental economic principle.

Just reading the descriptions of the bottles will have your mouth watering. So, as you can probably imagine, there are bourbon fans all over the world who want to get a taste of Pappy Van Winkle. With that said, it’s estimated that Van Winkle puts out approximately 7,000 cases every year. That equates to somewhere around 84,000 bottles. Now, that might not seem like such a limited supply. But consider for a second that the popular bourbon brand Jim Beam produces around 84 million bottles per year. That’s the main reason it costs so much. The secondary market takes those retail prices listed on the website and throws them out the window.

Either way, the Van Winkles were never in the bourbon industry for the money. When they first started their business more than 100 years ago, they adopted the following motto: “We make fine bourbon: at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.”