Virginia Residents Get Rare Opportunity to Buy Van Winkle Bourbon for Retail Prices

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Virginia folks can win some rare Van Winkle bourbon in an upcoming lottery for prices less than what they usually go for.

With many states selling the Frankfurt, Ky. distillery’s stuff for high prices, the Old Dominion state prohibits price hikes. So, they often have lotteries to determine who gets to buy the stuff.

Business Insider reported on the opportunity with the lottery ending on Sunday.

Virginia To Hold Lottery For Famous Bourbon

State officials are opening listings for legal drinkers with a state driver’s license. Last year’s lottery had more than 300,000 entries for specific brands

This lottery will offer two Van Winkle brands. The first is for 966 bottles of a 12-year Special Reserve ($89.99), while the second is for a 10-year Old Rip Van Winkle brand with 289 available bottles ($79.99).

Drawing winners then select a store where they can make their purchase.

Business Insider also reported that 241 bottles of the 12-year and 72 bottles of the 10-year are available for restaurants in a raffle.

By the way, the Van Winkle company’s motto reads: “We make fine bourbon: at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.”

To get an idea about the company’s production, Van Winkle puts out an estimated 7,000 cases each year for about 84,000 bottles. On the other hand, Jim Beam produces approximately 84 million bottles per year.

Kentucky Bourbon Brand Not About Making Most Money

Since the company’s descendants are about making great bourbon, not money, there will be trouble getting the stuff.

This mantra of not raising prices hurts when the brand’s popularity makes for some well sought-after spirits.

The company website lists recommended prices ranging from $79.99 for the 10-year Old Rip Van Winkle brand and up. Its ultra-rare 23-year Family Reserve has a $299.99 asking price. 

But, the real-world markups can mean prices at ten times higher for certain bottles. That also goes with how hard it is to find the brand. 

Some bottles can go to underground black markets and private sellers. Bottles can quickly sell for $3,000 or more

One eBay seller has over 20 bids on an empty bottle for $100. Another sale in that online auction marketplace has a $300 price tag on a Family Reserve 20-year-old empty bottle and bag. Holy cow! How crazy is the demand for just a glass bottle?

“Unfortunately, some retailers choose to use this demand as a reason to increase their pricing. We know it’s often sold for far beyond our suggested retail prices,” a statement from the distillery reads.

States like Virginia try to control the distribution of alcohol within state lines, and lotteries are one way to sell Van Winkle spirits without those astronomical sticker prices. 

But hey, Virginia folks. Good luck this week if you want one.