Yardbird's Pappy Van Winkle: Does This Beach Eatery Have Best Bourbon?
|All photos by Laine Doss|
|The Van Winkle collection.|
Distilled in Frankfort, Kentucky, these America spirits are rare, expensive, and the drink of choice of celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Sean Brock, and Mario Batali.
The bourbons, which are rated near perfect by Wine Enthusiast magazine and The Beverage Tasting Institute, are in high demand and short supply, making for a little sticker shock when a bottle is actually found.
For instance, I found the Family Reserve 15 Year at a local liquor store selling for $299, while the Family Reserve 20 Year being offered at $400. To compare apples to oranges, an average "good" bottle of bourbon can be had for around $50. What makes Pappy so dear, with such a loyal and outspoken fan base?
We spoke with Amy Preske at Buffalo Trace Distillery, where Pappy Van Winkle is produced in a joint-venture agreement, to get a better understanding. She told us that "Pappy" is seen as a prestige brand for a number of reasons.
First and foremost -- it's simply good. "Van Winkle is made with a blend of corn, wheat, and barley instead of most other bourbons, which are made from corn, rye, and barley. This gives the Van Winkle brand a softer, smoother taste."
There's also a legitimate supply and demand factor in play. Preske said that decades ago, when the 20 and 23 year old bourbons were put to rest, there wasn't a huge market for the American whiskey. Factor in evaporation while aging, what distillers call the "angel's share", and you can wind up with less product than you've counted on. "Sometimes we open a 20 year old barrel of Van Winkle and there's only five gallons in it..or it may be empty." Preske said that the distillery is planning now for 40 years into the future -- which means we can look forward to enjoying some good booze at the retirement community -- but that doesn't help supply now. It's estimated that only about 7,000 cases (42,000 bottles) gets shipped out yearly -- and that's shared by every restaurant, bar, and retail outlet in the world.
Then, of course, there's the cult status that the Van Winkle name has attained. With celebrity chefs drinking it and Tweeting pictures of their stash, the word has gotten out that "Pappy" is the gold standard.
With all that talk of Pappy, the big question is where can you find it in Miami...and is it worth the price?