Monday, July 14, 2014
And Then There Was a Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel Box and It Was the Best Box Ever Made
The video above is mostly just a well-made video you can enjoy for what it is. Heritage Handcrafted does interesting things with used bourbon barrels, including this project with the Van Winkles. Pappy & Company is an outfit run by Pappy Van Winkle's great-granddaughters, who happen to be triplets. It sells everything Van Winkle except the whiskey, which is still the province of their father and brother.
The distillery shown in the video is Buffalo Trace, of course. There is no Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. The Van Winkle whiskeys are a collaboration between the Van Winkles and Buffalo Trace.
The phenomenon that is the Great American Whiskey Revival of the Early 21st Century has spawned many sub-phenomena, of which Van Winkle mania may be both the silliest and most profound. The Van Winkle whiskeys are very good but their supposed exceptionalism is exaggerated to an extreme. Still, with retailers and illegal resellers doubling and tripling (and more) the suggested retail price of the Van Winkle whiskeys, and acting like they're doing you a favor, at least this is the family trying to feed the beast in a tasteful way.
Credit where credit is due.
The other day, on a bourbon web site, a self-identified bourbon beginner was using a smart phone app that prompted him to ask a vague question about Pappy 23, like "is it really all that great?" How to answer? Bourbon should be enjoyed and people may enjoy it however they choose, but even if you can afford a Ferrari, you probably shouldn't take your driving lessons in one. "Why not start with the best?" is the usual counterargument, but if what you've learned so far about bourbon is that Pappy is the best, then what you've learned is not useful.
It's not that something else is the best, it is that the early lesson you should have received is that 'best' is a false and destructive standard. The essence of the bourbon hobby is experience. When you buy a new video game, do you also buy a cheat book so you can rush to the end? Maybe you do. In both cases, you've only cheated yourself.
The unintentional humor in the video is how everybody throws back Pappy 23 like it's an everyday thing, and I suppose if your name is Van Winkle it can be. Mazel tov. Just like how it's on offer at every dive bar in "Justified." It's an inside joke, but a bitter one for the average bourbon drinker who would just like to try the stuff. Here, though, the human brain is very accommodating. If you move heaven and earth to get a taste of Van Winkle, expecting it to be nectar of the gods, it probably will oblige.
To that end, every Wednesday at Twisted Spoke here in Chicago is Whiskey Wednesday, and all whiskey is half-price, including Van Winkle. (Note: at the moment, the Spoke's website is being renovated, so you might want to call first.)