Van Winkle supplies being refreshed

If your local spirits merchant is a bit low on Van Winkle whiskies, take heart. The Frankfort, KY, distiller promises more will be on the way to "select stores" by late November.

The portfolio, made in limited batches, consists of Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon aged 10 years, available in 90 proof and 107 proof; Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon, aged 12 years; Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbons, aged 15 years, 20 years and 23 years; and Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye Whiskey, aged 13 years.

The 23 Year Old was named "Whiskey of the Year" in 2010 by Wine and Spirits magazine.

The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery has an interesting history that spans four generations. It began in the late 1800s when Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle Sr. and a partner purchased the W.L. Weller & Sons liquor wholesale house in Louisville then merged with A.P. Stitzel’s distillery to become the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. In May 1935, Van Winkle opened a new Stitzel-Weller Distillery in South Louisville, making such brands as W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell and Cabin Still.

Julian Van Winkle Jr. took over operations when his father died at 91, but sold the distillery in 1972. The rights to all of their brands were sold to Norton Simon Inc. United Distillers, which eventually ended up with the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, sold off all of the original labels around 1999.

Julian Jr. then resurrected a pre-Prohibition label, Old Rip Van Winkle, the only one to which the Van Winkles kept the rights. He used whiskey stocks from the old distillery to supply his brand. His son, Julian III, took over in 1981 when Julian Jr. died, and his son, Preston, works with him.

In 2002, the Van Winkles began a joint venture with Buffalo Trace Distillery. All of the Van Winkles' whiskey production now takes place at Buffalo Trace Distillery under the same family guidelines.

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