Own a Bottle of Bourbon History

An exceedingly rare Pappy and other bourbon gems go up for auction at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum

Photo: Courtesy of Speed Art Museum

Finding any bottle of Pappy Van Winkle is a treasure hunt. But for bourbon enthusiasts who want to get their hands on a true piece of Pappy history, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, has just the thing.

Coinciding with the Bourbon & Beyond Festival, the museum will hold its first annual online and live Art of Bourbon auction this Friday, September 21, featuring the tenth bottle of Pappy ever made. The 23-year-old bourbon was bottled in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, in 1998, at Old Rip Van Winkle’s distillery prior to its move to Buffalo Trace’s grounds, and was given to its current owner by none other than Pappy proprietor Julian Van Winkle III. Interestingly enough, the anonymous owner also owns the sixth bottle, which he’s elected to keep under lock and key for now. The Van Winkle family still owns the first five bottles, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth bottles have already wet the whistles of some lucky drinkers, making the tenth bottle the rarest on the market. The museum has set the minimum bid at an eye-popping $20,000.

If that’s a little steep, other exceptional bottles will also be on the block, including a seven-year-old Stitzel-Weller Original bottled in 1965, a Brown-Forman fourteen-year-old King of Kentucky (one of only 960 bottles released to the public), and a seven-year-old Albert B. Blanton from 1952. Also up for bid are exclusive bourbon tours and single-barrel selections. Tickets to the live auction include a cocktail hour, bourbon tastings, and a bourbon-inspired dinner, with bidding starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Online bidding is currently open, and all auction proceeds will support the museum’s upcoming Kentucky-focused exhibitions, outreach, and education initiatives.

Should you want to try your luck at scoring a bottle of Pappy at a slightly more reasonable price, the distillery’s annual allotment reaches stores beginning about mid-October, and the Pappy website offers a locator to help customers find retailers who are likely, but not necessarily guaranteed, to receive stock. But you’ll want to get in touch as soon as possible. (Many use a lottery or a waiting list.) One thing’s for sure, those bottles won’t be around long.