Make Your Own (Almost) Pappy Van Winkle

Using bottles you might have at home, create a blend that could pass for the world’s most famous bourbon

Photo: Jacqueline Stofsick

Say “Pappy,” and the whiskey world gets collective goosebumps. Many folks consider Pappy Van Winkle the holy grail of brown water—there’s currently a bottle of 23-year old Family Reserve listed at an online liquor retailer for nearly $11,000, and pours of the stuff have gone for $315 an ounce.

So imagine if you could make it yourself. That’s one of the things Aaron Goldfarb, a drinks writer for Punch and Whisky Advocate, set out to do in his new book, Hacking Whiskey, a lighthearted look at the ways people enjoy whiskey beyond simply sipping it neat—from sampling it through bone-marrow luges to creating custom blends.

The idea of home-blending isn’t so far-fetched. In 2013, a couple of online drinks forums, including the popular blog Bourbonr, shared a recipe for an engineered “Franken-Winkle,” Goldfarb says. That recipe, which took off across the internet, is:

Poor Man’s Pappy
60 percent Old Weller Antique 107
40 percent W.L. Weller 12 Year

Within a few months, bottles of the Wellers, which are wheated boubons (meaning wheat instead of rye fills out the standard corn mash bill), became difficult to find—and costly to procure. “Once you could find these Wellers easily for around $25,” Goldfarb says. “Now they too elicit camping out at stores and entering lotteries.”

To update the recipe, Goldfarb decided to play around with wheated whiskeys that are easier to find. He landed on the mix below, shared for the first time here (and in his new book):

Poorer Man’s Pappy
67 percent Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
33 percent Larceny

“Essentially, it’s like trying to make a fake Rolex,” Goldfarb says with a laugh. “But these are two bourbons everybody in America can find. And I’m not going to say the mix would win in a blind taste test, but this is pretty good—and it might only cost $40.”