Old Rip 4 Year Old 1997 / Stitzel-Weller
The Old Rip Van Winkle brand was a pre-prohibition bourbon label, revived by the Van Winkle family after they were forced to sell their Stitzel-Weller distillery by its board of directors. New owners, Somerset Imports, granted Julian Van Winkle II (son of the famous 'Pappy') the continued use of an office at the distillery, and first option on purchasing casks to bottle his new brand with. When he died and the business passed to his son, Julian III, this courtesy was no longer extended, and he moved bottling to the old Hoffman distillery in Lawrenceburg in 1983, renaming it Old Commonwealth. He was still able to buy Stitzel-Weller stock though, and introduced the famous Pappy Van Winkle range in homage to his grandfather, using well-aged barrels from the distillery the now-legendary figure once so lovingly ran. When Stitzel-Weller was closed down by United Distillers in 1992, it was only a matter of time before stock would run out. This necessitated a partnership between Julian Van Winkle III and Buffalo Trace distillery in 2002, seeing all bottling move there, initially using the remaining Stitzel-Weller barrels, with these eventually replaced by Buffalo Trace distilled stock. The product from all eras is revered, and the brand is considered to be the first premium bourbon line to have been produced in the US.
The 4 year old Handmade Bourbon is one of the original Old Rip Van Winkle brands. Julian III bottled this one at Old Commonwealth using some of the final vintage Stitzel-Weller barrels in 1997.
The Stitzel-Weller company was officially established in 1933 at the repeal of National Prohibition in the US. It was the result of a merger between the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery and its biggest customer, W.L. Weller & Sons. The Stitzel-Weller distillery opened on Kentucky Derby day in 1935, and quickly developed a reputation for its high quality wheated bourbon, and its main brands were Old Weller, Old Fitzgerald and Cabin Still. The original ownership was shared between Alex T. Farnsley, Arthur Philip Stitzel and Julian Van Winkle. The former passed-away in 1941 and 1947, respectively, leaving the Van Winkle family as the sole heirs to the business. 'Pappy' died in 1965, having handed the reigns to his son, Julian II the year prior, who ran it until 1972 when the board of directors forced him to sell it to the Norton-Simon subsidiary, Somerset Imports. When they were bought over by the American arm of Scottish distillers, DCL, its subsequent iteration invested heavily in bourbon. So much so in fact, that their newly rebuilt Bernheim distillery had such capacity that Stitzel-Weller was rendered surplus to requirements. It was shut down in 1992. Still part of the Diageo portfolio, it has never re-opened and instead now houses the visitor experience for their Bulleit brand.
This bottle is being sold from the Pat's Whisk(e)y private collection which, numbering in excess of 9,000 bottles and over 2,000 miniatures, is the single largest collection of whisky ever to be brought to auction. Pat's Whisk(e)y is the result of over fifteen years of passion and dedication to the goal of creating one of the most complete libraries of whisky and whiskey ever amassed by an individual collector. It contains bottles from over 150 different Scottish distilleries, as well as bourbon, rare Scotch releases from sought-after independent bottlers in Europe, and whisky from other distilleries across the globe. Whisky Auctioneer is delighted to have partnered with Pat's Whisk(e)y to offer this collection across a number of exclusive and spotlight auctions. For more information, please click here.
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Please note: Due to the various ages of bottles and their seals, condition of liquid is at the buyer's discretion and no claim can be lodged against failure/leakage in transit.