Van Winkle 1974 Family Reserve 17 Year Old
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 Van Winkle Family Reserve and Special Reserve brands were developed by Julian III with Gordon Hue, the owner of the legendary Cork n’ Bottle in northern Kentucky. Hue had previously worked with Darrell Corti on their Bicentennial Bourbon in the 1970s, and it was his idea to add prestige to the bottlings by using cognacaise glass, procured from the Corti's contacts at Domaine Chandon in the Napa Valley. Finding Julian III receptive, the idea quickly became a reality and in 1984 the Van Winkle Family Reserve was born. Just as the bourbon industry was approaching all time post-Prohibition low, Julian Van Winkle III launched what could be considered America’s first fully fledged premium whiskey brand. What seemed like madness was in fact a stroke of genius. Gordon Hue had distribution deals in Europe and crucially, Japan, which in contrast to the US was falling in love with bourbon, particularly the “over-aged” variety that Americans would turn their noses up at.
It is believed this Van Winkle family reserve bourbon was sourced from Boone distillery, where it was barrelled in 1974. It was bottled twice, one in 1990, and again as this 17 year old in 1991. Both were intended for the Japanese market who were at the time more willing to pay premium prices for well-aged bourbon.
These original bottles of Boone-distilled Van Winkle reserves are incredibly rare and sought after in equal measure.
Fun fact: Van Winkle has stated that he "got away" with using dripping red wax here as Maker's Mark only held the trademark in the US.
We would recommend viewing/close inspection prior to placing any bids. If this is not an option and you have questions beyond the offered description and images, please contact us for a more in-depth condition report. Otherwise lots will be sold as seen in the images.
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.