Elusive bourbon Pappy Van Winkle appears, then disappears from store shelves

Posted at 1:56 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 17:10:54-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The rare bourbon "Pappy Van Winkle" made a surprise appearance at a handful of Utah State Liquor stores on Thursday, where it was snapped up in minutes.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said the bourbon was sent to stores in Ogden, Cottonwood Heights, St. George, Riverton, Salt Lake City and Provo.

"We didn't get all that much," DABC spokesman Terry Wood said.

Pappy Van Winkle

Only a handful of employees at the DABC knew the shipment was coming. They sought to avoid long lines that accompanied publicity of Pappy Van Winkle, when FOX 13 reported on it in 2014 and again in 2015. Still, Wood said a number of people who closely track the bourbon knew it was there and raced to snatch it up.

Wood confirmed the DABC was investigating complaints that some liquor store employees had jumped in line to get some. It's not against policy for a DABC employee to purchase it, but they can't be on the clock, nor can they set a bottle aside.

Pappy Van Winkle is made in limited batches, and a quirk of Utah's liquor laws means that people here get it for much less than other states. Where a bottle can sell for hundreds of dollars outside Utah, our liquor laws mandate cost plus 86% markup. A 20-year batch bottle can sell for about $160 here. In contrast, some bars charge up to $100 for a shot of the stuff.

It's unknown when Buffalo Trace, the distiller that makes Pappy Van Winkle, will send another shipment. To avoid long lines and a mad scramble, Wood said the DABC may look at other ways of getting it to customers.

"We may try to go to some kind of lottery system next year," he said.