Pappy Van Winkle 23YO sells for $52,000

A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Family Reserve whiskey fetched US$52,000 at a Sotheby’s sale last week, setting a new auction record for the brand.

The bottle sold for more than 17 times its pre-sale estimate (US$3,000-US$4,000) at a Sotheby’s auction in New York on 10 December.

Two collectors were in a bidding frenzy for the bottle, pushing the final sale price higher, the auctioneer said.

Released in 2008, the 23-year-old whiskey was sold with its original black velvet bag.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s head of whisky and spirits, North America and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said: “It was exciting to be on the rostrum conducting the sale for this record-breaking bottle, which went far beyond anyone’s expectations.”

All 14 of the individual bottles of Pappy Van Winkle on offer sold for sums more than their estimates, achieving a total of US$396,250. The bottles were projected to sell for US$31,000-US$44,000.

Individual records were also reached for Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old (US$9,375) and 20 Year Old (US$27,500).

The Pappy Van Winkle brand has achieved a cult-like following among collectors.

Many of its whiskeys were distilled at the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, which opened on 4 May 1935 and closed in the early 1990s. Production moved to the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

The Old Rip Van Winkle brand was first created before Prohibition and reintroduced in 1972 following the repeal.

The lots formed part of the Whisky & Whiskey | Seasonal Spirits and The Yamazaki 55 auction, which hit a total of US$1,786,625, surpassing pre-sale expectations (US$885,050-US$1.3 million).

Sales of whisky at Sotheby’s in New York have doubled over the last 12 months, from US$5.4m in 2021 to US$11.9m this year.

Fowle added: “The auction marked a remarkable end to a year that has seen prices soar for American whiskey at Sotheby’s.”

A selection of Bourbon and rye whiskeys fetched US$1.63m at Sotheby’s in March this year, breaking the record for the most valuable auction of American whiskeys ever held.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers