All I Wanted Was a Bottle of Pappy Van Winkle



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Really. That's all I wanted. And since I'm not privy to Sean Brock's Sean Van Winkle's strategic Pappy reserve, I sent Steven Godfrey out to find a bottle for The City Paper.

He came back without the bourbon, but with one of my favorite pieces.

Mirroring the nation’s bourbon craze of the moment, Nashville’s Pappy hysteria crosses subgenres: sorority girls, hipsters, housewives, entertainment industry minions trying to secure a bottle for musicians and actors breezing through town, naïve everyguys who saw it on an episode of Justified and plenty of yuppie couples trying to build a home bar using dog-eared pages of Garden & Gun.

A product that once used to sit on shelves for months at a time is now sought with zeal, largely for a variety of non-bourbon drinking reasons, thus feeding a nasty black market. A note to hunters: After more than a week of calling Midstate liquor stores, I could find only one bottle for sale, at a liquor store in downtown Nashville. The price tag is five times the former going rate.

If you’re willing to abandon the pretension of “Pappy or bust,” all is far from lost: Right now at any number of local stores or bars, someone can assist you in purchasing a similar bourbon with similar results, depending on your palate. This is a renaissance for bourbon, and the choices have never been greater. Even rye whiskey, once the rotgut of choice for true salt-of-the-earth blue-collar laborers, has been smoothed, spiced and repackaged for curious new fans.

Nashville is at a particular disadvantage for an honest drinker looking for elusive bourbons. Multiple merchants I spoke to admitted that tourists frequently seek out an expensive bottle of whiskey simply to say they bought it in Nashville, the home of … bourbon?

“Yeah, they don’t quite get this isn’t Kentucky, or don’t know it comes from Kentucky, or just don’t care,” one floor rep grumbled.

“Man, I hope they don’t mention it on the TV show,” a store clerk across town worried.

Damn all that equity in our municipality’s “it” status. With Pappy leading the way, the high-end booze wave of demand has crashed down on otherwise unpretentious, humble local boozehounds.

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