The aficionados or the crazies — depending on one’s perspective — will wait in endless lines, camp out and even pay $1,000 for it.
But if you’ve ever wondered what the frenzy over the cult whiskey Pappy Van Winkle’s is all about, here’s your chance to try it on the cheap (relatively speaking, anyway). On Monday, Jan. 19, the bar Smith will offer a shot of one of the world’s most sought-after tipples, Pappy’s 20-year-old bourbon, for only $17.50.
To give some perspective, many bars charge between $75 and $150 for that shot. On the secondary market, a bottle goes for around $850 to $1,000.
But this Linda Derschang bar, on Capitol Hill, will open its Pappy collection that Monday and sell shots under the market value; its Pappy 10-year-old bourbon will go for $20 a shot, the 12 year for $25 and the 15 year for $30.
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The staff said it will charge less for its prized 20-year Pappy to give the public a chance to sample an acclaimed whiskey that would normally be out of the price range of an average Joe.
(Smith’s collection doesn’t include the 23-year Pappy. If you have the hankering to sample this, walk two blocks north to Liberty, where you can get a shot of it for $80.)
At retail, Pappy costs a little over $100, but you rarely see it on shelves at liquor stores because supply is low.
To score a bottle, you have to pay 10 times the retail price on the Internet or get up pretty early. Two years ago in Bellevue, folks lined up at 4 a.m. in front of Total Wine.
The fervor has gotten so out of control that liquor stores in the Seattle area won’t allow fans to camp out anymore for fear of traffic congestion or that fights might break out. Instead, lotteries are held.
Last month, about 100 whiskey fans crowded Downtown Spirits in Seattle to throw their names into a raffle for a chance to buy a bottle of the 23-year-old Pappy — for $1,000.
Despite that, or maybe because of that, everybody wants a shot of Pappy now (if only to brag about it on Facebook).
How is it? The smooth 20-year old bourbon is zesty on the nose, and it tastes buttery and vanilla-like with a long finish. The consensus among whiskey critics is that the Pappy expressions are outstanding. But it’s debatable whether it’s worth the four-figure tariff.
The best values, and the favorites of many bartenders, are the Pappy 12 year and Pappy 15 year, which you can get around Seattle bars for a reasonable price. Oliver’s Twist in Greenwood, for instance, has both for under $20 a shot.
For my money, you can avoid the madhouse by getting something comparable that’s a better deal: a shot of the Weller 12-year bourbon can be had for $10 at Bitterroot BBQ in Ballard or for $12 at Zig Zag Cafe.
For those who will accept no substitute, well, the doors at Smith open at 4 p.m. Monday. Just remember not to block the sidewalk.
Smith, 332 15th Ave. E., Seattle (206-709-1900 or smithseattle.com).