A Bottle of Pappy’s 23-Year Bourbon Sold for a Record $52K

Photo: Sotheby's

If you paid $52,500 for a bottle of bourbon, would you drink it? That’s the newfound dilemma of the winner of a 2008 bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year that sold this past week at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.

Pappy’s enthusiasts are no stranger to inflated second-market prices, but the expected retail on any bottle from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery is typically only as high as $300, just as the 23-year-old bottles of the wheated bourbon whiskey were this year. It’s the rarity of the barrels’ yield that drives up demand in the aftermarket. But still, $52,500 is a lot to pay for a bottle of any beverage, and that’s why the recent sale marks the highest ever paid for a bottle of Pappy’s.

For instance, a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year — the oldest ever from the distillery — sold for a “measly” 40 grand this past summer, also from Sotheby’s. The discrepancy between that and the recent sale is even more staggering when you realize only 710 bottles were ever released of the 25 Year. According to the auction house, a bidding war over the recent 23 Year drove the price up much higher than expected. In fact, the estimate was only between $3,000 and $4,000.

However, this $52,500 Pappy’s sale is still nowhere near the most expensive whiskies ever sold at auction when compared to certain bottles from Scotland and Japan, which can often nab millions of dollars each.