Pappy Van Winkle, Julian Jr and III, and a Preston: Men of Fine Spirits

author’s note: This post may look a wee bit familiar to a few of you. It went up briefly yesterday when I got my days mixed up (holiday Mondays will do that to me), though I eventually pulled it. So if you picked this up yesterday, read it, and are wondering why on earth are you reading it again…Liz messed up her days. With that, here we go again!

A few years back, my husband and I hit Kentucky for a family wedding. Besides falling head-over-heels for Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls (foreshadowing here as you’ll see RR again at BoFN), I left the state with a deep appreciation for all things bourbon. While BoFN isn’t the place to expound on how to make your own bacon bourbon or use this all-American spirit to spike cookie dough (stop by food for fun for these tricks), it’s certainly the blog to introduce one of the many funnily-named folk in Kentucky’s bourbon heritage.

Let’s meet Pappy, shall we? Way back when in 1893, 18-year-old Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. traveled as salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons, a liquor wholesaler in Louisville, KY. Pappy and a fellow salesman dreamed big and bought the wholesale house out in 1908. Two years later, they purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which made bourbon for Weller. Bright fellows both, Pappy and his pal merged the two companies to create the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which went on to sell bourbon labels such as W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still.

Pappy smoking a cigar and gracing a whiskey bottle

Pappy smoking a cigar and gracing a whiskey bottle

If you know your history, you’ll do the math here and realize that Pappy was distilling and selling whiskey as the U.S. entered prohibition. But Stitzel-Weller kept on keeping on even during those 13 dry years as the government licensed Pappy and his crew to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes.

Prohibition eventually ended and Pappy opened a brand-spankin’ new Stitzel-Weller Distillery in South Louisville on Derby Day in 1935. That strong Kentucky spirit (talking disposition here, though the beverage itself may also have had something to do with it) kept Van Winkle Sr. heavily involved in distillery operations until his death in 1965.

Son Julian, Jr. then took over operations, though stockholders forced him to sell the distillery in 1972. (Google wouldn’t dish on why he had to sell, so I say we make up our own stories. Why do you think Julian Jr. was forced to sell? Let me know in comments.)

JJ didn’t go down easily, though, as he went on to resurrect the only pre-prohibition label the Van Winkle family still owned–Old Rip Van Winkle. Whiskey stocks from the old distillery were called in to supply this brand and JJ’s son (yes, you guessed it–Julian, III) took over when his father passed away in 1981. Julian, III has continued with the company and his son Preston (they’d had enough of the Julians apparently) signed on in 2001. More recently, the Van Winkles joined up with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, where all of their whiskey is now produced.

an entire book about Pappy if you want to learn more

Pappy still smoking a cigar and now gracing a book cover

At his death, Pappy Van Winkle, Sr. was the oldest active distiller in the nation and his photo graces the label of each bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. While I’ve yet to have the pleasure of tasting his brand, it’s said to be one of the finest bourbons in the world. We raise a glass in salute to you, Pappy!

About Liz

Owner of deLizious Food Communications. Projects include recipe development, editing, and formatting; food writing and editing; nutrition analysis; public speaking and cooking instruction. Past and present clients: General Mills, Green Giant Fresh, Hormel, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Pork Producers, Norwood Promotional Products, Pillsbury, Tad Ware, and Weight Watchers Publishing. Mother of two young girls.
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22 Responses to Pappy Van Winkle, Julian Jr and III, and a Preston: Men of Fine Spirits

  1. Pingback: blogging about funny names like pappy van winkle… | food for fun

  2. amb says:

    Oooh, ooh!! I got the first like! Let’s see if I can type really fast and get the first comment, too! Wheee! (Yes, I’m already on my second cup of coffee this morning, why do you ask?)

    Can I just tell you how much I love the name Van Winkle? (hint: it’s a lot). Almost as much as I love the fact that VW was allowed to produce during prohibition for “medicinal purposes” … those doctors are a hard partying bunch, no? 😉

    PS: I think the Stitzel-Weller Distillery should join forces with the Goodham Worts Distillery here in Toronto, for the funny-name power alone ….

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, amb 🙂 Goodham Worts? That’s hilarious in multiple ways. (Good? Ham? The food person in me is all over this!) And if we added Van Winkle it’d get even better: GWVW. Then it would join forces with S-W and move toward world domination.

      Take it easy on the coffee (or maybe just pour me a glass–need something to get me going this morning) and make sure to pour yourself a (medicinal) shot of bourbon whenever you start feeling ill. Dr’s orders!

      • amb says:

        Love that we’re promoting world domination here, on top of medicinal bourbon and all manner of other good things 😀

    • Dave says:

      I hope doctors end up being a hard partying bunch! Would make medical school so much more fun!

  3. Dave says:

    One of the most knowledgeable guys I know is a cigar smoker. You don’t meet too many twenty-something cigar smokers these days.

  4. Dave says:

    Oh, last thing… I just remembered this. The rapper Vanilla Ice is actually named Robbie Van Winkle!!!!

    • Liz says:

      You two sure know how to heat up a room! We have rap music playing, cigar smoke wafting *cough, cough*, bourbon being sipped (not slammed, but sipped–this PVW is spendy stuff), and now you’re making notes to “share later.” Hmmmm…. I’ll, um…well, I think I’ll go now. Need to check on something somewhere else. Just be sure to lock up when you leave, ‘K? 😉

  5. Arto says:

    Great post, Liz! Pappy…can’t go wrong with a Pappy, much less a Van Winkle. Great stuff.

    Also great stuff were the oatmeal cookies I made yesterday from your recipe. De-Lizious!

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, Arto. PVW is a cute little name–ironic him being a bourbon distiller and all. Love that you’re using deLizious as an adjective–yay!

  6. Sort of makes me want a bourbon. Something I’ve never had.

    • Liz says:

      It’s strong stuff and I can only drink it if it’s cut 50/50 with soda water. But I love that it’s slightly sweet and even a bit caramel-y.

      Appreciate you stopping by–thanks!

  7. Great post Liz. Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.

    • Liz says:

      The party is officially ON now that you’re here, Fannie. Looking forward to reading about your travels (something about a Lord of the something?). AND I’d love to hear what you’ve been eating 🙂 S’mores?

  8. Pingback: Ruth Hanly Booe, Mother of the Bourbon Ball | The Blog of Funny Names

  9. Pingback: Crescent Dragonwagon, etc: The Summer Slide Edition | The Blog of Funny Names

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