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Poor Man's Pappy Bourbon

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on

If you've come across this page, you may have  been in search of an elusive brand of bourbon referred to as "Poor Man's Pappy." We have good news and bad news for you 

Poor Man's Pappy Bourbon

(Pictured: A "Poor Man's Pappy" label, a "fan fiction" bourbon brand that does not exist. Photo credit: Bourbonandjeeps, used with permission.)

The bad news

As you might have surmised, the bottle doesn't exist. (And actually maybe that's good news.) It is a fiction concocted, with tongue firmly in cheek by most. The labels, are sold by assorted renegades on various art sites, and was probably enough of a clue to know the brand is not real.

We've seen labels featuring Rodney Dangerfield, no doubt implying the "I don't get no respect" aka as opposed to Pappy getting a lot of respect!. Other labels have Bill Murphy pictured, or more specfically the character he played in the film Lost in Translation, an actor past his prime who travels to Tokyo for a lucrative commercial advertising Japanese whisky. 

We'll get to the good news in a moment -- you can scroll down to the headline if you want to -- but you might be wondering, why is there this "fan fiction" about a poor man's brand of this bourbon.

The real Pappy

As we wrote this (Jan 2022), we Googled prices for Pappy. The top 4 hits:

Boss Man handmade gift box with Pappy Van Winkle  23-Year Bourbon -- $6,099.00

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year -- $3,499.99

Pappy Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year -- $1,549.99

Pappy Van Winkle Special Reserve 23 Year -- $5,899.99

It should be noted these are the market prices and not the suggested retails from the manufacturer.

So you might see why some may be looking for a less expensive version. 

The story of the distillery is an enchanting biography of a family company that back in the day could barely sell a barrel of their whiskey, a humble family that eventually found its bottles sought-after beyond anything else in the bourbon hunting world.

A friend of ours had the opportunity to try the 12 Year. He said the nose filled the room in a way he hadn't experienced before. 

When Pappy got discovered 

Named after Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle Sr, who bought a distillery in 1893 at 18 years old and became the oldest active distiller when he died in 1965, the sales of the Van Winkle bourbon had been interrupted when Prohibition descended on the United States. While Pappy's reopened in 1935, the Van Winkle brand would not be reintroduced until 1972. 

But it was nowhere near the prize it is known for today. It was a premium brand, to be sure, but bourbon was on the outs. It was your dad's drink. Bottles of Pappy sat on some liquor store shelves.

Then in 1998 -- as bourbon was making its comeback -- the Beverage Testing Institute awarded the Pappy 20 Year 99 points out of a 100, the highest ranking ever given, and the rest of course is history.

It is now the most sought-after bourbon whiskey; the elusive unicorn. Only about 7,000 cases are bottled each year, which is about 80,000 bottles. When word comes of a shipment, people stand in lines overnight; liquors stores have customer raffles for the opportunity to buy the precious few bottles.

Which brings us to the "Poor Man's Pappy"

While there is no real bourbon by that name, there are whiskeys that many find similar -- a comparative nose and taste profile, as it were. Pappy is a "wheat" bourbon, using wheat over rye, along with the requisite 51% corn. This gives such bourbons what is described as a smooth, soft, or even sweet flavor, and it is said Pappy's has that but "with a kick," a "bite" 

Pappy is distilled and bottled at Buffalo Trace, which, among many other brands, has W.L Weller's, another wheat bourbon

Which brings us the "Pour Man's Pappy" home recipes

Most of us can satisfy our taste for a good bourbon with a similar profile to Pappy by simply drinking other good wheat bourbons. 

But some folks have taken it to the next level by blending several whiskeys at home, in an effort to create a "Poor Man's Pappy" recipe. And by the way, considering the pours they are using,  it's rather a rich person's recipe. has this recipe:

"A 2:3 blend of Weller 12 yr + Old Weller Antique 107. For a ready to to drink blend of Poor Man's Pappy, pour 2 parts (40%) Weller 12 year and 3 parts (60%) Old Weller Antique 107 into a glass. Give it a swirl and let sit for 5-10 minutes."

If you're willing to be patient, they suggest letting the blend "mingle" for a few days, or a full week. Others recommend even longer.

In the video below from Distinguished Spirits, there is another recipe for the nectar. You'll need a mini oak barrel:

W.L. Weller's 12 Year is the common denominator. The anecdotal evidence is that the Weller 12 Year has the same mash bill (grain/ ingredients) as Pappy. As a result, the Weller -- which not long ago could be found for about $40 a bottle --  is now very difficult to find.

Finally, in honor of the legendary bourbon that is the reason for all this love, fuss, flattery, and imitation, we end with the real thing: Cheers.

 Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

(Pictured: Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, Wikipedia Creative Commons, Craig L. Duncan.)

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