Ultimate Gift Guide 2014: Pappy Days

The Gift

  • A four-day trip for two couples to Frankfort, Ky., for a bourbon connoisseur’s weekend that includes round-trip private-jet transportation; VIP tours, dinners, and tastings at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, hosted by the distillery’s president and CEO, Mark Brown, and master distiller, Harlen Wheatley; and accommodations at the Beeches, an exclusive guesthouse at the distillery.
  • A private table on Millionaires Row to take in the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
  • One barrel of Buffalo Trace bourbon, selected by the recipients of this gift with the assistance of Harlen Wheatley, to be bottled and personalized with a medallion bearing the recipients’ name, family crest, or corporate logo.
  • Two complete sets (one per couple) of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Each set contains six bottles—the 10-, 12-, 13-, 15-, 20-, and 23-​year-old distillations.


Once considered a common libation—a spirit made for the masses—Kentucky bourbon has, in the last decade, risen in the estimation of collectors to stratospheric heights. The spirit is now esteemed as a connoisseur’s tipple, one that has aficionados clamoring for rare bottles;and no bottle is rarer than one filled with Pappy Van Winkle. Until last autumn, Van Winkle bourbons had increased considerably in value over the preceding 10 years. But since 65 cases of the limited-production spirit disappeared in October 2013 from a warehouse at the Buffalo Trace Distillery—the site in Frankfort, Ky., where much of the Van Winkle production takes place—demand has escalated drastically. At a Bonhams auction in Hong Kong in May, for example, a single bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year Old sold for more than $1,700. Simply put, many of the world’s most discerning bourbon connoisseurs and collectors would readily spend thousands of dollars for a bottle, but in many cases, those bottles simply are unobtainable. Happily for the recipients of this gift, the distillery is offering two complete, six-bottle sets of Pappy Van Winkle—one for each of the two couples—along with plenty of additional perks designed to slake the thirst of the bourbon lover.

The recipients’ unique experience begins when a private jet touches down at Capital City Airport in Frankfort. A private car will then whisk the two couples across central Kentucky’s pastoral landscape to the Buffalo Trace Distillery. There, the group will settle in at the Beeches, a 19th-century homestead that once belonged to the late company president Albert Blanton—namesake of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. The residence now serves as accommodations for the distillery’s most important guests. 

The following day, Mark Brown, president and CEO of Buffalo Trace, will lead the couples on a personalized, behind-the-scenes tour that will include many clandestine areas within the distillery, some of which predate Prohibition. They will learn about the distillery’s long history and its connection to some of the United States’ most revered bourbon brands, including George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare, William Larue Weller, Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, and Pappy Van Winkle.

The tour will conclude in Ware­house H, where, with the help of the master distiller Harlen Wheatley, the recipients will select their own barrel of 8- to 9-year-old Buffalo Trace bourbon. Six to eight weeks later, this cask will be partitioned by hand into approximately 200 personalized bottles adorned with the recipients’ name, family crest, or company logo. (These bottles—along with the empty barrel—will be shipped via a licensed liquor store of the recipients’ choice.) Following the barrel-selection process, the couples will join Brown or Wheatley for a dinner at the distillery, during which they will enjoy a private tasting of the complete range of Van Winkle bourbons.

On Saturday, May 2, the couples will don their best seersucker suits and whimsical hats and head via private car to Churchill Downs, where they will take in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby from a private table on Millionaires Row—the preferred perch of the race’s most illustrious spectators. 

Prior to their departure the next day, both couples will be presented with a six-bottle set of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. Such a parting gift will assure the guests that, regardless of how their bets paid out at the Derby the day before, their visit to Kentucky places them in the most exclusive of all winner’s circles.  

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Amy Preske, 502.696.5957, apreske@buffalotrace.com, buffalotrace.com

Travel will be arranged from any location in the United States and is valid only from Thursday, April 30, through Sunday, May 3, 2015 (Derby weekend).

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