Come fall, cult bourbon enthusiasts across America give thanks to the handful of establishments fortuitous enough to slide a few bottles of Pappy Van Winkle onto their shelves by proceeding to gleefully drink those places dry.
Having scored his annual allotment of old Rip Van Winkle Distillery’s prized product line, Bob Materazzi, owner of Shelly’s Back Room (1331 F St. NW), is not only looking forward to the bourbon purge, he finally gets what all the fuss is about.
For those who don’t worship at the altar of Pappy, the yearly release of the Frankfort, Ky.-born spirit lights a fire beneath casual boozers and serious collectors alike. The demand has gotten so high, in fact, that companies such as Eater conduct nationwide dragnets to try to pinpoint any traces of the highly sought-after hooch.
According to this year’s Pappy Locator, the following D.C. watering holes are also currently flush with the stuff:
- Acadiana/901 New York Ave. NW
- Bar Pilar/1833 14th St. NW
- Jack Rose Dining Saloon/2007 18th St. NW
- Vinoteca/1940 11th St. NW
“I’m not a bourbon drinker,” Materazzi admitted, citing a preference for Scotch whisky (“It’s much drier”) and rye. But after knocking back a round of the straight whiskey, he now understands the attraction.
“It’s delicious,” he shared, praising the wheat-based beverage’s “smooth, dark and mellow” notes.
Materazzi said he received eight bottles as part of this year’s allotment. The stash includes one bottle each of the 23-year-old reserve and the 20-year-old reserve, two bottles of the 15-year-old reserve, with the remainder filled out by the 12- and 10-year-old bourbons. He’ll be doling them out in 1.5-ounce and 2-ounce pours, respectively, ranging from $12.50 a pop for a taste of the 10-year-old to $63.50 for a long pour of the 23-year-old.
Materazzi said he doesn’t expect the current supply to last longer than a few months — “We haven’t had any all year,” he noted after reviewing his inventory back to January — but suggested fans should be able to feed their Pappy fix through the holidays.
To wit, Materazzi took a shine to our idea of providing a side-by-side tasting via a Pappy sampler. Shelly’s currently offers nearly a dozen prearranged flights (three 1-ounce pours of each), including: mature single malts (18-year-old Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Highland Park; $45), cask-strength Scotch whisky (Aberlour A’Bunadh, Glenlivet Nadurra, Macallan Cask Strength; $38), small-batch bourbons (Basil Hayden, Booker’s, Maker’s 46; $22) and select rye (Bulleit, (rī)1, Templeton; $20).