The Alternative Pappy
If you know nothing about bourbon, chances are better than not that you are familiar with the name Pappy Van Winkle or just "Pappy" for short. It's a name steeped in mystique and luxury and right, wrong or indifferent is the pinnacle of the bourbon world. Whether or not it belongs there is a discussion best saved for another day.
Given the hype around Pappy, it's become increasingly more expensive and increasingly rarer. With Buffalo Trace's recent $1.2 billion expansion there is certain to be more coming to market though, right? Sure, just remind future you fifteen years from now that Pappy should be more common. Sadly, expansions don't take away the need to mature the spirit in the wood, so with time perhaps we'll see pricing come down and supply go up, but in the meantime, don't hold your breath.
A quick glance at the Bourbon Blue Book will tell you that absent finding a bottle of Pappy on a shelf somewhere or having a good buddy who owns a liquor store that gets these kinds of allocations and is willing to hook you up, you're going to have to outlay a fair sum to be able to stake ownership of one of the most coveted brands on the market. But what if you could channel the inner master blender in yourself and make something that's nearly as good for a fraction of the cost?
Pappy Van Winkle's Kissing Cousin's
It was around 2010 that the "secret" that Pappy and the Weller line shared the same mash bill went mainstream. If you're not familiar with mashbills, check out our post on Mash Bill for Bourbon. Not only do these bottlings share the same mash bills, but they're made on the same stills, use the same rickhouses and are placed in the same type of barrels. Although sharing a lot in common with how these spirits are derived, that doesn't necessarily equate to similar outcomes. I think about my brother and I who, born from the same parents grew up with the exact same environmental factors, and yet we turned out night and day different. That said, my brother and I do have a lot of similarities, and much can be said for the contrast between Pappy and the Weller line; there's certainly a common thread that runs through these wheaters.
Making Poor Man's Pappy
So, whether you're not keen to pay the insane prices on the Secondary Bourbon Market to acquire a bottle of Pappy or have grown impatient waiting for the magic unicorn to present itself for purchase out in the wild (which let's face it, some of these stores are now charging MORE than secondary prices for uncommon or rare bottles) then it may be worth making your own alternative Pappy at home.
To make Poor Man's Pappy, you'll need to start off with an empty bottle and a base of Weller 12 Year. Weller 12 is then mixed with Weller Antique 107 to bring up the proof as well as to ramp up the flavor profile. The two are blended at a ratio of 2:3, Weller 12: Weller Antique 107 and we recommend that you let your Poor Man's Pappy sit for at least a week to allow the whiskies to comingle before enjoying.
Older is Better?
There has been some discussion that more recent offerings of Weller 12 have fallen in their overall quality compared to years past. This has been anecdotal, but with demand sky-high, some have suggested that Buffalo Trace may be using less mature barrels with the strain on supply. A recent side-by-side blind tasting of archival samples from the Beverage Testing Institute would suggest some credence to this rumor. That said, if you've got an older bottle of Weller 12 sitting around, it may be the better option for blending compared to more recent bottlings from Buffalo Trace.
Where to Find Weller?
Perhaps you're not able to find or acquire any Weller Bourbon, and that's a reality that a lot of folks may face. Not to despair, as there are a lot of other wheated bourbons out there that are great on their own merits. Some of the open bottles sitting on the Bourboneur garage bar shelves right now include Old Elk, Nine Banded, and Old Fitzgerald to name a few. If you enjoyed the conversation today, I'd suggest you become a Bourboneur and join us on Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even TikTok.