How Much Pappy Van Winkle is Left After 23 Years in a Barrel?
January 15, 2014
The most sought-after bourbon in the world, Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old, begins life as 53 gallons of new-make whiskey at 114 proof.
What's left in the barrel after 23 years is a mere 14 gallons of bourbon at around 135-140 proof. What makes it into the bottle is even less.
So I decided to run the numbers on how much Pappy Van Winkle is left in the barrel every year after evaporation (aka the "angel's share").
According to Harlen Wheately, Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, the angel's share is 10 percent for the first year (because whiskey is absorbing into the wood of barrel as well as evaporating), then 4 percent for the next 8 years after that, then around 3 percent per year after that.
(They store the future Pappy in barrels in the parts of the warehouse with the least evaporation as they know they want it to age for a very long time.)
|Pappy Van Winkle 23 Countdown|
|Year||Angel's Share (Percent)||Math||Total|
According to those calculations, there are 22.4 gallons left in the barrel, but this assumes that the alcohol percentage stays the same as it started.
The actual final proof is around 140 (70% ABV), so the 14 gallons that Wheately reports are equivalent to about 17.2 gallons at the original proof of 114 (57% ABV). That's a lot closer to the calculated number.
Wheately filled me in on some other practical factors for the math discrepancy.
“We have done a lot of proprietary work to determine the real proof drop while the barrels are aging so I wouldn’t want to reveal all our info.... (but)
While processing such small batches you get quite a bit of loss during the bottling process during the filtration process.
Also, during the course of 23 years there tends to be other factors such as leaks that increase the loss and are difficult to put numbers to.
A typical/perfect 23 year old barrel of wheated bourbon should yield about 14 wine gallons with about a 1-2 gallon loss during bottling which gets it down to 12-13 wine gallons recovered.”
So when you're paying for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 even at non-surge pricing, you're not just paying for the raw materials used to make and the time spent to age what's in that bottle, you're also paying for the raw materials and aging of 39 gallons of bourbon that evaporated before it got to the bottling facility, and a total of nearly 80% of the original juice that didn't make it into the bottle.
I think what more people want to know is how many barrels are left that were distilled at Stitzel Weller (which shut down in 1992)?
Posted by: Wade Woodard | January 15, 2014 at 09:27 AM
Methinks we don't have much of a chance of learning them revealing that intel!
Posted by: Camper English | January 15, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Understand the hype of Pappy is better then what's in the bottle.
Posted by: WN737spanner | July 07, 2015 at 10:12 PM
The 135-140 proof ends up 90 proof tho
Posted by: John | May 30, 2016 at 11:40 AM
I recently visited Buffalo Trace Distillery. . . and there was a whole warehouse of Pappy barrel.
Posted by: Tim | February 10, 2019 at 04:51 PM
It's pretty clear that the none of the Pappy released today contains any of the Stitzel Weller juice. Julian has been quoted saying that the first year for non S.W. juice was 2013 or 2014. And do the math, it shut down in 1992. There is no more SW juice left - if there was it would be at least 30 year old by now.
The barrels at Buffalo Trace were distilled there. The Pappy today is still very good, but it isn't the juice that won the awards and started the craziness.
In fact, it has been reported that the 23 year old bottle that won the big award in 1996 wasn't even S.W. juice. I believe Julian has confirmed that is was some older Old Boone distillery stock. So all this craziness started with a one-off bottling ;)
Posted by: Jeff | April 22, 2022 at 06:02 PM