I want to thank you, too. You've compiled a small collection of some of the most important work Pappy Van Winkle did, and made it available to bourbon enthusiasts half a century later.
I don't want to upset anyone who feels my views aren't respectful of a much-venerated figure in the history of bourbon, so y'all please understand that I have only the deepest respect for Julian Van Winkle, Sr.
But the fact is, Pappy didn't make the bourbon.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that many new bourbon enthusiasts, reading what we say about "the old Stitzel-Weller whiskey, in Pappy's time", don't realize that there never was any "Pappy Van Winkle" Stitzel-Weller bourbon. The fine master distillers who made that whiskey were Will McGill, Andy Corcoran, Roy Hawes, and others, but we never discuss them. I don't know why we don't - they're the ones responsible for Old Fitzgerald, Old Weller, Cabin Still, Rebel Yell. Pappy didn't tell those fine men how to make whiskey. Pappy DIDN'T KNOW how to make whiskey, and frankly he didn't really care, either. Pappy knew he had good whiskey, and he knew how to SELL good whiskey. And he did so with humor, and bombast, and an ability to tell a story that both entertained his listener and also taught them why they should buy his product.
These are the same qualities that distinguished Booker Noe decades later, but we have only the memories of Booker speaking; Pappy left a small portion of his genius in those articles and thanks to you we can "hear" him today. By the way, for anyone who would like to see these columns as they were printed, the book "But Always Fine Bourbon", by Pappy's granddaughter, Sally Campbell, has them illustrated.
So while I'm on the subject of alienating all my friends who revere Pappy Van Winkle, I need to add something about his grandson. With his recent move into the Buffalo Trace organization, which values and utilitizes his input into the process of creating the whiskey he wants to bottle, Julian III has come the closest of any Van Winkle to actually being a distiller. In fact, I'm not so sure that he doesn't deserve the title "master distiller" for new ORVW product every bit as much as Jim Rutherford or Jerry Dalton for theirs. But we won't taste that whiskey for many years. All we've known about Julian III has been as a selector and bottler of quality whiskey he did not make. Which is really what his grandfather and father did. And I would, without hesitation, put Julian III's mastery of those skills ahead of both of them.