Pittsburgh Bars reply to the prospect of successful shopping for uncommon bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon

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Cameron Lehman, bar manager at Muddy Waters Oyster Bar in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, knows how far whiskey lovers will travel for a sip of a rare spirit. He often sees visitors from out of state coming to sample one of about 75 whiskeys that Muddy Waters has on offer.

“When people come in and look at our whiskey shelf, I love to see that look in their eyes,” Lehman said.

The bar recently got a new, prestigious bottle: Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 year old Bourbon Family Reserve.

Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery’s bourbons are hugely popular and so rare that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is handing out bottles by lottery. Individuals, bars, and restaurants must enter to purchase a bottle from the Kentucky Distillery. Prices range from $ 99.99 to $ 399.99, depending on the rarity.

This year’s lottery was held last month.

The state only had 23 bottles of Van Winkle’s rarest bourbon for sale by the age of 23. Five of these bottles were made available to bars and restaurants, and all were obtained from establishments east of the Alleghenies.

However, a few establishments in the Pittsburgh area managed to get hold of one of 17 available bottles of the somewhat less rare 20-year-old variety, including the Muddy Waters Oyster Bar.

The state sold bottles of the 20-year-old bourbon for $ 249.99

“It’s always great to put new things on the shelf,” said Lehman.

According to Lehman, Muddy Waters already had bottles of Pappy Van Winkle’s 10-year-old and 15-year-old bourbons from previous lotteries.

The bar will sell the 20-year-old bourbon for $ 95 an ounce.

Peter Kurzweg, co-owner of the Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill, said he thought the hype surrounding Pappy Van Winkle was exaggerated, even though he was glad his company won a bottle of 20th anniversary.

“I don’t think Pappy Van Winkle is the be-all and end-all of the Bourbons,” he said. “The way the lottery works is, you get used to everything and you hope you get one.”

His new bottle of bourbon is said to be on a shelf for a while – the Independent Brewing Company is closed for indoor meals and he cannot sell bourbon to take away. He hasn’t decided what to charge, but the Independent Brewing Company has won bottles of Pappy Van Winkle in the past and sold them for $ 50 an ounce.

“We’re doing our best not to hit,” he said. “There are a lot of bars and restaurants in town that would charge you $ 200 an ounce, that’s just not our style.”

Two other Allegheny County establishments won bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Years Bourbon. The Pomodoro Pizzeria and Ristorante in Wexford could not be reached for comment while a manager at Monte Cello on Babcock Boulevard in Ross said he was unaware of the restaurant’s lottery win.

Van Winkle’s other, less infrequent, offers were won by dozens of establishments in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Jacob Tierney is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@triblive.com, or on Twitter.

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