Van Winkle Family to Release First Ever LIMITED EDITION VODKA This Month

WARNING: This is entirely FICTIONAL and APRIL FOOLS related. Not one word is true. For anyone that has experienced disgruntlement, we offer our sincerest apologies.

In a surprising move, Buffalo Trace Distillery announced that the Van Winkle brand—known for the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbon—will release a limited collection of “Van Winkle Vodka” this year, distilled from some of the rarest whiskey stock in the world. 

This one-of-a-kind vodka, which will be sold in limited quantities annually, is triple distilled from the existing stock of 23-year-old Van Winkle bourbon.

Buffalo Trace puts the aged liquid into the still, and runs it through the process again, then again, and then again for third and final haul in what is called the “stripping run.” 

“The third distillation is where the magic really happens in making the whiskey become vodka,” explains Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, “The process takes out the color, flavor, and everything else that barrels work so hard to impart into alcohol to make the spirit less “clean.””

– Harlen Wheatley, Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace Distillery

“It’s so amazing and so much fun,” added Wheatley, “We’re able to undo 23 years of hard work by Mother Nature in less than a day.”

Rectifying or redistilling whiskey into a neutral spirit is a process typically employed to repurpose “bad” whiskey, but the innovative choice to use finely aged bourbon to make an exceptionally clean vodka is groundbreaking.

“It’s really incredible,” explained Drew Maysville, Sazerac’s Master Blender and Director of Quality, “you see this dark, mahogany liquid go into the process, and out it comes on the other side clear as glass—and there’s not even the slightest hint that it was ever whiskey.”

According to language from a press release sent out this morning, the company is focusing on high end bars and restaurants around the country with high-quality cocktail programs. The idea is to use Van Winkle Vodka as the basis for infusions, martinis, and upscale vodka sodas.

“Imagine having a cosmopolitan,” explained Maysville in a phone call, “but the vodka in your glass was in a barrel for nearly a quarter of a century, before getting distilled again, then again, then again.”

Questions have arisen about whether this new product will make an already-allocated whiskey that much harder (and more expensive) to find.

Asked about these concerns, Sazerac President and CEO Mark Brown shrugged. “How much worse can it get?”

Wheatley, who also produces a vodka brand at Buffalo Trace Distillery, said this innovative approach could lead to more reclaimed vodkas in the future. “It just makes sense. We’ve got so much whiskey lying around—why make vodka from scratch when this other stuff is halfway there?”

Dwayne Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Distillery Manager at Sazerac, went on record, “Look – every booze has its day. Vodka had its day once. It will have it again. And when that glorious day comes, we’ll be ready for it with tons of old whiskey just waiting to be converted into clear liquid goodness.”

Wheatley Vodka has won a considerable number of medals over the last few years, and Sazerac sees an opportunity for innovation in these new approaches to vodka, and Wheatly explained that experimental batches using Stagg, Weller, and Blanton’s stock were already on the distillation schedule for this month. It’s unclear whether Blanton’s Vodka’s dump date will reflect the date before or after it hits the still again.

Tito Belvedere
Tito Belvedere is the vodka editor for Bourbon Review. He focuses on good, clean flavor distilled above 190 proof. April Fools', everyone!