Destroy the (Empty) Pappy!

I know what you’re thinking. No, this isn’t another post about the Pappy heist. This is a PSA for the Bourbonr community. Make sure you destroy all empty bottles of Pappy Van Winkle and other limited releases [insert joke about people not drinking Pappy]. As prices increase scoundrels will find their way into the bourbon market. Fake Pappy isn’t a matter of if but when. I’m sure it’s currently happening at some level but luckily it doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. Guys will refill empty bottles, reseal them and sell them for secondary prices. Why else would someone pay hundreds of dollars for an empty bottle?  The scotch industry has already experienced this problem. Collectors were shocked to find that their rare/antique bottles of Macallan were actually fakes.

Because of the increased paranoia about reused bottles guys in facebook groups are pledging to break all of the rare, empty bottles. For the good of the bourbon community, I endorse this action. But, have some fun with it at least!

Pappy Pinata

Maybe you don’t want to break your bottles but you also don’t want them to end up in the hands of thieves. Here are some cool alternatives for empty bottles:

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– Make it into a glass 

– Fill with coffee from your favorite roaster

– Turn it into a lamp

How To Spot A Fake Pappy Van Winkle

  • Know the person you’re trading with. Try to stick to friends or guys that can be vouched for by another member of the bourbon community
  • Ask for proof of purchase
  • Look for a laser code
  • Most importantly, check the cap for signs it’s been replaced. Everything about the bottle could be original except for the foil cap (and contents). Be familiar with the real Pappy foil caps. Real bottles are done in Buffalo Trace’s million dollar bottling facility. If the cap looks wrinkled, crooked or just off it’s probably because the guy refilled the bottle and put the foil cap on in his bathroom with a hair dryer.




    Thank you so much for this post. I have been looking for the Pappy for a year or two now but not wanting to pay the exorbitant prices. I wanted to make a gift for our son before he becomes too incapacitate to enjoy his drink. He has ALS and learned his taste for the finer bourbon’s while in the military. So in thinking I am not on top of these things I was just going to follow the release and see what I could pick up as a gift within a reasonable price. I would be the perfect candidate to be snookered into a fake Pappy.
    My new thoughts on this are maybe taking him on a tour of the Distilleries. This way I won’t be taken for a “ride” on the fake bourbon trail.
    So for this article I am truly grateful.

    Save yourself the headache and buy him a Willett 22yr wheater. Better that (gasp) Pappy I think. But I’m also a guy that likes pickled jellyfish.

    Van Winkle Laser codes rub off with your fingers, so no laser code isn’t 100% fake, but of course a laser code would be nice.

    OK!! Great!! Just what I needed… Came across a bottle of 23 at a “reputable (I assume)” retailer. The bottle seems square all the way around. Clean / tight foil seal w/ black pin stripe. Was tagged & bagged. Laser code intact. Bottle # nice & neat. One small suspicious thing… the label on the neck that
    states “23 year Old” was missing(!?!?!?). It did not look like one was ever there (no adhesive smudge marks). Anybody ever see this??

    how does looking for a laser code determine if it is fake? if the bottles are re-used, the laser code will not determine anything, right?

    Got that spot on. I guess if you buy secondary then once you know the person, go back to them again the next time you have more money that’s itching to be off loaded.

    Yes, I actually have a bottle missing the back label. I have another bottle double Lazer tagged, and another 2 bottles with no lazer tag at all. It happens, all legit bought in Kentucky at BT.

    Yes. I’d say that falls in the category of bottling mistake and not “fraud”. Same with things like double laser code or laser code on the label

    I’ve left instructions with my wife that when I pass, she is to have me cremated and my ashes put into my empty bottle of Pappy 23 year. She is to pass it on to my Grandson and he is to put it on his Bar. When someone askes him what it is he can say “That is my Gran Pappy”…

    I was stupid enough to drink and toss all of my Pappy back before it became the holy grail of bourbon. I still can’t believe people are paying $1600 plus for a bottle of the 20yr. Mine was finished off at a poker game with the guys and I thought the $100 I spent at the time was too much as we all thought the 12 was better ($40 at the time). Now I wish I had saved my Pappy and my Eagle Rare 18 and George T Stagg as hind sight is 20/20. Then again the stuff is made for drinking not hoarding down some blackhole. Good thing there are many great bourbons at good prices as you cant take it with you!.

    Man you did it perfect. A good drink is only a good drink if you enjoy it with nice friends. The memory will remain forever. Mine is also open and from time to time I enjoy a glass. If the bottle will be empty one dax….. I enjoed good time to remember. Real Bourbon Lover drink the stuff.

    I had entered a lottery late last year for the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, out of 4,000 entries in Idaho I won that opportunity. So after having the bottle shipped to a local liquor store by the State of Idaho Liquor Comission I purchased my bottle on January 4, 2016
    Waiting for either a wedding or death to open it or maybe I’ll sell it, not sure. It’s a once in a life time bottle.

    I did something like this. Brought a 10 year to a good friend’s parent’s passing. At the end of the night 4 of us went through it. Went a long way and was much appreciated.

    I’m a lucky I am from Kentucky, it’s who you know. I get 4 bottles a month sent to me. It took me two years to get a complete grand slam a 2013 and 2012 set. I prefer the 15yo and 13yo. The 12 and 10 are good to. To me the 23 and 20 taste like grandma’s basement smells. Again it’s preferences….

    Great idea. I’ll start selling fakes on my fake website The Bitcoin Alcohol Market. I’m always looking for new ideas to rip off innocent people. I’m a huge scumbag asshole.

    OK, for those of you who defend flipping/the secondary market with arguments along the lines of “that’s what capitalism is all about” or “this is America, I can sell what anything I own to a willing buyer”, why shouldn’t I sell my empty VW bottle for more than what I paid for a full one at retail? Not that I’ve done it (yet), but I don’t buy on the secondary market, and I trust the retailers I buy from to sell me the real deal. So how do I get hurt? If there’s a growing distrust in the authenticity of what’s being sold out there and the secondary market collapses as a result, isn’t that better for me in the long run?

    Tony, you have a valid point. However I dont know if it applies to you at all but maybe it will in the future. I’ve traded with people through the aftermarket. So while they seem like trustworthy enough people who are on the sites and social media and are willing usually to share home addresses I dont know if they get it from the aftermarket as well. So this would help with reducing the danger of trading as well.

    And in addition to the bottles I would love if people didn’t see the tubes, bags or tissue paper some of these come with.

    A free market still has constraints. Fake bottles are still a problem in a free market. BTBROOK brought it up in the comment below but have you ever traded a bottle? Do you really think there’s not stores bring bottles in that haven’t gone through distribution? What about bars? Point is, an industry with lots of fake bottles bad for everyone whether you buy on the secondary or not.

    I’ve made a few trades, but not many, and as far as I can tell I’ve never been burned. Yeah, I have no doubt that there are stores that bring in bottles that haven’t come through standard/legal channels, most of my buying is through two stores where I know the owners and trust them. Bars are more of a crap shoot, but I don’t buy a lot of high end pours in bars. My selection at home is much better and much less expensive. So I’m not overly concerned about being burned by a fake bottle.

    I’m not saying I’d ever sell one, but personally, I view it as a less egregious practice than the whole phenomema of the secondary market, fakes or not. And I don’t think all these bottles get re-circulated into the secondary (although I’m certainly not naïve enough to think that most of them don’t). It’s possible that some people just want a Pappy bottle sitting on their shelf for bragging purposes. If they don’t have access to one at retail, better to buy a bottle of 20 year old for $120 and fill it with a bottle of Makers than pay $1,000 (or whatever the going rate is, I don’t know) to have the same bottle sitting there and not drinking it.

    Yeah this is a great theory, but these guys in Facebook groups are ridiculous. It’s evidently ok to re-sell a full bottle at 10x retail for them, but not ok for the guys that drink these bottles to sell their empties. To my knowledge, the sale and/or shipping of alcohol is illegal in most states without a license. I understand your intention here Blake, but these guys that stirred this up don’t help anyone reading this blog because they are the same ones buying all the Van Winkle up under the guise of being collectors and then flip the bottles at a huge profit. Amazing.

    I have an empty bottle of ORVW that I could transform into a lamp, but I wish it was still full and unopened!! :-OO (Bought it a few years back before prices went insane.)

    Man, am I ever tired and disgusted by the Pappy BS and hype. It’s a good bourbon, there are other good bourbons out there and to my taste many are equal to or better than Pappy. My taste doesn’t run to far to the smokey so I have never really enjoyed any Pappy aged more than 15 years. I used to be able to walk into the liquor stores in the Florida panhandle and pick up a couple of bottles for a really reasonable price. Heck, just 3 years ago I purchased a bottle of 10 yr for $35.00 and a bottle of 12 for $59.00. This year, those same stores were selling the 10 yr for $250 and the 12 for $400. You can keep it, or sell it to somebody who will likely just turn around and resell it online. While in the store I watched a guy buy 5 bottles, 10, 12, 18 , 20 and 23. He paid over $2000 for all 5. Do you think he’s going to drink it? I don’t. The purveyor justified his prices by saying that he researched prices on line and that’s what it’s going for. Really? How about MSRP, or small profit over what he paid for it?

    Well there is the rarer bottlings like A.H. Hirsch 16 year old or Parkers Heritage 2nd edition each these are also upwards of 2500 a bottle on the aftermarket. It is not just pvw’s.

    With the increased popularity and prices steadily rising in the whiskey/bourbon industry, there will be increased scamming of people looking to get a bottle of the Pappy’s and other highly sought after bottles. People mostly do this shit out of anger and frustration with the lack of availability of the said product(s). They figure if they cant get their paws on a bottle, F**K everybody else! The distilleries with the help of the consumers, have created monsters who will prey on unsuspecting folks NO matter the moral or monetary cost. I say, in addition to the Pappy bottles, destroy ALL limited release/editions, BTAC and ANY allocated bottles after consuming. CRUSH!….KILL!! DESTROY!!! ALL EMPTIES!!!!

    I would make glasses or flower vases out of the bottles that didn’t have a paper label….I’ve seen this done with the Grey Goose vodka empties…the glasses made from the empties are VERY nice,stylish and are selling for over $20 a piece online. I would LOVE to have a set of PVW Old fashion cocktail glasses displayed on my bar…..especially if I couldn’t get a bottle of the Pappy juice….those glasses, along with the Julian Van Winkle’s old fashion cocktail recipe sold as a set….that would sell!

    How about lable shape (square or round corners)
    And type of paper used. I’ve got two 13 yea Olds, different release years but one the lable is rather suspect. I can’t find any info on each release year and the lable type

    Has anyone purchased from I believe that I saw an advertisement for their website on this blog. Blake, would you recommend this company as a “reputable” distributor?

    I have an empty “23” bottle that I will gladly let YOU destroy for $200. I totally understand your argument, but asking someone to destroy something of value because, in your opinion, it’s the right thing to do is nuts.

    I understand your point but think you put too much emphasis on one section of my argument. My point is, don’t sell or give away empty bottles. If you want to keep it in your home that’s not a problem. If you insist on selling, drill a hole in the bottom and sell “as is”. If you insist on selling empties knowing the deceitful tactics others are using them for that’s terrible.

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