2014 Pappy Van Winkle Laser Codes
Admittedly, this is probably the most sensationalized titles I’ve used for a post on Bourbonr but there’s a reason. With the Pappy Van Winkle release in full swing there have been multiple Bourbonr’s that noticed the laser code on their bottles were 2013. In fact, there have been several states releases composed only of laser codes reflecting 2013. This led to speculations and accusations of Pappy hoarding (a felony in the bourbon world) aimed at retailers, distributors and Buffalo Trace (BT) themselves. Questions began to fly! Was Illuminati involved? Does Skull & Bones control the Pappy distribution? Did Dick Cheney have anything to do with this? All valid (sarcasm) questions so I decided to hunt for answers.
First, here’s some background from WhiskeyID about the Pappy Van Winkle lasers codes:
Dating Van Winkle bottles post-2007 is made relatively easy based on “laser codes” or “dot matrix codes” printed onto the bottles. These codes indicate the bottling line, date, and time the bottle was filled, but can sometimes be difficult to find and/or read. The date codes are usually printed on the back of the bottle below the label, though occasionally they’re above the label or under the label itself. A bright flashlight shining though the bottle from the other side will often aid in finding the code.
There are two versions of the date code layout, each with its own decoding schema:
In this example, the K = the bottling line, 225 = the 225th day of the year, 09 = the year bottled, 10:22 = the time bottled in military time.
2012 and on: B1312011:11K
Here, the B = Buffalo Trace, 13 = 2013, 120 = the 120th day of the year, 11:11 = the time bottled in military time, K = the bottling line.
Prior to 2007 Buffalo Trace wasn’t using Date codes, so it’s a little tougher. You can see the timeline for more clues.
Initially, I assumed there was a bottling done in late 2013 and it was held by Buffalo Trace (BT) until 2014. This seems plausible and completely reasonable since Pappy Van Winkle makes up a very small percentage of what is bottled by BT each year. The problem is some of the bottles released in 2014 have laser codes very close to the dates of the 2013 bottling. Was someone hoarding bottles?
I reached out to Buffalo Trace about this issue and their response was about what I expected “Some of this year’s release were bottled in 2013, so the B13 would not be an anomaly to find. We will often bottle products as the bourbon is ready to bottle and we have space in our bottling schedule”. As it turn’s out Occam’s Razor proves true and the simplest explanation is the correct one.
While this isn’t as scandalous as someone hoarding large amounts of Pappy would have been it still is interesting. By my own rough estimates about 15% of this years release has had a “B13” laser code. Bottling that much Pappy a year early doesn’t exactly scream “WHISKEY SHORTAGE” either. The majority of B13’s appear to be on Pappy 15. These are probably bottled early because of the volatility in aging bourbon over the 15 year mark.