Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle Sr.
The one and Only "Pappy"
Julian Prentice "Pappy" Van Winkle Sr. was born in Danville, Kentucky in 1874. The Van Winkle family was a very affluent clan that came emigrated from Holland to America along with the very first Governor of New York Peter Stuyvesant in 1647. Pappy’s grandfather, Abraham Van Winkle, moved to Kentucky during the late 18th Century. His father John Van Winkle, a lawyer with considerable assets married Louise Dillion in January 1867, they would go on to have seven children, six sons and one daughter.
Julian moved away from Danville and moved 80 miles northwest to Louisville, which was booming city whose reputation was just being formed as a whiskey town. Van Winkle got involved with bourbon in 1893 when get got a job as a traveling salesman for W.L. Weller & Sons. His first job there was to travel around the states of Kentucky and Indiana by horse and buggy peddling Weller’s liquor to taverns, saloons and other retail outlets. In 1904 he married Katherine (called Katie) at the age of 29. In 1910 they had two children, daughter Mary in 1912 a son, Julian Procter Jr.
In 1909 William Weller died and Julian and a partner purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery in Shively, Kentucky from his two sons that did not want to be in the bourbon business. This was the facility that produced all the bourbon for William Larue Weller’s wholesale company. The brands it produced at the time were large ones such as “Old Fitzgerald, Old W.L. Weller, Cabin Still, Mammoth Cave, and Old Rip Van Winkle.” The latter brand carried Julian’s popular upstate New York last name. ”Old Rip Van Winkle” was named after the famous children’s tale written by Washington Irving published in 1819. Other smaller brands included Old Elk, Old Mock and Belle of Bourbon,
Somehow as prohibition passed, Stitzel-Weller won what was essentially a golden ticket, granted one of six licenses by the federal government to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes.
A little more than a year after prohibition ended on the first Saturday of May in 1935, two distilleries merged. The new entity was anointed as, “the king of distilleries,” calling itself the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. The distillery’s reputation was renowned based on its core products of wheated bourbons. This type of bourbon used wheat as the second flavoring grain instead of rye. The wheat gave the finished product a softer, smoother taste.
Julian Van Winkle Sr. was a distiller who lived by the motto “We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon." Pappy had an affinity for his family and the legacy of his family name. He brought into the company both his son Julian Proctor Jr., his son-in-law, King McClure and eventually once he grew into a young man his grandson, Julian Proctor Van Winkle III.
Pappy ran the Board of Directors of the company that became a “Whiskey Empire” and directed the family’s assets until almost the very end. Pappy Van Winkle died in February 1965 at the age of 91 and was buried Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. Despite the family tradition of four generations his grandson, Julian, III. sold the Stitzel-Weller distillery in 1972 to the Sazerac family of New Orleans and the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Rights to all the distillery’s brands were part of the sale that included W. L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still as well as it original label of Old Rip Van Winkle and the famous brand of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve.
Pappy Van Winkle
World's Most Expensive Bourbon