Michter’s Has Pappy In Its Crosshairs

In bourbon auctions, Pappy Van Winkle has long reigned supreme. But in the past couple years, Michter’s older releases–e.g. the 20 and 25 year ryes and bourbons–have went toe to toe with the juggernaught.

Then, Michter’s sold a charity barrel for $209,000 and is seen on damn every episode of Billions. Now suddenly, Michter’s may surprise Van Winkle in auction houses as the “must get” to sell.

While I’ve seen this play out, I don’t think I realized how powerful the Michter’s brand had become amongst auction bidders. Then, last night, for the Art of Bourbon, for which I was the spokesperson, Michter’s 25-year bourbon (2017) went for $7,500, outselling Old Taylor 1960, a Weller vertical, Weller Centennial and Old Fitz BiB 1960s. There were no Pappies in the auction. But most charity auctions have had Pappy in the $2 to $5k. More charities, like the Ronald McDonald House, are putting Pappy in raffles instead of outright auctions, seeing more interest in people pursuing the bottle with a $100 chance than plunking $3k on the sure thing.

And the rise of Michter’s is not a fluke. Currently, at WhiskyAuctioneer.com, Michter’s has three of the top 10 selling products up for bid, and the 25-year rye is on pace to out bid Van Winkle.

Don’t get me wrong, Van Winkle interest is not going away. But Michter’s is starting to give it a run for its money.

While the exposure of the Michter’s success in past auctions and television helps, I think the biggest thing that is giving them success is they have mainstay products, which allows them to build core fans. Van Winkle’s unobtainable status, for the most part, makes it extremely difficult to create new everyday fans.

Meanwhile, a new Michter’s fan or 20 discovers them, finds an auction and goes all-in. Multiply that a few times, coupled with the fact those 2010 to 2017 releases were incredible, and you have the perfect formula for auction houses to target more Michter’s bottles.

That said, those coveted Michter’s releases were from their first and second phases of their company, when they were sourcing and contract distilling their own recipe. Now that they are creating their own bourbon, the question is: Will their own distillations keep this new breed of super fan?

Disclosures: Fred Minnick consulted for Whisky Auctioneer and the Speed Art Museum’s Art of Bourbon. Michter’s advertises on The Fred Minnick Show.

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