Van Winkle Family Reserve Bottle Brings Record $15k in Speed Museum’s Art of Bourbon Auction


October 18, 2021

A rare, numbered bottle of Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-year from the 1990s – with its distinctive dripping red wax – sold for $15,000 in the Speed Museum’s Art of Bourbon auction.

The price broke a record for that particular bottle at the Sept. 23 Art of Bourbon auction and divides to $600 per pour.

“The red wax collection of Van Winkles is highly collectible and they don’t come up often,” bourbon authority Fred Minnick, who curated the Speed Art Museum’s fourth annual auction, said in a news release. “This sale proves that the Art of Bourbon is a serious place for bourbon lovers.”

Specifically, that notable bottle is a Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-year, No 841 – Lot 23. The Speed, which is Kentucky’s largest art museum, raised nearly $150,000 from the auction this year. All proceeds support the museum’s education programs and exhibitions.

“The auction also serves as a trendspotter for what’s next, and the incredible movement on Rabbit Hole and Barrell’s experiences showed these two relatively new brands are capturing the hearts of bourbon fans, while Maker’s Mark once again proved its experiences are highly sought after,” Minnick said.

A taste of hard-to-find whiskeys or exclusive experiences that showed well this year:

  • Brown-Forman Special Edition: Never sold in retail, very limited quantities produced. This commemorative bottle was created in celebration of Brown-Forman’s 150th anniversary. “It’s the first 150th anniversary bottle of B-F sold to my knowledge,” according to Minnick. Hammer price: $10,400
  • Rabbit Hole Single Barrel, picked with Founder and Whiskey Maker, Kaveh Zamanian: The company donated a barrel of Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey for a unique, exclusive personal blending experience where the winner picks the barrel with Zamanian’s guidance and insight. Hammer price: $13,000
  • The Barrell Craft Spirits Blending Experience: A hands-on, 2-hour blending experience with distillery founder Joe Beatrice, Chief Whiskey Scientist Tripp Stimson and Assistant Blender Nic Christianson. Hammer price: $9,500
  • The Ultimate Maker’s Mark “Immersion Experience Barrel Selection with Rob Samuels.” Hammer price: $16,500

Tom O’Grady, a Louisville-based executive and longtime bourbon collector who also serves on the Speed’s Board of Trustees, was the donator behind that Van Winkle Family Reserve bottle.

“I love donating to the Speed’s auction. It’s the perfect opportunity for my passion for bourbon to align with my ongoing support of the Louisville arts community,” said O’Grady.

Recognizing that Pappy is always an auction darling, Julian P. Van Winkle III, Pappy’s grandson and a third generation whiskey maker, donated several prized Pappy’s, including a Pappy bottle each of 15-year and 12-year, lot b from his personal stash. “Making sure Pappy is included in this year’s auction supports this worthwhile cause,” he said.