What hath the whiskey geeks wrought?

Well, for starters, inflated prices for Old Rip Van Winkle whiskeys. You know, Old Rip 10, Special Reserve 12 Year Lot B, Pappy 15 and 20, and the 23 Year that actually came from the now-defunct Stitzel-Weller Distillery. It doesn’t help that collectors set their own price for the stuff when, ahem, “trading” bottles on the secondary market. What’s done is done, and so is some people’s patience with snuffling out Pappy like truffle pigs. So what’s to be done? When in drought, make your own, says local barman Cody Fredrickson.

“I was, like a lot of people, caught up in the Pappy hype. I was already a fan of bourbon and fell into that ‘we gotta get Pappy Van Winkle!’ thing,” says Fredrickson, a bartender at Paris Las Vegas and secretary of the United States Bartenders Guild’s Las Vegas chapter.

If you’ve tried to pick up a bottle of Pappy on your way to a party in the last five years or so, then you know that this transaction is not as simple as making a beer run. You may have the cash, but there’s no Pappy to be had. Or vice versa: Your local liquor store has scored a bottle or two but is offering it at a grossly inflated price to the hundreds before you on the waiting list. It was just this sort of Pappy mania that spurred Fredrickson, already a home bitters tinkerer, to take up his latest DIY project: Poor Man’s Pappy.

“Essentially, you’re combining the age of the Weller 12 and the proof of the Weller 107,” says Cody Fredrickson said. “Whoever came up with this is pretty damn smart. It’s fun, especially if you’re really exploring bourbon."

“I searched for an alternative [to Pappy], and that led me to Bourbonr, which gave me a recipe for combining W.L. Weller 12 Year and Old Weller Antique 107 Proof," says Fredrickson. “It’s all Buffalo Trace; the only Stitzel-Weller product still in the Van Winkle line is the 23.”

In addition to its own line, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky., now produces Old Rip Van Winkle whiskey, as well as W.L. Weller, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Sazerac and many more.

“Basically, [Van Winkle and Weller] have the same mash bills and are aged for almost the same time,” he says.

To make his Poor Man’s Pappy, Fredrickson combines 40 percent by weight W.L. Weller 12 Year and 60 percent by weight Old Weller Antique 107 Proof in a 750-milliliter bottle, seals it and tries to forget about it for as long as possible (two months at minimum) to allow the spirits to integrate fully. His current batch is more than a year old. The aim was to approximate Old Rip Van Winkle 10 or 12 Year Lot B, but as Fredrickson discovered during a recent blind tasting at Delmonico Steakhouse, his Poor Man’s Pappy falls somewhere between the 12 and 15 Year in taste, body, heat and overall heft—so much the better for his personal enjoyment.

“Essentially, you’re combining the age of the Weller 12 and the proof of the Weller 107,” he says. “Whoever came up with this is pretty damn smart. It’s fun, especially if you’re really exploring bourbon. My suggestion, as with everything, is just taste it and to do so fairly. If you need to, have someone blind-taste you on it. You can learn a lot by releasing those expectations of what you’re drinking. Just between you and the juice in the glass, you get a lot of truth out of that.”

It’s worth noting that as Poor Man’s Pappy recipes have proliferated online, so, too, has the price of Weller 12 gone up and the availability of both essential ingredients gone down. Two years ago, Fredrickson picked up five bottles of W.L. Weller 12 for $22 apiece. A quick search on Total Wine reveals that while the Weller 12 sells for $25 and the Old Weller Antique 107 for $24, neither is in stock in the 10 stores closest to Las Vegas, including seven in California and one in Arizona.

So you might have to get even more crafty if you want to craft your own Pappy. 

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(image: Krystal Ramirez)