Cult bourbon fans gobble up ‘bottle lottery’ tickets at record pace

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Pappy Van Winkle bottle lottery starts today

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The hottest ticket in town isn’t for a concert or a play — it’s for the chance to buy a bottle of booze.

>>BOURBON LOVERS: Here’s how you can get in the Pappy Van Winkle ‘bottle lottery’

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control's Pappy Van Winkle bourbon-bottle lottery that started Monday morning has prompted an unprecedented response three days into its 11-day offering. By Wednesday afternoon, Ohio's bourbon enthusiasts had snatched up and registered more than 8,100 entries — about the same number of entries that were collected over the entire 11-day window of a nearly identical bottle lottery featuring bourbons from the same distillery just a few months ago, according to a spokeswoman for the state's liquor-control agency.

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At least one local liquor store — the Arrow Wine & Spirits shop on Far Hills Avenue in Kettering — had been cleaned out of all of its entry forms by late Tuesday afternoon, less than 36 hours after the tickets became available. And the state won’t be re-filling the store’s supply, because there’s a finite number of tickets, and all have been distributed to stores.

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Photo from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery Facebook page

Photo from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery Facebook page

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Photo from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery Facebook page

The liquor-control spokeswoman said despite the initial run on entries, the overwhelming majority of liquor stores around the state still have tickets left to hand out to Ohio residents of legal drinking age who are interested in purchasing a bottle of the highly coveted bourbon.

“We have 56,000 tickets across the state, so we still have a lot of tickets out there for Ohioans to pick up — and remember, they can go to any of our contract liquor agencies to get a ticket,” she said.

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The Van Winkle bourbons have achieved cult-like status around the U.S. and beyond, in part due to their scarcity: they are released in comparatively tiny quantities. That scarcity has led some by-the-bottle retailers in other states where liquor sales are not controlled by state government to jack up retail cost well beyond the price suggested by , the Buffalo Trace Distillery, which produces Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. And some individuals who do score bottles seek to re-sell them on the secondary market for inflated prices.

The bourbon’s maker has even warned of counterfeit bottles.

The Van Winkle bottle lottery offers applicants the opportunity to purchase one bottle that will be determined by the state's liquor-control agency. Here's how the bottle lottery works:

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Applicants can obtain a free ticket at any of the 465 contract state liquor stores in Ohio — those that still have tickets available. The 11-day window to enter began Monday, Nov. 6, and will end at 11:59 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17. Customers must then must go online to register the entry number. Only one entry per person is allowed.

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Officials will notify those holding the winning ticket numbers by email of which bottling — there are five, ranging in age (and escalating price) from 10-year to 23-year — the winner can purchase. The winning ticket holder doesn’t get to choose which bottle — the state assigns each ticket to one of the five bottlings. They are:

• Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year: $54.94

• Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year: $64.21

• Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year: $91.98

• Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year: $156.80

• Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year: $249.38

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Jim Canepa, superintendent of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said he expects the state to receive an allocation of “at least 500 bottles” total of the five bourbons. The bottle lottery is part of the division’s drive to infuse fun and innovation into Ohio’s system of selling liquor, Canepa said.

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The Pappy Van Winkle family products are considered "the most coveted and hardest to buy bourbons on the planet," according to Food & Wine Magazine.

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