Utah launches its first drawing for rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

(Tribune file photo) Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

Utah’s first drawing for Pappy Van Winkle — the rare bourbon that connoisseurs wait for every fall — officially launched Tuesday on the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control website.

Residents who want a chance at the hard-to-get liquor — at a more affordable price than anywhere else in the country — have one week to register, said DABC spokesman Terry Wood.

Once the drawing closes, on Dec. 10, a computer will randomly select the winners.

“It will take a few days to get the bottles to the respective stores,” Wood said. “But people should have them in time for Christmas.”

Utah received 183 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle products this year, including five of the company’s highly prized 23-year aged spirit; 12 of its 20-year aged bourbon; 23 of the 15-year spirit; 68 of the 12-year-old product; and 75 of the 10-year.

With such limited distribution, the bourbons typically have a huge markup, sometimes selling for more than $2,000 a bottle in other states and online.

In Utah, though, the price is less — much less. The 23-year and 20-year bourbons, for example, will go for $299.99 and $199.99, respectively. It’s one instance when Utah’s legislatively mandated 88% liquor markup works in favor of consumers.

Five other rare spirits — including Sazerac Rye and Eagle Rare Bourbon — also are part of this month’s drawing. All are available for $100 a bottle.

Residents can register for all 10 items, Wood said, “but once you win, you are out.”

The state will start with Pappy’s premier 23-year aged bourbon.

The DABC has been criticized in recent years for the way it handles these “unicorn” products, which are released only once a year in limited quantities.

It decided to launch the random drawing earlier this year as a way to give all interested consumers a fair shot at buying the products. The agency is calling it a drawing, not a lottery — which is illegal under state law — because consumers do not have to pay anything up front to participate.

It’s much like the drawing the state uses for hunting licenses.

The DABC started the online drawings using lesser-known spirits, so it could test the new system and work out any bugs before bourbons with the highest interest — like Pappy — were released.

“We’ve had a couple of minor problems,” Wood said, “but no major snafus.”

To participate in drawings, consumers 21 and older must first create a personal profile on the DABC website — https://abc.utah.gov/— that includes an email, birthdate and the last four digits of either their Utah driver license, passport, military or work ID.

Consumers who are selected will have to show that identification when they go to buy the bottle at the state-run liquor store they listed at registration.

Only Utahns and those in the active military in the state can put their name in the drawing. DABC employees may not participate; neither can restaurants, bars or other businesses with state liquor licenses.

The names will be picked randomly by computer. Those selected will be notified by email. Only one bottle can be purchased per address, and reselling the product is prohibited.