Julian P. Van Winkle, III, is President of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. He is the heralded grandson of Bourbon legend Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, creator of the ultra-aged premium Pappy Van Winkle brand and the very first James Beard winner from Kentucky, as well as numerous other accolades.
Watch the video to hear Chairman Emeritus of Maker’s Mark Distillery Bill Samuels, Jr. introduce Julian. He shares a few old time stories of growing up with Julian’s Dad, Pappy Van Winkle.
Julian P. Van Winkle, III is the third generation Van Winkle to produce bourbon whiskey in Kentucky. Julian started working for his dad, Julian Jr., in 1977.
After his Dad sold the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1972, Julian Jr. created the Old Rip Van Winkle brand. He arranged for the new owners of Stitzel Weller to bottle the Van Winkle’s brand, Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon using Old Boone and Stitzel-Weller distillation.
Bourbon was not an easy sell in those years. Many bottlers/distillers were putting really good whiskey in fanciful decanters to sell their whiskey. Soon after his Dad passed away in 1981, Julian was forced to purchase the Old Hoffman Distillery plant in Lawrenceburg, Ky. in 1983 to stay in business.
The new owners at Stitzel-Weller were not interested in continuing the Van Winkle bottling relationship. In Lawrenceburg, Julian aged his barrels and bottled all his brands along with a few other customers, including A.H. Hirsch, Michter’s and Black Maple Hill. After Julian found the now famous photo of his grandfather in a basement file cabinet in the mid-’90s, the Pappy Van Winkle brand was created. At that time, 10-year Old Rip Van Winkle and 12-year Van Winkle Special Reserve were the only two labels he sold of their wheated bourbon whiskey.
The 20-year Pappy Van Winkle brand scored a 99, the highest rating ever given by the Chicago Beverage Tasting Institute. Eventually, the 15 and 23 year Pappy Van Winkle labels were added to the Van Winkle portfolio. Julian was the first to sell ultra-aged premium bourbon whiskeys. He also added a 13-year premium rye whiskey to the portfolio, the oldest premium rye on the market at the time. All of these whiskeys received ratings in the 90s from the Chicago BTI. Julian had operated the company by himself since his father’s death in 1981. However, he was joined by his son Preston in June of 2001, the fourth generation Van Winkle to venture into the whiskey business. In 2002, since he was having no whiskey being produced for the future, Julian joined forces with Buffalo Trace Distillery, which now owned the W.L. Weller brand. This joint venture would solve any future supply issues that may arise. Buffalo Trace continues to distill, age and bottle the Van Winkle’s brands today.
In January 2009, Julian was honored to be nominated as a Fellow at the Southern Foodways Alliance annual fundraiser at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. The next January, at the same fundraising event, he was inducted as a new member into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs. This is a tremendous honor as the group members are some of the most talented people around.
In 2009 and 2010, Julian was nominated for a James Beard award under the category of Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. The James Beard awards are the Oscars of the Food & Beverage world.
In May 2011, Julian won the prestigious Wine & Spirits Professional award and was at the Lincoln Center in New York City to receive his award. He was the first Kentuckian to receive a James Beard award.
Whisky Magazine has honored Julian Van Winkle III with its highest accolade, inducting him into its Hall of Fame. Julian was recognized at the 2017 Whisky Magazine Awards America presentation held in New York on Feb. 28. He was at the time one of only 39 to be awarded this honor.
In 2020, the book “Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon and the Things That Last,” written by ESPN sportswriter Wright Thompson, was published by Penguin Press. The book tells of Julian’s sometimes difficult relationship with his father and his struggle in the early years to keep his family’s bourbon heritage alive.
Watch the Entire 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
- The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Inducts its 20th Class with Lots of Laughter and Few Tears [Video Part 1]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson [Video Part 2]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Rabbit Hole Distillery Founder Kaveh Zamanian [Video Part 4]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Spirits Industry Supporter Representative Chad McCoy [Video Part 5]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Founder of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus John Yarmuth [Video Part 6]
- 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Kentucky Artisan’s Stephen Thompson [Video Part 7]
- Founder of Kentucky Artisan Distillery and Former President of Brown-Forman Distilleries Steve Thompson has Passed Away