Pappy Van Winkle Gives Back: 25 Year Barrel Head Auction

One of the most positive aspects of having a family bourbon that is arguably “priceless,” is that it can raise a lot of money for great causes. Our distillery donates as much as we can to organizations around the country annually, but what has been amazing to see are the donations from people’s private collections knowing they can make a difference. People all around the world are able to leverage something special of their own to raise money for causes important to them. If we had to guess, the funds raised from our bourbon would be well into the millions. Here at Pappy & Company, we don’t get much “Pappy” to work with, so we are always looking for other ways to give back when we can. 

Several years ago our family launched the most limited and oldest release of bourbon in our history. 710 bottles of 25-Year-Old Rip Van Winkle Whiskey, packaged in a custom crystal decanter with a box made from the wooden barrel staves that aged this old whiskey.  This release came from a mere 11 barrels distilled in the fall of 1989 at our family’s original distillery, Stitzel-Weller. Fast forward to today, the staves from the barrels were since used, but we had 16 of these rarest barrel heads collecting dust in our storage unit. In thinking about selling them, we knew they deserved a higher price for their rarity, but couldn’t put a number on something so priceless, nor did we feel comfortable pricing them above our standard mark up, so we quickly thought...fundraiser!  

We had the barrel heads refurbished, engraved with the design created for this special 25-year release, and signed by our Dad, Julian Van Winkle III. For this first fundraiser, we are auctioning off five of the barrel heads, and 100% of the proceeds are going to Gilda’s Club in honor of our dear friend Tyler Beam, an integral supporter and advocate of Gilda’s Club and a 20-year cancer survivor continuing to fight the battle today. Just like our bourbon, we feel fortunate to have something so rare, priceless, and “unattainable” that allows us to give back in a meaningful way. 

About The Cause: Gilda’s Club & The Red Door Campaign:

The first Gilda's Club was established in New York in 1995 by friends of SNL Comedian Gilda Radner, who died of cancer in 1989. Gilda had a vision that no one should face cancer alone. Thanks to the generosity of the community and hard work by the founders who shared Gilda's vision, the red doors opened in Louisville in 2007, becoming the 21st clubhouse to open in the United States and Canada. The result? A supportive community for families and individuals living with cancer to learn, share and laugh. Yes, laugh. In their second decade of serving families with cancer, Gilda’s Club is preparing to expand its reach and impact. By their 10th year, demand outpaced clubhouse capacity and their board of directors and founders, once again, took bold action: expanding capacity, while increasing access through community partnerships.

Gilda’s Club believes that living with cancer is not a choice. How you live with it is. On average, seven new people living with cancer come through their red doors every week seeking support. More and more families are taking advantage of the more than 100 free program events Gilda’s Club offers each month. So many, in fact, that support group rooms are overflowing, and the parking lot is full long before the last guests arrive.  Your help now, during their $12 million capital campaign (aka Red Door Campaign), will create greater impact and reach – with more lives touched, changed, improved and saved. The Red Door Campaign is not an option. It is a necessity. 

About Our Dear Friend Tyler Beam:

We have been friends with Tyler since childhood, and for the last two decades have watched him fight his battle with cancer with an incomprehensible amount of grace, positivity, strength, determination, perseverance, acceptance and grit. He is an inspiration in so many ways for anyone lucky enough to know him. Gilda’s Club has been an important resource for Tyler through the years, and Tyler, in turn, has been a huge supporter and advocate for the organization. For us to be able to honor Tyler by supporting the cause dearest to him, we are grateful. Here are a few words Tyler wanted to share along with a brief video from him and his children:


This September I'll be a proud 20-year brain cancer survivor. I was diagnosed during my senior year in college at the age of 22. With seven recurrences to follow since my initial diagnosis, I still knew that all my dreams would come into focus over the next 20 years. Surrounded and supported by friends, and more importantly family, I'm the luckiest father of two amazing children.

Believe it or not, I wouldn't change a thing because that would be foolish when you are living the life you always wished for and that is exactly what I'm doing today. We all are faced with personal challenges, some obviously more dire or difficult than others, but comfort and happiness can be found in even the most difficult of times. There oftentimes isn't an overwhelming feeling of joy when battling your darkest challenges because it takes its toll both mentally and physically and can potentially change your personality and perspective on life forever. Simply put, my reality is scary as hell but the reward is forever. When one can recognize and appreciate the milestones overcome during the journey, at some point a change takes place, where happiness and what we’re truly thankful for begin to take over. And this is the beauty that makes life worth living every day. 

My 20-year journey may never end so the milestones are important to me. They serve as reminders to embrace the present, cherish the good, and not forget battles overcome, and what it is exactly I'm fighting for.

In total over the last 20 years I have survived:

  • 7,200+: Consecutive days living with brain cancer.
  • 100+: MRI's and never a clean scan.
  • 65: Rounds of brain radiation
  • 8: Brain surgeries  
  • 7: Recurrences
  • 6: Different types of chemotherapy (and too many months to remember).
  • 2: Children
  • 0: Days in remission

Tyler’s Timeline:

  • 1999: Craniotomy 
  • 2003: Craniotomy 
  • 2004: 30 rounds of radiation 
  • 2008: Craniotomy 
  • 2014: Brain biopsy
  • 2015: Brain biopsy
  • 2016: Craniotomy
  • 2017: 30 rounds of radiation 
  • 2018: Craniotomy
  • 2019: Shunt insertion in the brain to drain spinal fluid from the brain and five condensed rounds of brain radiation.
  • Present Day: I continue my battle with brain cancer and focus on the present and all that it brings to me. Gilda’s Club has been an instrumental support system for me and my family and I am grateful for their resources. 

Please take this opportunity to show your support and bid generously for this once in a lifetime opportunity to own something so rare and also help this amazing organization. 

Visit the live auction here!

Thank you,

Tyler Beam, Gilda’s Club & The Van Winkle Family