A Look Inside the Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Business

Have you ever wondered how the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon business and Pappy & Company are related? Carrie Van Winkle, Pappy & Company's Co-Founder is here to share a behind the scenes look inside her family's bourbon business and how it has influenced the creation of Pappy & Company.

Q: Tell us about your current role with the brand and Pappy & Company.

A: I started this business in 2013 with my two sisters, Louise and Chenault (we are actually triplets). We're based out of Louisville, Kentucky, and our family is in the Bourbon business. Our bourbon is Pappy Van Winkle, which is really well known, but it's actually a small family-run business. We realized that there wasn’t any merchandise associated with our family’s famous bourbon brand, and that's how we got into the business. We started creating merchandise branded with bourbon and the Pappy name. And then it just evolved from there.

I like to say that I am in charge of the “front facing” part of the brand. My primary role is on Product Development, but I also work closely with marketing, events, partnerships and general branding. There is also a lot of other work that goes into running a family business. We spend a lot of time talking about the larger family brands, company culture and values, leadership and development, and where we want our brand to grow.

Chenault packaging orders in Louise's basement in 2013.
Chenault packaging orders in Louise's basement in 2013.

Q: How rewarding is it for you that Pappy Van Winkle (PVW) is an iconic brand?

A: Honestly, I don't often stop to think about it, but when there is a special occasion or acknowledgement, it makes me realize how grateful I am to have this incredible family legacy to uphold and protect. It is not always easy, but I feel so thankful for the opportunity. The idea that we can impact so many potential customers beyond the bourbon consumers is really rewarding. It makes me feel like we are giving back to a greater community and extending our family’s values in so many ways.


Q: How does the incredible PVW legacy inform your goals with the brand today?

A: The values set forth by our great grandfather Pappy are at the forefront of everything we do today. Pappy was a salesman, a man of his word, a true character who was able to be himself, and always do the right thing. My grandfather, and dad carried on these same values, not by being told, but by seeing and doing. It's all they knew. Through building Pappy & Company, and being 4th generation Van Winkle’s we’ve realized that these values have also come naturally to us, but have been more important than ever to formalize them to strengthen our foundation and pave the way for future generations:We Keep it Fun. We Are Family Focused. We Do The Right Thing. We Put Quality FirstandWe Hustle. These are our core values as a company and a brand and we make sure that we instill them in everything we do.


Q: The PVW legend is well-known to spirits enthusiasts. Please share something unique or under the radar about the brand. 

A: Because the Pappy Van Winkle brand has become so well known throughout the years, I don’t think people quite understand the family nature of the brand. The size of the company is tiny compared to the popularity, and people also assume that we are no longer family owned. My father and brother are still deeply involved in every aspect of the business and are completely devoted to upholding the values and integrity that Pappy established early on. We are not interested in making more or selling more than we can, if it means compromising our values and commitment to quality, we will always stay true to that commitment even if that means we cannot meet the demand of our consumers. 


Q: What are the aspects that make PVW elite, aspirational, collectible and sought after?

A: Well, I think it's a multitude of things. We have a real story. A real brand with a real person on the label, and a real family behind it. Consumers seek that in a brand, but it's hard to find these days. Also, the simple psychology of “you want what you can't have.” Because the supply can't keep up with the demand, there has been hyper awareness and focus on a brand that makes an exceptional product. There was no master plan to make this an aspirational or elite brand, so I think we are a great example of what can happen with hard work, dedication and staying true to yourself and your values. And while we appreciate the following that has made us a collectible and sought after brand we always try to stay humble to who we are and where we came from and don’t really think of ourselves as elite, just honest and hard working.

The Van Winkles in Lake Michigan.

The Van Winkle's all together at Lake Michigan, July, 2022.


Q: Tell us about your passion of bringing the finest cigars and bourbon to the world.

A:Pappy loved cigars, so it was a natural product extension for us. When it came to making the actual blends and determining what kind of cigars we wanted to sell, we knew it had to uphold the same quality and distinct flavor profile that our family’s bourbon possesses.

It's our family’s name on the product, we are closely connected to our brands, so it's in our blood and all we know is what it takes to make such quality products. We feel very thankful that Drew Estate shares the same standards for excellence, so together we can offer a cigar collection like nothing else you will find in the premium cigar market.


Q: Have you ever experienced a pairing of PVW and a cigar? Or can you recommend a pairing you (or a family member) has experienced with PVW.

A:Absolutely. We believe firmly that cigars and bourbon are meant to be enjoyed hand in hand. But we also don’t think or expect that it has to be PVW paired with our cigars. Given that we have two distinct blends: our Barrel Fermented and our Tradition, as well as an array of cigar sizes and unique limited edition cigars, there really is a cigar style and pairing for everyone. For example, our Barrel Fermented blend actually pairs really well with rye. Its rich flavor profile is nicely complemented by the spicier flavor notes that rye possesses. However our Tradition blend is a more classic cigar and pairs well with bourbon and American whiskeys.

 Cigars and an old fashioned.

Q: What should we be on the lookout for in 2022 and beyond?

A: It has already been a really exciting year for us. We recently released two new cigars, our Barrel Fermented Gordo and our Barrel Fermented Corona Viva, as well as a number of Limited Release cigars that are only available for a very limited time in limited numbers. Our cigar accessories line was enhanced by the release of our custom humidors earlier this year as well.

We are excited to be launching a very special bar accessories collection early next year, pieces inspired by family heirlooms, yet made for everyday use, and perfect cocktail and entertaining accouterments. We feel that this line can really extend our lifestyle brand presence in people’s homes and bars and connect the bourbon experience to so much more than just the bourbon itself.

We are also working hard to expand our culinary offerings. The quality of our barrels and the multitude of uses we are finding for them after the barrels have been dumped are endless and add a special flavor profile to the gourmet food products we create. Like all of our products these take time to develop and will never rush the process. We want to always make sure that quality comes first and that our family’s legacy and values can stand proudly behind anything we release.