Interview Date: April 20, 2010
Excerpts from an oral history interview with Julian Van Winkle III, President of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, which produces premium bourbons at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Julian explains the history of the Van Winkle family and its involvement in distilling, which goes back to his grandfather, Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle. He describes how his father, Julian Van Winkle Jr., began Old Rip Van Winkle and explains how the company operates and what makes its products extraordinary. He discusses some of the challenges he has faced while running the business himself and explains how Old Rip Van Winkle’s business relationship with the Buffalo Trace Distillery has changed the nature of the operation. He talks about the history of the bourbon industry, its future, and the future of the Van Winkle brand.
About Julian Van Winkle III
Julian Van Winkle III is from Louisville, Kentucky. He has worked for the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery since 1977 and took over the business in 1981 following his father’s death. He is currently teaching the trade to his own son, who will become the fourth-generation distiller in the Van Winkle family.
Favorite bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15-year-old, Old Fitzgerald 15-year-old (Stitzel-Weller Distillery–closed in 1992)
Link to full interview video and transcript on SPOKEdb, the online catalog for Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.