Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve is bottled by the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery located in Frankfort, Kentucky. Many regard this whiskey as one of the finest bourbons in the world. Wine Enthusiast magazine has rated it a 99.
The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery began in the late 1870s, founded by Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr. At the age of 18, he set out as a traveling salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons, a wholesale liquor distributor in Louisville, Kentucky. He traveled throughout the state by horse and buggy. Van Winkle, Sr. and his friend and colleague, Alex Farnsley, eventually bought Weller, as well as the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which was Weller's bourbon distiller. The duo merged the two companies and became Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Popular brands to come out of the distillery were W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell and Cabin Still.
Pappy maintained a heavy influence until his death at the age of 91 when his son, Julian, Jr. took over operations. However, in 1972, he was forced to sell the distillery and all the accompanying rights, except
Old Rip Van Winkle. Using stocks from the old distillery, Julian Junior brought the pre-prohibition label back to life.
Julian, Jr. passed away in 1981, leaving Julian III to take over. Julian III has continued the tradition of producing the highest quality "wheated" bourbon available, according to the company website. His son, Preston, joined the company in 2001. Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery has since entered a joint venture with the Buffalo Trace Distillery, where all of Van Winkle’s whiskey production now takes place.