Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yr Bourbon Lot B Extremely Rare “Randy Blank”


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 45/90

AGE:  12 years

Randy Blank was a chemical engineer in Houston with a love of fine bourbon, at a time when most people still thought the phrase was a contradiction in terms. After encountering a few whiskey bars with their own barrels, he wondered if he could do that himself. 

In 2004 Blank called Julian Van Winkle III and asked if he could buy a barrel of his Stitzel-Weller whiskey – something beyond impossible today, but at the time not just possible, but welcome by Van Winkle, who was not yet a household name. Blank was a fan of Van Winkle’s 10-year-old whiskey, but it had been 12 years since the Stitzel-Weller distillery had shut down, meaning the 10-year-old whiskey was already coming from somewhere else. Van Winkle persuaded Blank to try barrels of his 12-year-old bourbon, known as Lot B. Blank tasted five, and settled on one with a smooth, drinkable palate. 

Blank paid about $7,000 for the barrel and ended up with a little more than 200 bottles, the majority of which he opened himself or gave away to friends. Almost immediately, those friends, and friends of those friends, began chattering about the greatness of Blank’s pick, giving it the nickname “Van Blankle.” 

Aside from its nose and palate, it was a historic bottling: the first time Van Winkle, or almost anyone for that matter, had sold a barrel to someone other than a restaurant, bar or retailer. Blank’s elevation to mythic status set off a wave of interest in barrel picks, which today is an enormous part of bourbon fandom. And it all started with an engineer from Texas.

Producer: Old Rip Van Winkle

Misc.: The deal almost didn’t happen. Van Winkle had just signed his arrangement with Buffalo Trace, which wanted to expand his whiskey’s distribution – not spend time giving away honey barrels to individual customers.

Collectors’ tips: The whiskey comes in the standard Lot B cognac bottle, but with a gold-foil label across the neck that reads “Randy Blank” in bold letters.

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