The first of the Van Winkle family generation to venture into the bourbon whisky business was Julian P. Van Winkle, Sr., or "Pappy" as he was affectionately known by his family and friends. His career began in 1893 at the age of 18 as a salesman for the Liquor wholesaler, W.L. Weller & Sons. In 1908 he and another Weller salesman bought the firm. Later they acquired the old A. Ph. Strtzel Distillery in Louisville, which dated from 1872 and was widely known for the excellence of its sour-mash whiskey.
The Stitzel Distillery supplied much of the whiskey sold by the Weller wholesale firm. The consolidation coincided with prohibition during which time the Stitzel-Weller firm was licensed by the government to produce whiskey for "medicinal purposes." One of their labels sold just before the prohibition was Old Rip Van Winkle. The Stitzel-Weller plant was opened on Derby Day 1935, just outside Louisville in Shively, Kentucky. Up until his death in 1963, "Pappy" was the oldest active distiller in the nation at the age of 89. The next in the Van Winkle generation, Julian P. Van Winkle, Jr., became president of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1947. He headed the firm until the sale of the distillery in 1972. During that time, he produced such popular brands as Old Fitzgerald, W.L.Weller, Cabin Still, and Rebel Yell. After the sale in 1972, J.P. Van Winkle, Jr. resurrected the pre-prohibition label Old Rip Van Winkle using some of the bourbon whiskey he had produced years before. In 1977, he was joined by his son, Julian, III, creating the firm of J.P. Van Winkle & Son. After his father's death in 1981, Julian, III carried on his family tradition of selling the finest bourbon whiskey available. The Old Rip Van Winkle sold today is made according to the same strict standards of fine bourbon-whiskey making as it has been in the past Van Winkle generations. True bourbon connoisseurs can taste the difference and quality that sets the Van Winkle whiskies apart from others on the market today. The Van Winkle bourbon whiskey that we sell today is aged a little longer than most others available. We think that the extra few years of aging in the barrels smooths out the taste and flavor of the whiskey as it passes in and out of the charred wood of the white oak barrels each season.