Food & Drink

NC: No go on ‘world’s largest auction' of Pappy Van Winkle

Hillsborough’s Leland Little Auctions will no longer be hosting what it claimed would be “the world’s largest auction” of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey next week.

A wine and whiskey auction will still happen March 10 but with only one of the more than 100 bottles from the much-sought-after Kentucky whiskey maker originally included in the auction.

That lone bottle is an Old Rip Van Winkle 23-year bourbon with a Glencairn crystal decanter, glasses and leather-lined presentation box. It is expected to sell for up to $6,500. More than a dozen other bottles of cognac, whiskey and other liquors – most with decorative boxes – are still included in the March 10 auction as well as dozens of bottles of wine.

Leland Little, the auction house owner, issued a statement Thursday that state officials told them that numerous lots of the whiskey were “not in compliance with current N.C. ABC laws.” The statement said the auction house received its permit from the state to conduct the auction on Feb. 23. The auction house then sent out a press release, which generated some media coverage earlier this week.

Agnes Stevens, public affairs director for the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control, cited a state law that oversees special one-time permits for the sale of alcohol by collectors of “wine or decorative decanters of spirituous liquor.” Stevens said in a statement that the auction house ran afoul of state regulations for offering an online auction and selling non-decorative bottles of liquor.

“Commission staff reviewed the images on the auction website and provided the applicant with direction about what would and would not conform to the requirements of the law,” Stevens wrote in an email.

What is unclear is why state officials permitted earlier online auctions that included what appear to be non-decorative bottles of liquor. In early December, the auction house sold three bottles of Pappy Van Winkle: two 20-year bottles and one 15-year bottle for between $1,200 and $1,700 each. An online auction in June included dozens of bottles of vodka, cognac, bourbon, gin, tequila and more; some without presentation boxes or decorative bottles.

Mark Solomon, the auction house’s whiskey and fine wine director, said earlier this week that the more than 100 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle were assembled from collectors across the United States. The lots include 13-, 15-, 20- and 23-year Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve whiskey. Solomon said he had researched what had been previously been offered by other auction houses and determined this was the largest auction of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey to date.

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl