Remember the 25-year-old Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon that Tampa restaurant Datz put up for sale last week to help its staff during the coronavirus pandemic?
Well, um ... someone has taken the $20,000 bottle of Pappy Van Winkle off the market — for twice the asking price.
Datz co-owner Suzanne Perry said the buyer is a philanthropic local veteran and bourbon collector who wishes to remain anonymous. Although Perry doesn’t know him personally, he and his wife have been customers of Datz eateries for many years.
They came into the restaurant this week and purchased the sought-after spirit with a cashier’s check for $40,000. A press release said the buyer learned about the bottle from a Tampa Bay Times story.
“We were seriously overwhelmed by the generosity of this person,” said Perry, who owns Datz with her husband Roger. “This was just a very unexpected thing, really unexpected.”
So unexpected that when Roger Perry looked down and saw the figure on the check, he thought it was an error.
“[The buyer] said, ‘No, I want you to have it, and I want you to use it for your staff,’” Suzanne Perry recalled. “I was so moved by that I had to leave work for a minute. As difficult and stressful as this has been, it’s an example of incredible human spirit.”
She said she received many low-ball offers for the bottle, which she didn’t entertain because of the stakes involved for her employees. Like countless other Tampa Bay restaurants, Datz has had to pivot in this unprecedented time, adapting its business model to accommodate takeout and delivery requests with less staff on the clock.
The bourbon’s sale will help the restaurant cover the cost of payroll and maintain employee well-being.
The purchase has also allowed Datz to bring several staffers back to start making meals for hospital personnel, police and other workers on the front lines.
“When we get on the other side of this, there’s going to be something big in return to this person. I am determined to pay it forward to him,” Perry said.
No. 413 of 710 produced, the Pappy Van Winkle bottle was part of Perry’s prized vintage liquor collection. Eleven barrels of the rare bourbon were distilled in 1989 and stored at the Van Winkle family distillery in Kentucky until 2002, when they were moved to Buffalo Trace Distillery and aged for another 12 years.
She said the bottle is a very famous, highly collectible item, similar to incredible sports memorabilia or a fantastic diamond.
“It’s extremely rare, so normally a person who buys this would be someone who just wants to own it. It’s just an amazing thing to own,” Perry said. “The gentleman who purchased it, he said he does collect bourbon. He’s been looking for a bottle like this for a long time.”