Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year Review

Van WinkleWhisky Reviews

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Although I have a nice little lineup of single malts to dive into, in light of it being Repeal Week (Repeal Day is Thursday, December 5) I thought I’d continue on with just a couple more Bourbons. First up is a whisky that really needs no introduction, the younger sibling to the famous 20-year-old, Pappy Van Winkle 15.

There are four generations of Van Winkle that make up the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr., the namesake behind this extremely hyped brand, was a traveling salesman for the W.L. Weller and Sons in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle and co-worker/partner Alex Farnsley purchased W.L. Weller and the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery and formed the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which had a new location in Louisville by 1935. Some of the brands under the Stitzel-Weller name included Old Fitzgerald, Weller and Cabin Still.

Pappy’s son, Julian Van Winkle, Jr., took over the company after his death but unfortunately was soon forced by stakeholders to sell after direction of the company could not be settled upon. After the sale, Julian Van Winkle Jr. began another brand with the only name retained by the family – Old Rip Van Winkle. In 1981 when Julian Jr. passed away, the reins were handed to his son, Julian Van Winkle III, who is currently head of the company and is assisted by his son Preston Van Winkle.

When the Stitzel-Weller Distillery was shut down the Van Winkle’s entered into a deal with the Buffalo Trace Distillery, who now makes and produces the Van Winkle wheated recipe – Bourbon made of corn, wheat and barley instead of corn, rye and barley. It is the same recipe that is used in the W. L. Weller line of Bourbons, which is also made by Buffalo Trace.

Price:  Approx $80/750ml
ABV:  53.5%
Release:  2013

Color:  Deep Amber
Nose:  Quite deep and rich with big vanilla, dry oak and maple at first. Giving it some time to breathe brings about some brown sugar now, toffee, hints of cocoa, sweet spices – mostly nutmeg – old wood and chopped walnuts.
Palate:  Rich and coating with dry oak, vanilla, cocoa, dark toffee, those sweet spices again – nutmeg and cinnamon – dried black cherries, caramel now, walnuts and a bit of pepper as it moves into the back of the palate. Fairly aligned with the nose.
Finish:  Moderate to long with dry oak, vanilla and those sweet wood spices.

There’s no doubting this is great Bourbon, but I also feel like there are other whiskies out there that are just as good if not better, not to mention much easier to get your hands on – wildly overhyped. That being said, it’s quite bold, complex and fairly balanced. The oak influence is wonderful and the spices brought in by the wood make this quite a flavorful whisky. Definitely one of the best in the “wheated” category. Nice and warming, too (B+/A-).

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