Van Winkle's 13 Year old Family Reserve Rye

Dark and Stormy

Reviewed by
Connosr member:



29th Jan 2011

Reviewer rating:


About this score:

The average score for this whisky is 91.

Best price to buy online:

Tasting Notes by Victor

All of the Van Winkle products are wheat formula bourbons with the exception of this 13 year old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye Whiskey.

Nose: Black cherry and plums. This is mostly strong fruit with an undercurrent of the wood and the rye spices. There is also a hint of citrus

Taste: deep, fruity, continuing with the wood and rye flavours acting as supporting elements to the brooding fruit. Both the wood flavours and the rye flavours are quite strong here, but somehow they are not what you notice most

Finish: This stays on the tongue for a long time. The flavours decline steadily, with the fruit flavours exiting just slightly before the wood and rye spice flavours

Balance: Wow. This is one different kind of rye whiskey. Rye is my favourite genre of whisk(e)y, but I know of no other rye whiskey with a flavour profile like this. Most of the best ryes are crisp and bright in flavour, sometimes more middle range in the flavour components. But this, this is more baso profundo. This is the deepest, most mysterious rye whiskey I have encountered. Drinking it actually gives me the feeling that I am plunging into the abyss. The abyss is both delicious and a little scary.


Whisky details


Van Winkle




Full Gold



dbk wrote:

Great review, @Victor. I really do have to try this one!

30 January 2011 14:29

LeFrog wrote:

Sounds fantastic @victor, I'm loving these bourbon reviews from over the pond!

01 February 2011 12:07

Victor wrote:

@LeFrog, thanks much for enjoying my reviews. There will be quite a few more bourbon reviews from me. I am glad to add reviews of quite a few bourbons which have not yet otherwise received even one review on until now.

02 February 2011 20:43

AboutChoice wrote:

Gene, an imaginative & informative review, as usual! This is one of my favorite ultimate ryes; sometimes Saz 18 wins the bid for the evening however :) I'm not sure why i was so lucky to acquire these a couple years ago, but due to their scarcity now, it's unlikely that I'll ever find them again. So I am wondering if anyone makes a perennial rye of this caliber that's always available ?

14 February 2012 02:38

Victor wrote:

@AboutChoice, what I've read online about the current Van Winkle Rye is that it is a vatting of rye from the Medley distillery and from the Barton distillery. The reports I have seen claim that the same large batch of this vatting has been drawn from and bottled for the last several years. I do not know what Van Winkle will do for supply when it is depleted. Yes, Van Winkle 13 yo Family Reserve Rye has grown quite scarce. Yes, this is quite an unusual flavour profile for US Straight Rye Whiskeys. I don't know of any of the best quality ryes which are consistently available in the marketplace. In my experience the closest to consistently available of US straight ryes of top quality is the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey. Others I like the best include Sazerac 18, Old Potrero Ryes, some Rittenhouse 21, 23, and 25 yo, some Willett single barrels, and one offs like Abraham Bowman 10 yo single barrel ryes. All of these are generally scarce and "catch as catch can". Among these if you see one and like it, you better buy it immediately because you may not see it again.

14 February 2012 04:06

Victor wrote:

Deep and fruity flavours in a rye whiskey can also be found in the old Rittenhouse Ryes, aged 21, 23, and 25 years. As Mr. Murray so well describes in his Whisky Bible, the old Rittenhouse ryes just get deeper and fruitier as they age. The Van Winkle 13 yo Family Reserve Rye is a very rare example of a comparatively "young-ish" rye with this degree of depth and fruitiness. Another is my very favourite of all of my bottles, from a private barrel of Abraham Bowman 10 yo Rye Whiskey at 138.8 proof.

22 June 2012 06:11

MuddyFunster wrote:

I really need to find a close substitute for this whiskey too. Thomas H Handy 2013 Sazerac Straight Rye is available in the UK although it's about $280. There's also E H Taylor Straight Rye. Does that come close?

17 January 2015 00:54

Victor wrote:

@MuddyFunster, Jim Murray is crazy about E H Taylor Straight Rye. I can't say I am as enthusiastic about it as he is. I recommend you try to taste it to find out for yourself. Close to Van Winkle in taste? Not in my opinion, but you might feel otherwise.

There is not a lot of Van Winkle Rye (or Van Winkle wheated bourbon) floating around, and it has gotten expensive.

When you find one or more products which you really like I suggest laying in a supply. If you see any of the Willett Family Estate Ryes for sale I would suggest trying some of them. Even the young ones, 2,3,4,5,or 6 years old are usually excellent. There is not the same depth of wood flavours, in, say, a 2 yo Willett rye as in a longer-aged product, but the grain flavours are usually top-notch. The new 2 yo Willett Rye is a batch product actually made at the newly re-opened Willett distillery. All of the CURRENT Willett ryes older than 2 years old are sourced whiskeys from other distilleries.

Thomas H Handy Rye is wonderful, but has gotten extremely scarce and expensive, especially outside the US. Nowadays, in the US, a bottle of Handy might average $ 100, but most people just cannot get their hands on any of it. The world prices are much much higher, as you know. I love Handy, but I would not like to pay $ 280 for a bottle of it, either.

I wish you success in finding some more good ryes for your cabinet, but I have no easy answers on how to obtain top quality products for modest prices.

17 January 2015 01:45

Victor wrote:

@MuddyFunster, in the category of true ryes from Canada, I would also recommend Masterson's 10 yo Straight Rye (US bottling as straight rye of Alberta Distillers Limited rye whisky), Wiser's Legacy, and Corby's Lot 40. I don't know whether you can get any of these, but these are also nice rye whiskies worth trying.

17 January 2015 01:52

Victor wrote:

Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 yo Rye Whiskey just gets more and more amazingly fruity after the bottle is left open for years. I had some at @Maddie's house 2 weeks ago that I would rate at 94 points, and some I had at @Benancio's house 1 week ago that I would rate at 96 points. Both bottles had been open for more than 2 years. Accordingly, I am raising my 89 point bottle-initial-opening review score here to 92 points to fully reflect how excellently this whiskey develops in the open bottle.

03 October 2016 22:15

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