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Old Rip Van Winkle's 15 Year Old Family Reserve

The Champagne of Bourbons

0 1497

@VictorReview by @Victor

24th Jan 2011

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Overall
    97

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The Van Winkle bourbon label is one of only five labels of bourbons using wheat instead of rye in the mashbill as the "flavoring grain". The others are Weller, Maker's Mark, Old Fitzgerald, and Rebel Yell. Wheat has a much different flavour from rye and unless wheated bourbons acquire strong wood flavours from aging 15+ yrs, they are usually not capable of the same intensity of flavours obtainable by rye formula bourbons. All of the Van Winkle bourbons tend to be scarce and sparingly allocated, even in the United States. My own local liquor distribution system, which is usually excellent, had no new Pappy Van Winkle products make it onto the shelves during the most recent autumn 2010 release cycle, for example.

Nose: Moderate caramel, honey, maple, oak

Taste: All of the above flavours come alive and sparkle in the mouth reminiscent of champagne. This is a whiskey of many high notes, a few middle notes, and the 15 years worth of wood adding a few bass notes. The taste experience is exhilirating and enlivening.

Balance: As champagne is different in style from other white wines, so this wheated bourbon is a distinctive kind of ethereal experience. I have tasted the 20 yo and 23 yo Pappy Van Winkles, and find that the extra wood aging seems to weigh on them compared to this 15 yr old. This is one of my go-to all time favourite whiskies.

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14 comments

@dbk
dbk commented

@Victor, you're not alone in thinking that 15 years in wood is optimal for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, surpassing both the younger and older expressions. But do expect it to become even scarcer, as all Pappy products come from bourbon sourced from the now defunct (and much missed) Stitzel-Weller distillery. Once it's gone—and such a time is nigh—it's gone. However, Buffalo Trace has been making the other Van Winkle products (Old Rip, Lot B, and so on), and word has it that they're up to much the same standard. We might lose the wonderful Pappy iconography, but there's hope yet for the contents inside the bottle.

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@dbk, I do hope that you are right that the quality of the Lot B 12 yo Van Winkle might rise to or near that of the 15 yo, but that day is unfortunately not quite here. I like the Lot B a lot, but it is not yet the 15 yo. Hopefully this fall will give us one more run of the PVW 15 so I can put away a few more bottles. Even in the DC area the 15 yo was so scarce and expensive that I traveled this year to Baltimore to get a few bottles of the 15 yo.

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

And, @dbk, the Old Rip Van Winkle 107 proof was quite excellent this year and a very pleasant surprise. The 2010 release 90 proof Old Rip lost, as you would expect, a lot of flavour compared to the 107 proof.

10 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

Oops, there's been a slight miscommunication, @Victor! What I meant by "word has it that they're up to much the same standard" was that the "new" Lot B is up to the same standard as the "old" Lot B from Stitzel-Weller, not that the Lot B was equivalent to the Pappy 15. The point is that, if the two Lot Bs can be of similar caliber, so too might the new Old Rip Van Winkle 15 as a replacement for Pappy 15.

10 years ago 0

@lucadanna1985
lucadanna1985 commented

have you tried the van Winkle 10 yo? any comments? it'is nodding at me from the shelves of the local liquor store...it's the one that comes in a square-shaped bottle...

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@dbk, yes, I do love that label with Julian Van Winkle on it, but I will be satisfied to drink equivalent whiskey under a different bottle label.@lucadanna1985, the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 yr old 107 proof is, as noted above, very good. I also have a bottle of the ORVW 10 year at 90 proof, which at first I actively disliked because of its lower taste profile, but have come around to liking as a sort of "Old Rip Lite".

10 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

Your review just prompted me to finally open my bottle. It's beautiful stuff!

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Excellent to hear,@dbk!

10 years ago 0

@AboutChoice
AboutChoice commented

@Victor, your review and all these engaging comments prompted me to re-taste many of my bourbons. Any yes, Van Wink 12 Lot B was an "oh my!", and then PVW 15 was just outstanding! Now if PVW disappears ... not to worry ... I just tasted Noah's Mill (57%), which in my opinion can easily stand in for PVW ... they are both great! But hope you can find Noah's. Darn, I would have bought more of PVW last year if I had known it might be going away :(

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@AboutChoice, I have sampled Noah's Mill bourbon a couple of times and I do like it, however it just doesn't do the same thing for me that PVW 15 does. Tell me, did the flavours in your bottle of Noah's Mill open up after the bottle had been open for awhile? As I mentioned in a prior post I really didn't like my Rowan's Creek very much until the bottle had been open for a year or more. These flavour migrations sometimes seem to me like chasing a moving target. You think that you have it figured out and then it changes on you. The "waters of life" are just that, 'living waters' that change and grow sometimes in ways that we like, sometimes not.

10 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

"The 'waters of life' are just that, 'living waters' that change and grow sometimes in ways that we like, sometimes not."

Very poetic, @Victor, if a damned difficult conclusion!

10 years ago 0

@AboutChoice
AboutChoice commented

@Victor, I've had my Noah's Mill for several months, and I really have not noticed any change in it. I have however, experienced noticable transformations in several single malts ... and between new and old bottles as well. On the other hand, I am not entirely sure that I am not the one undergoing the change :)

Frequency of sampling may also play a part ... as I tend to sample Scotch 75% of the time, then bourbon, then rum and brandy, and finally poor tequila and vodka, which rarely make it to the front of the queue. The 'waters of life' appear to be quite abundant :-)

10 years ago 0

@cgrface
cgrface commented

If you are a fan of the Van Winkle line and just can't seem to find it/them, then try a search for Jefferson's Presidential Select bourbon's. Jefferson bought out a Stitzel-Weller distillery several years ago and low and behold, there were a few vats of good ole "Pappy" aging there. Jefferson labeled it "Jefferson's Presidential Select" and the race was on. The first releases were all 17 yo offerings, the earliest of which were so amazing that I bought a case of it. It that as has been mentioned that Pappy Van Winkle is hard to come by, it is actually spoken for well in advance and is gone without ever seeing shelf life as it is indeed, a very special find in the sophisticated sipping bourbon realm.

I was lucky enough to obtain a bottle this year, fall,2012 through a drawing of which twenty bottles were procured by a local outlet of which there were 500 requests.

Amazing stuff. Heavy in the vanilla/caramel on the pallet which stays with you long enough to let your imagination go crazy.

8 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Sadly Bourbonr Blog has discontinued its Pappy Van Winkle distribution map. I subscribed to this blog largely for this set of ongoing maps.

When i wrote this review in early 2011 the Pappy Van Winkle 15 being sold was all still from the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. In those days if you really hustled you could get some of this product at dealer prices, which, in 2010-2011 were typically $ 60-$ 80. By 2012 stock was very short and competition was fierce. By 2014 secondary market prices were 15x the 2010 dearler prices. In 2019 they are 20x the 2010 dealer prices.

There is sadness here for me because I know that there are many who would like to taste these bourbons without spending $ 70-200 for a 45 ml shot.

Here is the article explaining why Bourbonr discontinued its map, with the whole history relating to the success of this bourbon becoming the most sought after US whiskey.

bourbonr.com/blog/…

about one year ago 1Who liked this?

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