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Van Winkle's 13 Year Old Family Reserve Rye

Average score from 2 reviews and 10 ratings 91

Van Winkle's 13 Year Old Family Reserve Rye

Product details

  • Brand: Van Winkle
  • Bottler: Unknown
  • ABV: 47.8%
  • Age: 13 year old

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Van Winkle's 13 Year Old Family Reserve Rye

So I've had a few forays into Bourbon, but so far with little success. They've been too big and hot for my palate compared with the single malts and master blends I'm into.

That was until I finally got to try my first Van Winkles. The key is perhaps the wheat content, which softens and mellows the flavours. Ageing might also be a factor in the depth and subtlety of this whiskey.

Tracking down a bottle to buy has been too tricky, so in the UK I visit the Craft Beer Co bars to drink these. Out of all of the Van Winkle stable the 13 Year Old Rye is the one I keep coming back to.

Colour: A tawny golden orange sunset to light brown.

Nose: The most alluring aspect of this Van Winkle. Fruity, grape, vanilla, spicy, maple syrup, caramel, and then an added dimension of a white wine vinous quality like a light sherry, cognac or a fine Sauternes. It's a character I call sunshine in a bottle. Sweet vinous depth. There are also the faintest hints of new leather.

Taste: A little hot on the first couple of sips and then it smoothens out quickly. Toasty oak and vanilla, spicy, maple syrup sweetness, caramel, that white grape vinous note, Sauternes, rye grain tang and spiciness.

Finish: this is long lingering and deep. Toasty oak and vanilla, caramel, creamy. Wow.

@MuddyFunster. Nice review, pretty much spot on. I picked up a bottle of this 4 years ago, great stuff. I'm down to 1/2 a bottle now so I only pour a dram a year. Keep trying those bourbons, they will start to grow on you.


Oh you have a bottle! That makes me jealous right off the bat. After drinking this the taste has lingered in my memory. It's actually made it difficult for me to go back to single malts, as the sweetness and toasty vanilla oak of Bourbon has really got under my skin. Just tried Buffalo Trace which was very solid.


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.

@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.

@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.

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