As I've stated on many occasion, I'm somewhat partial to wheated bourbons. While I enjoy many types of whiskeys, wheated bourbons are some of my favorite. In fact, my bunker has a large number of bottles dedicated to this type. Back in February I blogged about Stitzel Weller and briefly discussed Pappy Van Winkle and his imprint on Stitzel Weller. Today, Pappy's grandson, Julian Van Winkle III, heads up the Van Winkle line from the confines of Buffalo Trace Distillery.
There are three expressions of the Pappy line; 15, 20 and 23 year old offerings. I've had all three and do prefer the 15 year. The 20 year expression is more subtle than the 15 year, has a softness to it that's very nice. It is pricey and typically goes for over $100 a bottle. The 23 year, to me, displays some astringency and wood notes that are somewhat overstated. When drinking bourbon neat the goal of course is to find one that has nice balance; the 23 year leans heavily toward barrel notes due to its longevity in wood. So that brings me to the 15 year which is the one I wanted to talk about anyway.
I discussed the 20 year Pappy back in December 2009 in an Exam-O-Dram blog and I mentioned the color being a soft golden hue that wasn't very eye catching. I can't say the same for the 15 year which comes in a 107 proof vice 90.4 proof of the 20 year. I really like the color of the 15 year as it invites you to come over and take a closer look. Doing so yields a bourbon that is a glowing red amber and begins to whet the appetite for what's in the bottle. I would say the two dominant flavors on tasting is caramel and moderate spice. The spice is noteworthy as this is typically a characteristic of rye bourbons, not wheat. The presence of spice (not peppery but baking spice) demonstrates a deeper complexity due to the marriage of the mashbill, wood, storage and age. I mentioned balance earlier and this is one bourbon that has a pleasant balance of sweet, spice, leather and wood notes.
This bottle is difficult to find in some markets and typically goes for somewhere north of $50. If you appreciate finer bourbons, this is one for the bar but please, whatever you do, don't mix it with Diet Coke or if you do, don't tell me about it.