This is one of those uber-aged bourbons and it comes from Julian Van Winkle at Buffalo Trace. This is still (or at least should be) Stiztel Weller bourbon because at 20 years old, this particular bourbon would have been distilled in 1986, 6 years prior to the distillery closure. My first love of bourbon really gravitated toward the wheated variety early on in my bourbon experience; I had access to Stitzel Weller Old Fitz and loved the creamy, candied quality to this particular wheated bourbon. As I expanded my bourbon horizon I naturally gravitated towards wheated bourbons and most of those from Buffalo Trace. The Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons are very good whiskey's and my personal order of preference starts with the 15 year, 20 year and then 23 year. The 20 year old Pappy is a bold bourbon even at 90.4 proof and provides a pleasant drinking experience.
The bottle is really a non-descript standard shape; nothing eye catching. The Label on the other hand has a nice picture of Pappy Van Winkle smoking his trademark stogie along with red lettering and gold accents. The bourbon comes in the standard 750ml size with a red foil top and can be found in a cheesy velvet bag on most occasions.
As I nose this bourbon, there's a fruity quality to it that at first I wouldn't expect as most wheated bourbons have a caramel, vanilla and brown sugar trait to it. The nose is soft and velvety with the alcohol sitting in the background not intruding on the experience. Moving my nose deeper into the glass and taking in a deeper whiff brings some of the alcohol to the foreground along with a hint of citrus.
The color is a soft golden hue and really is not very eye catching. Although it is extra aged which typically gives the bourbon a deeper color, cutting the proof to 90.4 lightens up the bourbon to an average depth and tone.
Now to the most appealing part of this bourbon and that's the taste. I heard some folks say that they feel this bourbon is too soft and they prefer something more "lively". While I would agree in part, I don't think that one dimensional. If I want something with moderate complexity, extra age and delicious, then I reach for Pappy 20. On entry there's an oily mouthfeel; a quality that I really like in bourbon. I pick up the fruit initially but then the transition to mid palate quickly exhibits flavors of vanilla, caramel, leather and some bold oak but not overstated for bourbon this aged. I pick up traces of smoke also but I have to dig for it. The finish is lengthy and appropriate for the proof.
This bourbon isn't cheap. The bottle I have bunkered I paid $85 for in 2007 but it now goes for around $120 and then some. The bourbon used for this review was a sample given to me by a friend and as I stated, was bottled in 2006. The whole Pappy Van Winkle line is good bourbon and always a good drinking experience. If you can handle the high price tag, pick up a bottle and enjoy on some special occasion.
Have you been reading my mind? I pulled this bottle out for Christmas Eve. I hadn't tasted this in such a long time. It was as wonderful as I had remembered. I liked it so much I toasted Christmas day with it also. This has been one of my favorite bourbon for almost 15 years. I suspect that I won't forget it for so long again. I think tonight, I will do a toast you with it. Thanks Greg and Happy Holidays.ReplyDelete
Howie, when it comes to bourbon, you and I have similar thoughts on it so glad to see you enjoying such a great bourbon. Have a great New Year.ReplyDelete
This sounds like great stuff. I will probably have to wait until the kids get a little older to pick this one up for my bunker though. Until then I am happy making my way through the bourbons that are in the $40 and under category. For Christmas i opened a Wathens Single Barrel. It was quite good too. Enjoy your reviews Greg. Have a Happy New Year.ReplyDelete
Don, thank and you have a Happy New Year also. Wathens SB is a good bourbon, I have one in the bunker and wish I had a couple more. I'm not sure if you have any Stitzel Weller bourbon but given the chance, you should have at least one bottle from that distillery so you can experience one of the finest bourbons produced. I really enjoy the 15 year Van Winkle which of course may or may not contain a blend of SW whiskey along with bourbon produced by Buffalo Trace; I've heard a rumor that's what's happening. Even if Julian is not blending in SW whiskey, the 15 year really is a great bourbon and my favorite of the line. The 20 year, as I stated should still be SW along with the 23 year, which I found to be overly woody. If you can get your hands on the JPS 17 yr, that's SW also. Don't let that bourbon get away from you.ReplyDelete
You've been gone a long time Greg. Everything OK?ReplyDelete
I found out that our state stores carry the 20 year old for $90 a bottle and the 23 year old for $250 a bottle. Why the massive price difference? I really like Weller Antique and was told that the Van Winkle line is also a fantastic wheated bourbon lineup. I don't want to fork over $90 until I know I'm going to like it.ReplyDelete
Ethan, $250 for the 23 year is expensive but it's one of those things when it comes to a super aged bourbon that comes from a now defunct distillery. To me, it's a taste of history so if money isn't a roadblock, it's not a bad thing to at least try one. The 20 year for $90 is actually a pretty good price. Here in VA it runs about $135. As I said in my posting, the 15 year is the best of the bunch....in my opinion.ReplyDelete
Don - thanks for asking, things are good just busy. I plan on posting some notes on my latest barrel pull so look out for that. That VOB has been sitting in wood for two months now and I haven't had any for about a month so we'll see what's happened.ReplyDelete
Most folks around here acknowledge that the most expensive Pappy is the best. A bargain alternative is the 12-year Weller -- same stuff a few years early!ReplyDelete
I assume when you say the most expensive Pappy is the best, you're referring to the 23 year that goes for somewhere north of $200. The Weller 12 is only about $23. Understand also that the Pappy 23 is Stitzel Weller bourbon while the Weller 12 is Bernhiem or Buffalo Trace; while both are wheated bourbons, the mashbills are still very different. Weller 12 is a very good pour so always a good choice.ReplyDelete