As you know, Pappy Van Winkle is known as the Green Spot of Kentucky. There’s something more than a little bit pointless about my reviewing this–does the world need yet another review of any Van Winkle whiskey? Probably not; but here we are.
I got this bottle off the shelf in a Minneapolis suburb for $60 in February 2012. Didn’t need to go through a lottery, didn’t have to call to reserve it, didn’t need a relationship with the store: I just walked in randomly to see what they had and there it was alongside a bottle of the 20 (about $100, if I recall correctly). I left the 20 and got this 15 yo. Those were the days. Later that year I got the Fall 2012 release without much hassle either elsewhere in the cities. Since then I haven’t even bothered trying.
I know just enough about Van Winkle to be able to read the bottle code and know this was bottled in late 2011, but I’m afraid I’ve no idea if this is all Buffalo Trace spirit or if there’s even any chance there being any of the prized Stitzel-Weller spirit in this–if you know, please chime in.
Pappy Van Winkle 15 (53.5%; Bottled Fall 2011; from a sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Caramel, light maple syrup and toffee. Thick plum syrup with hints of orange peel and apricot as well. Some leathery wood and sweet clove round it out. Just lovely. The toffee intensifies as it goes and the caramel note is now more like brown sugar dissolved in dark rum. With a lot more time that leathery wood thing is just leathery. With a drop or two of water the wood comes back out and now there’s some butterscotch too.
Palate: Spicier on the palate, leading with the clove and some cinnamon, but sweet too. The caramel’s here as well and it intensifies on the second sip, and now there’s more orange peel (bitter but also bright). More wood here too (not astringent at all). Perfectly drinkable at full strength, but let’s add a drop of water anyway. With water it’s brighter with more citrus and more of the clove and cinnamon.
Finish: Long. Sticky toffee and dates join the clove and cinnamon and the dark wood. Some mocha here too. Water keeps the bright citrus going on the finish too but the coffee note really expands.
Comments: Just lovely–the bourbon equivalent of a perfectly balanced heavily sherried malt. A pity about all the madness around it as I’d like to still be able to wander into a store and pick up a bottle. But whatever–I have enough good stuff to drink.
By the way, please drop me a line if you’d like to buy the empty bottle. You can have it for a couple of hundred dollars and fill it up with some Old Weller Antique and display it prominently in your living room to impress people and even maybe pour some for your boss.
Rating: 90 points.