Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve: 15 Year (American Bourbon: 15 Years: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: A very dark rich amber.

Viscosity: Quite a loose mix of streaks.

Nose: Wheat and rye crackers. Quite a tingle at this point. Dry granite. Orange rind, possible liqueur like in style.  Slight sourness with water.

Body: Smooth. Spicy red grapes. Alcohol fire builds up after a while but is not immediately evident.  Vanilla toffee and glacier cherries. Water makes smoother and adds custard touches.

Finish: Milk chocolate and vanilla toffee. Orange liqueur again. With water becomes more bitter chocolate like.

Conclusion: I’m always unsure with higher abv bourbon on if I should add water or not.  The extra alcohol tends to make the drink more fiery which can hide the flavour, but most bourbons I’ve tinkered with don’t seem to react particularly well to water. Well in my experience anyway, would be interesting to get others views on this.

This is a pretty good case in point. It is significantly smoother and more easy going than the twelve year, which does it credit considering the abv, even better it plays with similar spice and red grape flavour that made the twelve year enjoyable.

However even with this smoother version, if you hold it on your tongue for a while to enjoy the sensation you find that the alcohol presence is soon made felt. At that point the smooth vanilla toffee and spice are pretty much concealed to the finish.

Now with tinkering it seems that water in moderation does quite well, allowing easier appreciation of the almost liqueur styling running through it, and also seems to bring out a custard sweetness.

The burn does still come in quicker than I would like, limiting your time to enjoy it. Enough  play with water smoothes even that out, but that point a lot of the vibrant spicy richness is also lost.

Looking back at the twelve year review to compare I am reminder of how much these two share in their main flavours and styles. This reacts better to water and is significantly smoother. While they have similar play to them, the 15 year doesn’t have quite the instant wow of the twelve year, instead pacing itself more over the entire drink. The spice and orange is more restrained, but similarly doesn’t burn out as quick.

This I would say this is the better bourbon, while it does not impress as instantly I found myself enjoying its charm to the end.

Now just to try the twenty year version.

Background: An odd thing I noticed on this one. It describes itself as a younger version of the 20 year old pappy van winkle.  Which I guess means they consider the 20 year version the default. Bloody hell that’s old for bourbon, I will have to get round to trying it at some point.  Drunk during the day at the Rummer Hotel. It was a relaxing day, and I enjoyed talking with the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff. A pleasant way to pass time I must say.