Tag Archive: Van Winkle


Buffalo Trace: Old Rip Van Winkle: 10 Year (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold, in an almost lucozade style in the light. Fast thick steaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Touch of smoke. Lots of varied breakfast cereals. Shreddies. Maize cereals. Moderate rye crackers and peppery character. Brown bread. Crushed leaves. Brown sugar. Thick and slightly musty.

Body: Thick and warming. Oily. Vanilla. Dry oak. Treacle touch. Heavy. Buttery. Fudge. Brown bread. Orange cream.

Finish; Tannins and astringent. Peppery. Toffee and vanilla. Dry fudge. Buttery and slightly fatty.

Conclusion: This is heavy. Now the alcohol is doing a lot of the work in making it so, with a more dry character up front, but then allowing the fattier, oilier notes to come through after. There is a lot about the mouthfeel and texture that it doing the heavy lifting here to make seem very different to the other Van Winkles.

It is still slightly peppery, but initially it has none of those orange notes I usually associate with the Van Winkles. Instead, behind the fatty character is a mix of brown bread and lots of breakfast cereals into a sturdy toffee and fudge character. Still quite dry in how it is delivered, thick of body and very heavy.

Like this it is very much about the feel for me rather than the flavour. The oils, the thickness, the fatty character that is all what makes it interesting. The flavours are not unusual, but that feel really works what can be done with the abv.

Finally, late on after some time to air, the orange cream notes do finally make an appearance. It seems no amount of abv can fully hide this Van Winkle note for too long.

Not a favourite of mine, but a stand out for being different from the usual Van Winkle fare.

Background: So, writing this for the second time, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the third whisky of the evening and the only Van Winkle of the set I had not tried yet. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and each of the Van Winkles use the same mash load. After trying this I had Pappy Van Winkle 15 again for the first time in years – this time I found a softness of mushy cooked apples and pear notes, and some tropical fruit I had not found before, making it a smoother thing than I remembered before.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve 20 Year (American Bourbon: 20 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A dark burnished bronzed gold.

Viscosity: A slow intermittent descending sheet.

Nose: Black pepper. Honeycomb. Rye bread. Light charcoal touches. Chives.

Body: Pepper. Strong oak. Maple syrup and pancakes., Slight orange liquore. Rye bread. Water makes sweeter with more maple syrup and the addition of slight custard.

Finish: Dry. Oaken and pepper filled. Rye bread. Water adds treacle and makes the finish last even longer. Vanilla touches come out also.

Conclusion: After the previous tour of the Van Winkle bourbon I was surprised by how smooth this was in comparison to the younger versions. In comparison to being the important words as it is still quite potent.  The alcohol burn however has been traded in, unfortunately to be replaced by a very high oaken presence. You really can tastes the extra years in the oak.

This does seem to limit the room the spice and orange flavour has compared to the younger version. It is a pity but the trade off does give a very easy sipping Bourbon. The person serving me described it as quite peppery and that is definitely true. The peppery element is instrumental to giving it that impressively long finish instead of just a burning alcohol touch.

For its smoothness it seems less lively on its flavours, with the pepper and rye (Again, its odd as I’m fairly sure rye isn’t used in making this) being the main elements alongside the oak. Unusually for a bourbon water really helps by pushing forth a maple syrup like sweetness that offsets the oak and gives the orange flavour more room to play. It also brings out a bit of the traditional Bourbon vanilla sweetness.

For my money this expression is just a bit too oak emphasised to be great, but I will give it respect for the smoothness it brings. I would say the most distinguished of the range is still the 15 year for its bit of extra play in the flavour.

Not bad at all. I don’t think Bourbon quite suits ageing this much but it is a very nice experiment to try.

Background; Drunk at the Rummer hotel. I’ve been slowly working my work up the ages of the van winkle range and reached this, the 20 year. A quite remarkable age for bourbon to be aged, but what Van Winkle seem to consider their baseline expression. The bartender recommended having with ice to counteract the warm flavours but my dislike of ice in spirits overruled that.

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.

Van Winkle: Special Reserve: 12 Year: Lot B (American Wheated Bourbon: 12 Years: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A very dark amber gold.

Viscosity: Comes down thick and as a single sheet.

Nose: Rye bread. Spice. Shelled husks. Faint oil air. Orange peel. Water lightens mainly without adding much.

Body: Very sweet and spiced. Orange liquor. Sherry soaked red grapes. Treacle. Muscat grapes. Chives. Rye bread.

Finish: Red grapes. Mulled spice. A scented candle like oddity that hands around just at the back of the nostrils. Quite dry. Treacle and herbal.

Conclusion: Not for the faint of heart this one. Before drinking it I thought I had worked out the rough range of flavour the Bourbon played with. Then this passed my lips and I realized I was wrong.

Very sweet with this almost liquore touches countered by very herbal mulled wine styling. The more traditional Bourbon flavours expected show them underneath that, but on top it is all dancing spicy flavour.

Unfortunately you acclimatise to this shock too quickly. It is such a pleasant experience that I would like to be surprised anew on each sip, but the eye blinking oddity loses its punch as you get used to it.  That doesn’t mean it becomes bad, just that you can only really have that surprise once.

Also, don’t add water, it doesn’t seem to benefit and water  kills some of the higher elements in it.

So it had wondrous first sips and  then a tingling spiciness that makes for fair decent flavour by itself. Reminds me a bit of Muscat cask ageing and that’s a fair impressive feat.  Overall very impressive without compromising the core elements. I will definitely have to try the even older versions.

Background: Made at the Buffalo Trace distillery, this is apparently a wheated Bourbon. Best I know that means that despite it containing elements that I was convinced was rye bread like, there was actually no rye used to make it. Go figure.  Drunk at the Rummer Hotel. I have been having a lot of Scottish whisky recently and decided to give their Bourbon selection a try for a change. No I don’t know what “Lot B” is.  Twelve years is bloody old for a Bourbon, I didn’t think they survived well aged for more than six. Obviously I was wrong

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