Pappy Van Winkle Day finally came to Cenla, and I was able to pick up another Pappy 23 today, so I thought I would indulge in a pour from last year’s bottle. Before this pour I had just under half left. To be sure, I drink bottles like this very sparingly due to their scarcity. Yes, we are in the middle of a bourbon boom, yes there is more demand for high end products, but what makes Pappy so hard to get is, in my opinion, Anthony Bourdain promoting Pappy on his shows. Pappy has become a status symbol. The bottle everyone wants to have. People buy them, resell them, pay ridiculous amounts of money for them. But the real deal thing to do with them is enjoy them.
Of the Van Winkle line, Pappy 23 is my favorite because it is so heavily oaked. My second favorite is the 15. The first I ever tried was the 20; it was a truly amazing pour to me at the time but my tastes have changed to preferring heavily oaked cask strength bourbons.
Pappy 23 is this gorgeous mahogany color. Truly more red than brown. On the nose is corn sweetness and heavy oak. The oak even gives it a certain spiciness but it’s not the usual baking spices you find in bourbon. On the palate is sweet syrup, cinnamon, and delightful oak spices. But what is really amazing about Pappy is the mouthfeel. It is elegant and tongue coating. The finish just goes on and on with the oak and cinnamon. It’s hotter than the 20, but it’s not really alcohol heat it is oak spice. The 15 is 107 proof and is less “hot” than the 95.6 proof 23. It’s just the length of time in oak that really gives Pappy 23 its punch.
It’s very very good bourbon. I hope fifteen years from now there will be enough Pappy in the world that anyone with let’s say $250 could go into a liquor store a buy some Pappy off the shelf for a really special person or a really special occasion.
But, in the meantime, if you can get a bottle, don’t flip it. Taste it. It’s an experience. That, and you can open it and not worry about it going bad or changing because at that age it is so oxidized this bourbon is not changing anymore. Used sparingly a bottle can last you a year or two.