Tasting Notes: 2021 Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Years Old and Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Years Old Bourbons

Unlike 2020 when the Van Winkle allocations were so good I was able to get a bottle of Van Winkle Rye, 2021’s allocations were awful. There were hardly any Pappy to be had in most places. Hokus Pokus who always previously got great allocations, only received Van Winkle 12 and Old Rip 10. Prices remained the same, at $150 a bottle. In looking back on my blog which turned 6 years old this month, I realize that I have never reviewed Old Rip Van Winkle. I’ve had three bottles over the course of my life, but just never reviewed it for the blog. The twelve year old, like Pappy 20, is 90.4 proof. Old Rip, like Pappy 15, is the traditional 107 proof that is also used for Old Weller Antique.

Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Years Old 2021 – Color is a nice amber but with thing legs and film on the swirl. This has definitely been proofed down. The nose is very traditional bourbon but with yeasty bread notes and cinnamon coming to the fore. On the palate, though, the mouthfeel is sumptuous, and there are dark fruit notes, cinnamon roll, a hint of vanilla, and, surprisingly to me, some nice oak tannin. The finish is all cinnamon and oak. I have infamously said that the 12 year old is my least favorite of the Van Winkle line, but I have to admit that the 2021 edition is awfully good, and reminds me more of Pappy 20 than other Van Winkle 12’s I have had. That being said, the low proof holds this whiskey back from being truly great.

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Years Old 2021 – Despite being younger, the ten year old is darker than then 12 year old, which I attribute to less proofing down. The barrelling proof is 114 proof for Weller and Van Winkle bourbons, so while this is not cask strength, it is not going to have a great deal of water added. The legs and film are much thicker and oilier than the 12, again due to less water being added. On the nose are the same yeasty bread and cinnamon notes, but with some solid oak tannin notes. Mouthwateringly good. On the palate are strong cinnamon and vanilla notes, candied cherries, and amazing oak that really gives this bourbon great flavor and structure. Mouthfeel is divine – supple but not syrupy. On the finish the cinnamon and oak dominate; finish is super long on this. This is better than I remember.

I find that the 10 year old is way better than the 12 year old for 2021, and have found that generally so.

So, funny story about how I feel about the 10 versus the 12. I went to Hokus Pokus yesterday to buy my Dad some rum for Father’s Day (I went with El Dorado 21 year old) and some other stuff and they said they had some things for me that would be at the register. When I get there, there is a bottle of Handy Rye and a bottle of Van Winkle 12. I was like, wait, I wanted the ten year old rather than the 12 year old if I could only get one. Can you swap this out? They said they couldn’t and I asked whether I needed to call Hudson, the store manager who wasn’t in at the moment. Yes, this is crappy customer behavior and most people would be grateful to get any Van Winkle at all, but, yes, I really think the difference between the 10 and the 12 is worth showing your ass. I am a lawyer who, despite having a generally jovial personality, has a strong undercurrent of hostility beneath the surface that can rear its ugly head and for which clients pay a great deal of money. Apparently the difference between Van Winkle 10 and 12 is enough to activate that undercurrent and turn it into a tsunami. They then proceeded to tell me the 10 year old wasn’t in the system yet and that I could get one the next time I came in, with somewhat panicked looks on their faces. I thought, Brad, you are acting like a terrorist going full force Karen on these people who hook you up with great whiskey on the regular and you need to stop, and I had them check me out and thought I would take this up with Hudson later.

Why this strange debacle with Hokus Pokus who if they get one bottle of something good in I get first dibs like Heaven Hill 17 and a host of other bottles, but I can’t swap out a Van Winkle 12 for a 10? What?

Well, they sold the ten year old I was allocated to my daughter to give to me for Father’s Day three hours earlier, as I had been allocated one of each bottle of Van Winkle that Hokus got. When we had Father’s Day lunch today and I opened up the present, I realized that was where my Van Winkle 10 went – to me, for free, because my daughters bought it.

I am going to have to apologize to the staff at Hokus next time I go and give them kudos for keeping my Father’s Day present a surprise.

One thought on “Tasting Notes: 2021 Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Years Old and Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Years Old Bourbons

  1. Pingback: 2022 Weller 12 Year Old, Antique 107, and Full Proof | The Whiskey Jar

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