I have written extensively on the Van Winkle Bourbons before. This years allocation to my local liquor store was pretty sparse, but better than last year. I was able to get a Pappy 15 and an Old Rip 10. Of late, Buffalo Trace wheated bourbons have been on an upswing in quality, and I am hoping this carries over to the 2022 Van Winkle releases.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year Old – 107 proof – color is a very nice dark amber. On the swirl is a very thin film. On the nose are yeasty cinnamon rolls – very nice. On the palate are wonderful vanilla notes that accompany the cinnamon roll notes. This one does have that unmistakable Van Winkle mouthfeel. On the finish, the cinnamon notes are slightly muted and instead there is a lot of wonderful oak tannin. This is a good but not my favorite release of Pappy 15. What I suspect happened is that the barrels that were set aside for this year’s release came in at very high proof and the whiskey was watered down a good bit to even reach 107 proof. But, I am probably one of the most spoiled bourbon drinkers out there, and yes, this is very good if you can find one at retail at around $200.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old – 107 proof – Color is a nice medium amber; about right for a ten year old bourbon. The swirl has big thick oily legs, meaning this was not proofed down very much. On the nose are yeasty cinnamon rolls like the 15 but there are floral and oak notes as well. The palate on this is super rich – yeasty cinnamon roll with vanilla, clove, and baking spices with some nice drying oak in the background. Elegant and definitely Van Winkle mouthfeel. On the finish is a flavor festival of clove and oak. When I think of what makes the Van Winkle bourbons so great, this bottle has all of those things. At $125 retail, this is a steal.
My final thoughts are that there must have been some intemperate weather between ten and fifteen years ago – hot and dry – that hit some older aging stocks of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Last year there was no George T. Stagg release, and this year, the Van Winkle 10 seems to outshine the Pappy 15. But, nevertheless, the Van Winkle bourbons continue to be very good and a nice treat around Christmas.