Pappy Van Winkle

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Pappy Van Winkle 20YO

Its pretty common for distillers to lay down Scotch for long periods of time, with age statements in the range of 18-25 years in relative abundance. Bourbons on the other hand are a whole different kettle of fish. Warmer storage temperatures and the use of virgin oak casks means that bourbon reaches maturity and develops character far more quickly than its Scottish counterparts. Therefore, if you come across a bourbon that says it’s 20 years old, you know you’re looking at something pretty special.

The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year Old is an experience unto itself, a man amongst the boys. Now into its 4th generation, the dynasty began in the 1870s when Julian P ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle entered into the proud Kentuckian tradition of bourbon making. These days the Van Winkles make their spirit at the Buffalo Trace distillery, but they have not lost their dedication to crafting spirit of an exceptionally high standard.

Apart from the age, what makes Van Winkle bourbon special is that they use corn, barley and wheat instead of the more usual corn, barley and rye in their mash bill. They claim that the use of wheat creates a much softer, smoother spirit and helps with the aging process.

Compared to your standard ‘ol bourbon, the PvW Family Reserve 20yo is a far more delicate creature. You can still tell it’s bourbon when you take a sniff, but it doesn’t wave the fact in your face. Instead it gently strokes your nostrils with vanilla, ginger and Grand Marnier.

As you would expect for a spirit this age, it is superbly smooth with no alcoholic kick at all, which is interesting as it is still bottled at 45.2%. It feels very light and silky in the mouth, and if you draw some air through it goes all tingly, sending shivers down your tongue. Floral notes, particularly rose, mingle with sweet white grapes, maraschino cherries and alcohol-soaked cake. The finish is quite short and as smooth as a baby’s proverbial.

The PvW Family Reserve is the thinking man’s bourbon; gulping it down is simply not an option as it needs some time to respond in the mouth. At first glance it seems deceptively simple, however with some gentle probing it reveals more and more character. There are definitely interesting things going on, but you have to chase them down, work for the full flavour. The dedicated and thoughtful approach is worth it in the end though, as the reward is a spirit of epically elegant proportions.

★★★★

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Spirited Resolutions: 5 whiskies I would like to try in 2015

Posted by: Ted

The year is coming to a close dear friends, and while there have been good times and bad, one thing that I have consistently enjoyed is drinking whisky. The drams have been varied, and thankfully the overwhelming majority have been at least good, while quite a few have been interesting and some even down-right exciting. With a new year swiftly encroaching, it is time to cast the mind forward and ponder one of the big questions in life: what to drink next year? Well, after some cogitation, here are five whiskies that I would like to get to know a little more intimately in 2015:

  1. The Balvenie PortWood 21yo

balvenie whisky waffleI love the stuff that Balvenie puts out (the 12yo DoubleWood for example). They’ve always got great character that brings out the best of Speyside; smooth, sweet, oaky and a variety of spice and fruit from the different finishing methods they use. Quite frankly, the thought of a 21yo Balvenie finished in 30yo port pipes makes me twitch in a slightly manic way and want to use my outside voice indoors (such a rebel I know). I suspect it will be super smooth with an amazing depth of character for its age thanks to the port influence.

  1. Johnnie Walker Green Label

JW whisky waffleOK, I’ll make a small confession: I have actually tried the Green Label before. But in my defence it was quite a while ago when I wasn’t as educated about whisky and it was only really a sip, so I have no memory of it to speak of. Therefore I’m just going to pretend that the whole thing never happened and start anew. If you followed our Johnnie Walker Week event you’ll know that the Green is no longer produced, and that our tame writer Moorsey and plenty of other people around the traps rate it very highly, ranting about it in superlatives and even going so far as to commit poetry. So I’m really rather keen to see how it stacks up when I eventually stumble across a bottle.

 

  1. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23yo

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Here at Whisky Waffle we haven’t really delved into the world of bourbons yet. I’ve tried various bits and pieces here and there, but I’ve never had one of the older, super-handcrafted numbers. I’ll reserve judgement on the bourbon genre as a whole for the moment, but I will say that I have strong suspicions that the older, rarer drops are a much different kettle of fish to their younger kin. By all accounts the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23yo is a big deal, a man amongst the boys. Part of the reason for its inclusion on this list is that I’ve actually seen a bottle of it on a bar shelf in my area. A nip will cost me a pretty penny, but odds are that it’s worth it.

 

  1. Penderyn Madeira Finish

Penderyn whisky waffle

Wales. Not the first place you may think of for whisky (but certainly not the last. Who knew Liechtenstein makes the stuff, but there you go). Penderyn is the first and only Welsh distiller in over 100 years and uses a novel single-still method, so I’m quite curious. Madeira casking is never a bad thing, and you know what the best bit of all is? I actually own a bottle. Nick gave it to me after he returned from the UK, so it’s waiting ready on my top shelf for the perfect moment.

 

  1. Redlands Estate “…?”

Redlands Estate Distillery whisky waffleSo this one is probably a bit of a stretch, but I’d be so excited to try it. Redlands Estate is a new distillery in Southern Tasmania which we visited earlier this year. According to Dean Jackson, the head distiller, the first barrels are slated for release in 2015. I know chances are slim to none of me getting my hands on a bottle as they’ll all be snapped up in an instant, but I’ve tasted the new-make and smelled the delicious vapours rising from the Tasmanian ex-pinot noir barrels in the bond store, and they make me very excited. Plus a new release from a Tasmanian distillery is always something to look forward to.

 

So there you have it. How successful I will be in my quest I’m not sure, but it’ll be fun to try. Onwards into the future!