Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
15 Years Old – 107 Proof
This is the whiskey that started the great bourbon revival. It’s also the bottle that started my personal journey down the whiskey river. Well, that might have actually been his 12 year old little brother. After a good day at the racetrack, I waltzed into my local liquor store and asked to see their best bourbons. They walked me over to a shelf featuring the 12, 15, and 20 year old expressions of the then little known Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve. (This was before the massive hype began.) The prices ranged from $50 to $120. Since I’d only had a moderately good day at the track, I took the entry level 12 year old, and was blown away. After a much better day at the track and the blackjack tables, I returned to the store for the 15 and 20 year old Pappys. (While I recently had a taste of the latest Pappy’s 12 year old release, it didn’t live up to the legend. I’m not sure if that’s because quality is going down to meet the demand, or nothing can match my original memory of epiphany.)
As any good whiskey lover now could tell you, Pappy Van Winkle popularized wheated whiskeys. This is why it can even be hard to find a common W. L Weller, which uses the same mash bill. The soft, subtle, sweetness was the start of a great relationship. I also recall some very pleasing notes of honey, coffee, and pecans—these are all good things. We have a bottle of 23 year-old Pappy, from the last batch of the Stitzel-Weller distillery, locked up in a safe place—waiting for a very special occasion break it open and relive the memory. In the meantime, I’ve become a good customer to several different liquor stores in hopes of being put on their preferred customer list. Last Christmas I lost a raffle for the right to purchase a bottle of Pappy 12 for $100, but the consolation was a Four Roses Limited Edition that I’ll review here shortly.