Reviews #195-200: The 2019 Van Winkle Collection

Pappy New Year r/bourbon! In addition to tasting through the 2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection I also succeeded in tasting through the 2019 Van Winkle Collection. It’s been a fun and delicious, if expensive, month or so around here. This was the first time I was able to try the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye and only the 2nd or 3rd taste of most of the other Van Winkles, Old Rip excluded of course. I didn’t secure any Van Winkle bottles this year so these were mostly bar pours at Nickel City with one taste at drink.well and one tasting at a liquor store.

The tasting notes are in the order that I tasted them in.


Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year

Age: 12 years

Abv: 90.4 proof


Nose: Soft and sweet with rich brown sugar, vanilla and faint cherry notes.

Taste: More brown sugar, a clear but not bitter oak note and more faint cherry. It had a thinner mouthfeel than I expected, even given the proof.

Finish: Medium length finish that was sweet and oaky.

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

Age: 13 years

Abv: 95.6 proof


Nose: Amazing nose that is spicy, herbaceous, sweet and oaky at the same time. Very complex but well balanced.

Taste: More rich and sweet herbals notes with rye spice and rich oak. Thin mouthfeel though.

Finish: Long and warm with herbs and rye spice.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year

Age: 15 years

Abv: 107 proof


Nose: Sweet vanilla, rich oak and creamy butterscotch notes.

Taste: Rich oak notes with no bitterness, sweet and creamy vanilla and butterscotch. Effectively no spiciness. Excellent mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length and mostly oak notes.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

Age: 10 years

Abv: 107 proof


Nose: Soft and sweet with brown sugar and slight baking spice notes

Taste: Brown sugar, warm spice and rich oak. Excellent mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with more spices and some oak and brown sugar to balance.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year

Age: 20 years

Abv: 90.4 proof


Nose: Lots of oak, slightly bitter but balanced with some sweet butterscotch and vanilla notes.

Taste: Tannic and oaky with a similar sweetness to the nose. Surprisingly good mouthfeel for the low proof.

Finish: Short to medium length finish that was all rich oak

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year

Age: 23 years

Abv: 95.6 proof

Bottle: K4897


Nose: Strong oak notes balanced by butterscotch and warm spice.

Taste: Brown sugar, oak and faint spice notes with a thinner but velvety mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with warm spice and brown sugar.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home


Those were some good whiskies even if most of there weren’t amazing.

The Lot B a step up from Weller 12 but not a big one imo. It’s got that wheat sweetness, nice oak and it’s low proof and easy to drink. There’s nothing offensive about it but it’s a touch boring. If it were priced based on it $80 MSRP it would be a nice pour from time to time but nothing to seek out and certainly not something worth hunting/overpaying for.

The Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye had an amazing nose. I’d be interested in a cologne, deodorant, body wash or candle with those notes. The taste was more of the same but a little muted and the thin mouthfeel was disappointing. I think a few more points of proof would turn this into a 9/10 for me. I preferred to it this year’s Handy and Saz 18.

Pappy 15 tends to be the consensus pick for the best of the Van Winkle line up and this year I agree. Based off the nose, palate and mouthfeel I was going to give PVW15 a 10/10 but the finish was a let down and knocked it back down to 9/10. Is this bottle worth all the Pappy mania? Certainly not. Would I buy and drink this at or near its retail price? All day.

My personal favorite of the Van Winkles tend to be the Old Rip Van Winkle. This year’s Wizard Pappy didn’t have the cherry note that I got from the 2018 which bumped it down a point. It was still very delicious and I haven’t given up hope of acquiring a bottle.

This year’s Pappy 20 reminded me a lot of Rhetoric 25 but without the warm spice notes. It was all oak, but not harsh and only slightly bitter compared to last year’s release which I thought was too bitter and astringent. Still I wouldn’t regularly drink this even if I could for a reasonable price, though I wouldn’t say no to a pour. It was my least favorite of the bunch.

Pappy 23 is the rarest and most expensive of the bunch but didn’t live up to that for me. For such as old, oaky bourbon it was surprisingly easy to drink and still had more to the taste than just oak. The mouthfeel was thin but still nice somehow which was surprising to me. I liked it quite a bit but not for the retail price much less secondary or bar pour cost.

Overall the Van Winkle line up consists of good bourbon, with 2 standouts and a very solid rye. Pappy mania has blown these way out of proportion but I think the backlash can go too far as well. The 10 and 15 in particular are outstanding whiskies that I would love to have better access to.


TL;DR: Old Rip and Pappy 15 are the best of the bunch, the rye was no slouch either


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