Friday 4 September 2015

Tasted #211: Pappy Van Winkle 23yo Family Reserve (#101drams)

After a run of recent #101drams posts, it's time to continue...this time with one of with the big guns...

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yo, from the "Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery" (which is actually not a distillery, but a company who contract distillation and bottling to the Sazerac Company at its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky) doesn't need a whole lot of introduction. Retailing for $249.99USD each year, and selling out approximately 3 seconds after it goes on sale each year, this is about as rare and sought-after as Bourbon gets. If you found one for 3-4 times that price, you'd be doing incredibly well. Just look at how much a few bottles went for at the recent Bonhams Hong Kong auction.

I knew it wouldn't be easy to find when I added it to the list in February 2013, and it only got more difficult as time went on. I found it (for a reasonable price) on the menu at the Macallan Whisky Bar & Lounge, Macau, but sadly they ran out the week before.

Then when I heard that Archie Rose, who we visited back in April had a bottle, I knew that was my chance. It wasn't cheap, but this whiskey isn't exactly decreasing in price or rarity...

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yo (47.8% ABV, 23yo, Bottle # F-2233, Kentucky, USA, maybe try your luck at the auctions. Bring your chequebook.)
Colour: Deep, dark, almost impenetrable copper. Some of the longest legs you've ever seen.

Nose: A big bouquet of floral, caramel vanilla at first. This is definitely a bourbon, and an exquisite one at that. A second nosing brings out some faint earthy notes - vegetation, with a slight dustiness.

Palate: Earthy, nutty, big caramel but also nougat. Leather and some oak (the latter being remarkably refined for such an old bourbon). The slightest hint of chlorinated pool water(?) - that was an odd one, but it was unmistakably there (no there were no cleaning solvents around me at the time...) - quite a lot going on here.

Finish: Long, lingering, vegetal notes with some boiled sweets. Cheese cake with a side of banana nougat. Lots going on here too - right to the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. An experience, for sure. A complex and delicious one, too.


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