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It took me two years to get this damned bottle of whiskey. Quite frankly, I forgot I was even on the waiting list until they called me. I slowly came to accept the reality that Pappy 15 would never reach my lips. Oh, the horror. When you come to realize that a murderous, crazed obsession with the quest to score a bottle of bourbon is rather silly, one simply moves on with his life. If you never try Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old Family Reserve in your life, fear not. W.L. Weller is twice as cheap and is waiting for your debit card at your local juice joint.
That said, when the ever faithful Idaho Liquor Board called me up and declared I was next in line for the allocation, I said “I’ll take two.”
For this write-up and review, I will do my best to make this NOT about the hype. It should be about the whiskey. For this reason, I had our club taste and evaluate Pappy 15 completely blind, with no information whatsoever revealed. A producer must earn their price tag and blind tasting is how it is done.
The Family Reserve line of Pappy Van Winkle whiskies is distilled by Buffalo Trace Distillery (the older expressions still contain whiskey from the famed Stitzel Weller Distillery), a joint venture arranged when the older stocks began to dwindle. Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old is a straight, wheated bourbon, aged in deeply charred oak barrels and hand selected by Julian Van Winkle III, grandson of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., the man who started this unstoppable circus of a bourbon in the first place. Bottled at 53.5% ABV and aged for 15 Kentucky summers, not to mention two years on a waiting list, obviously expectations are high. They damned better well should be. How could it possibly be THAT good?
Nose- Aromatic oak, fresh. Deep caramel, soft vanilla. Cream cheese frosting. Clove with candy. Banana but underneath a touch of bitterness. Smooth and balanced. Nice complexity. Toffee with time.
Taste- Candy Sweet. Caramel and butterscotch. Full bodied. Vanilla cake.
Finish- Long and lingering. Buttery, oaky sweetness. Warming with blackberry and a touch of char.
Comments- We put Pappy 15 through a blind tasting by 6 people. Discarding the hype, we found it to be a fine sip. A highly enjoyable bourbon in all categories. The nose is complex, taste is delicious and finish quite satisfying. A weird combination of subtle yet vibrant. Recommended. May the odds be ever in your favor when scoring a bottle.
SWC Rating – 90/100
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.
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