Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Years Old Review

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?

SWC Group Review

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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4 thoughts on “Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Years Old Review

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  1. Great review. But every supremely high rated, sought after product inevitably is judged against its hype. Is the Pappy 15 worth the price and the 2 year wait? Is it that awesome of a whisky? The answer is probably no. There are other, less expensive, more readily available whiskies to choose from, that garner much less hype. Pappy 15 is a very good whiskey to be sure, but worth all the hype? Our verdict is no… Cheers.


  2. I agree with your sentiments. A fine bourbon, to be sure, but I have no interest in purchasing another bottle at $80.00. I’m perfectly fine with a few sips of Buffalo Trace on a Tuesday night.

    But I kid you not, I am already getting emails from guys with “EBAY” in their name on how to find it. This shit will never end. I honestly do not know how it even started.


  3. Here on the wet side of the state, a few stores have the product under lock and key at a breathtaking price. If I win the lottery, I might buy it — otherwise, I’ll stick with our better craft distillery offerings.


  4. I’m surprised it is still there. I wonder if they are marking it up. If they are, I wouldn’t buy it simply on principle. So many other fine options available as you said. I’d seek out the rye, but with everything else, I’ll pass.


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