American Whiskey - Bourbon
Pappy Van Winkle's 20yr 90.4 Proof Family Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This is a Tier 1 score in the Whiskey category. It means the spirit has won the highest recommendation at least once and probably many times.
Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery began in the "late 1800s" founded by Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle. Beginning as a salesman for WL Weller he purchased two distilleries with a friend (Alex Farnsley) and produced bourbon for both Weller and other brands. Today by agreement, the actual production of the bourbon takes place at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This celebrated bourbon is aged a full 20 years. It is considered a "wheated" bourbon, creating a smoother taste profile.
The fandom over the brand has reached dizzying heights in the 2nd decade of the 21st century—reports of hopeful purchasers participating in lotteries and chasing delivery trucks abound. In the face of this, Sazerac released a press release on behalf of Van Winkle in 2015 half-apologizing , "“When bourbon ages over 15 years, much is lost to the angel’s share. Many of the 53 gallon oak barrels often yield less than 20 gallons... Unfortunately this year we experienced poor yields on the older Van Winkle whiskeys. Furthermore, we have strict quality standards here at Buffalo Trace and several of the older Van Winkle barrels did not meet those standards. This makes a drastic difference in volume, considering we have very few barrels as it is. The result is less 15 year-old Pappy Van Winkle than usual, and far less 20 year-old and 23 year-old. Frankly, about half as much as last year.” Despite this, they encourage price controls on the retail side. A gallant gesture from all-concerned and so we specifically note it here.
Named Top Bourbon in the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
This is the only liquor rated by the Beverage Tasting Institute to receive a score of 99 (and there are no 100s). According to them, this is the best liquor on the planet... period. Update: it is now 1 of 2 spirits to receive a 99, the other being a Dalmore scotch. Further Update: the Kavalan Soloist Fino received a 100 point score, which now places the Pappy historically as one of 3 spirits to achieve these results.