American Whiskey - Bourbon

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Pappy Van Winkle's 20yr 90.4 Proof Family Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

From: Kentucky, United States Liquor Review Category: Bourbon American Whiskey

Bottle/Rating Data

Rating Description

Tier 1
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.
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Awards

San Francisco World Spirits Competition

  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2014

Beverage Testing Institute

  • 2008

Wine Enthusiast

  • 2010

Proof66 Notes

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.

Rabble Reviews

This bottle has 8 ratings and 8 reviews.
Irishman Irishman (271) (2014-04-05)
I almost gave this 3 stars - maybe I'm at 3.5. It's a decent bourbon, but becomes very lackluster at this price point. Amazing what stubborn quantity management and a little marketing hype can do for a label. The quality is good, but it's still behind Booker's and Colonel E.H. Taylor's Barrel Proof for me. All things considered, I could buy 5 bottles of Buffalo Trace for this price and would have just as much enjoyment.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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andr01d_3000 andr01d_3000 (10) (2013-12-31)
I have to admit, I got this as much for the novelty as anything. Pappy is a very good bourbon - smooth, woody, and complex. Is it the best Ive ever had? not really, but theres nothing Im more proud to pull out of the cabinet and whether people will admit it or not, thats kind of part of the allure with any top shelf liquor.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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bdehoog bdehoog (73) (2012-11-20)
Very fine whiskey. I wanted to give 5 stars. Not that big into wheated bourbons. Has a strong anise flavor to me. Very complex stuff. Sip slowly. Strong baking spice flavors. Too high of price for me to buy again anytime soon at $87.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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TimeToGoHome TimeToGoHome (32) (2012-07-05)
Fine sipping.  Tastes of caramel.  Unfortunately finished the bottle and don't know when I can find another.  
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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Buck Mulligan Buck Mulligan (49) (2011-11-29)
The poor chap who gave it one star has let the entire bourbon world know what a novice he is. Lets remember, this is the only liquor -not just bourbon, but liquor - to receive a 99 at the International Spirits Competition. Is it worth the price? Is it twice as good as the 15 yo ($50 vs $100)? Probably not. Is it half as good as the 23 yo ($100 vs $200)? Of course not. Price has to do with availability. This is a fantastic bourbon, full of subtlety and complexity. I am a fan of wheated whiskey and hence love this stuff. It is silly smooth and melts in your mouth. In my home its affectionately referred to as Mr. Van Winkles Amber Restorative.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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jaycamm jaycamm (9) (2011-04-03)
This stuff is the best.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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kfenton1 kfenton1 (1) (2011-03-26)
Overrated
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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Big Fan Big Fan (1) (2008-09-22)
The San Francisco and Beverage Tasting Institute folks scored this one right on the money. This is by far the best bourbon I have ever tasted!
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • 089319123747
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