…and now for the review!
Hopefully everyone had a very Merry Christmas – I certainly did. Along with a good number of Bourbons and Whiskeys I will be reviewing here very soon, I received a spectacular surprise from my wife: we will be attending the second annual Bourbon Classic in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of January! It is an awesome event, full of tastings, seminars, speakers, meet and greets and some inspired bourbon-themed and paired dishes by renowned chefs. I could not be more excited, and am already looking forward to the sights and sounds (as well as the tastes!) and posting all about them here.
For Christmas Eve, before going to visit the family, we cracked open a bottle of the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. I was able to procure two bottles of the Van Winkle family this year, and will be reviewing the other soon enough. It was a delectable way to start a wondrous holiday indeed.
Now, while I pride myself on giving the ‘everyman’ review of some under-reviewed bourbons, I certainly have to admit that the ORVW 10, or any other Van Winkle, is not suffering from a lack of exposure or web-content about the product. More words have been typed (or spoken, sometimes in hushed tones) about “Pappy” this year than all other bourbons combined, I would bet. But that doesn’t mean I just turn a blind eye to a bottle I obviously respect enough to make it my holiday Bourbon-du-jour!
The bottle is one of my favorites from look alone. I like the script, the picture, and the old-timeyness of it. But one does not go to the ends of the earth…or at least the ends of the midwest…for bottle alone!
Savvy bourbonites know, but for recap, the ORVW 10 is a wheated bourbon, using wheat instead of rye. This is one of the trademarks of many Van Winkle products, most notably the three Pappys. Distilled and barreled at Buffalo Trace, it shares a mash bill close to or identical with W. L. Weller, another of my favorite bourbons. And like the W. L. Weller Antique, ORVW 10 weighs in at 107 proof. Not for the light of heart (but certainly not barrel strength either). Many have taken to calling the Weller “poor man’s Pappy,” and there is some truth to it, even if the Weller’s flavor profile never quite hits Van Winkle standards. The ORVW 10 is one of a kind, and certainly didn’t disappoint. My take:
Nose: On first take, the rip of 107 proof hits strong. To fully get the nose, I let it sit in the glass for a few minutes, then lifted again. Sweetness filled my nostrils – Vanilla and toffee, and the rich smell of maple syrup. There is also a fruitiness to it, like a mulled-cider of fruit and rum. It certainly got me salivating.
The taste was very sweet too. The taste of molasses and honey mixes with the aforementioned fruit to create a smooth drink. Caramel pops up in between. The oak presents itself at the back end, not overwhelming, but ducking in among the other notes.
The finish was not what I expected – rather than the burn, it stayed smooth and short. Wheat guarantees a lack of harshness. I’ve read other reviews since that refer to touches of cinnamon and spices, but I have to admit, I did not get that at all.
Overall, ORVW 10 is no joke. It’s a soft, smooth entry in the Van Winkle line. While some would elevate it because of the honor of its name, and others punish it for the popularity of the same, I fall right in the middle. Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year is a good pour. If you can get it, drink away!
Dan’s Scale (1-10): 8.5