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Pappy Van Winkle Tasting Event

Pappy Van Winkle Tasting Event

The Invite

I (Mr Pie) actually nearly fell off my sofa as I could hardly believe what I was reading. The good folks at Last Chance Saloon had just sent an Instagram message to the Bourbon Gents informing us that they had amazingly secured a Pappy tasting event at their fine establishment and would we like to buy tickets? Erm……….let’s think about that for a nanosecond! Hell yeah! The holy grail of bourbon was coming to our backyard and, unbelievably, we were going to have a chance to taste these mythical bourbons. Not only would we get the opportunity to try out the entire Old Rip Van Winkle collection (well apart from the rye), it would be hosted by non-other than the main man himself, Preston Van Winkle. Now this was a serious result and was not to be missed by the Gents. Well that was the original plan but the bourbon Gods seemed to have it in for Mav as he was working on a project out in Sweden for a few months the timings couldn’t have been worse, so unfortunately Mav had to miss the event.

So now what to do with the extra ticket? Mav came up with the great idea of giving it away to a complete novice (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that), his work colleague Caroline. Not only could I review it, write about it and talk about it on the podcast from my relatively experienced perspective but we could hear about it from someone with very limited exposure to any whiskey at all, never mind what some would call the best in the world.

The Arrival

Caroline and I arrived relatively early to the event but we were not the first. Dan from The Merrycast podcast was already there sat waiting at the tasting table and was tucking in to some of the Last Chance Saloon’s fine foods. The room filled up pretty quickly from there on and there was a genuine feeling of excitement and giddiness from the audience.

As you may suspect, Mr Van Winkle, or Preston as we now refer to him, was a delightful speaker who filled the room with his huge presence and engaged with the audience expertly. Preston talked openly about the history of the Old Rip Van Winkle distillery, his family and about what the future holds for the company. Throughout his speech he encouraged interaction with the attendees and was more than happy to pose for photographs (that may or not have included, myself, Dan and Caroline).

Dan (from the excellent Merrycast podcast) & Caroline (From Mav's work - not a podcast) 

Dan (from the excellent Merrycast podcast) & Caroline (From Mav's work - not a podcast) 

The man himself Mr Preston Van Winkle 

The man himself Mr Preston Van Winkle 

The Main Event

Now the reason everyone was there of course was to taste the whiskies, many of us, including me, for the very first time. All five whiskies had been pre-poured much earlier and the plan was to taste each one in order of age - and also to taste alongside each drink a specially prepared dish from the bar's chef (the dishes are listed below in the tasting notes). Myself and Caroline did manage to sneak out a couple of samples for Mav. We nabbed him the 15 and the 23, so he has been able to give his thoughts on those two below. The bourbons are all produced under the distillery name of Old Rip Van Winkle but the distilling process has been at the site of the Buffalo Trace distillery since 2002. The bourbons are all classified as Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and all share the same mash bill of 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% malted barley. You can read more about the distillery on their website Old Rip Van Winkle

Tasting Notes

The individual bourbon rankings on the night are also listed below (but of course Mav is only able to provide two)

Old Rip Van Winkle

Vol: 53.5%
Age: 10 years
Price: £74.25
US MSRP: $59.99
Food pairing: Corn bread with chilli sour spring onion

Mr Pie:
Corn, cream, sweet vanilla and fruit. A super smooth entry into your mouth, sharp spice and sweet caramel (contrasting but works so well) and an undeniable strength of alcohol. Nutty oak. Finish was intense and lingering, had to quickly disperse with water before the next tasting.

Ranking – 1st

Caroline:
Very sweet and fiery, it took an absolute age to go away (but in a nice way).

Ranking – 3rd

Van Winkle Special Reserve

Vol: 45.2%
Age: 12 years
Price: £495.00
US MSRP: $69.99
Food pairing: Corn dog

Mr Pie:
Extremely soft and delicate nose with floral hints and caramel toffee sweetness. On tasting there is immediate gentle warmth to the mouth, very mild traces of tobacco with fruit. A very dry and medium finish

Ranking – 4th

Caroline:
Soft with caramel, creamy, gentle and smooth. Very lovely to drink

Ranking – 1st

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve

Vol: 53.5%
Age: 15 years
Price: £995.00
US MSRP: $99.99
Food pairing: Devils on horseback – baked bacon wrapped dates

Mr Pie:
A forceful nose, taste of leather and oak are predominate with citrus fruits (mainly orange), 2nd and 3rd sips seem to propel further elements of mild all spice. A woody medium to long finish.

Ranking – 2nd

Caroline:
Very strong on the nose, burnt orange, shorter finish than the 12 year old.

Ranking – 4th

Mav:
Not too strong on the nose, citrus, sweet orange flavours with caramel. Super sweet and woody palate, hot dry finish. My kind of bourbon! Strong, bold, and sticks around on the tongue.

Ranking – 1st


Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve

Vol: 45.2%
Age: 20 years
Price: £1,495.00
US MSRP: $169.99
Food pairing: Country biscuits and red eye gravy

Mr Pie:
Incredibly different nose to all the others. Smoky and almost peaty. Sherry like texture with dried fruits, tobacco and coffee on the palate (Preston Van Winkle on the night called this out as to being very similar to a Cognac). Finish was oily and long.

Ranking – 3rd

Caroline:
Very smoky, thin and almost watery. Least favourite of all of them, significantly different from the others.

Ranking – 5th

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve

Vol: 47.8%
Age: 23 years
Price: £1,995.00
US MSRP: $269.99
Food pairing: Pecan Pie

Mr Pie:
Super sweet creamy caramel, sweetest nose of them all. Oaky as hell which you would expect. On the palate, honey and nut (pecan), caramel and sweet cocoa. Spicy and woody finish. Short, woody and slightly disappointing.

Ranking – 5th

Caroline:
Complemented well with the pecan pie. Gentle on the nose and you could taste the quality in it, but maybe not the price. It was enjoyable but she couldn’t drink a lot of it. Although Caroline did comment that “she liked like what it did to her face” apparently.

Ranking – 2nd

Mav:
Ridiculously sweet, caramel and hints of nuts. Intense oak at first but left with almost no finish whatsoever. It is like licking the inside of a barrel there's that much wood going on.

Ranking – 2nd

The conclusion

All in all it was an absolutely fantastic evening and I still can’t quite believe I was lucky enough to taste so many bourbons from the Old Rip Van Winkle range. I honestly thought I would never get the chance. A huge thank you to the owners of the Last Chance Saloon for giving us the heads up and also thanks to Caroline for replacing Mav on the night and giving us her insight and views from a whiskey newbie. If you would like to listen to the corresponding podcast (Episode 10 – Pappy Birthday) where the event is discussed in more detail and Caroline makes a special guest appearance then you can find it here Podcast or on ITunes or Stitcher.

Cheers Preston, can you leave us a review on iTunes please?

Cheers Preston, can you leave us a review on iTunes please?

Episode 11 - Strawberry Jam

Episode 11 - Strawberry Jam

Episode 10 - Pappy Birthday

Episode 10 - Pappy Birthday