Saturday, June 20, 2020

Old Rip Van Winkle Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2018

VITALS:
- $80
- 107 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

So this is the first Van Winkle product that I've ever reviewed on this blog. While I've had most of the lineup, I've only had a few opportunities to actually purchase a bottle (without paying exorbitant secondary prices). In full disclosure, while I did find this one at a retail store, it was a bit marked up, though still not marked up to anything close to what these bottles sell for on the secondary market.

Given my limited chances to own a bottle like this, it was one of those "special occasion" bottles, one that I saved for celebrations, getting together with old friends, or whatever other reason called for opening a "nicer" bottle. I cracked this one open at our fantasy football draft party and shared with whoever wanted a pour.  I finished it off with one of my best friends since the second grade when he visited for an evening from Rhode Island.  It wasn't one of those bottles I was digging into while I sat on my couch each evening watching whatever Food Network show my wife put on.  

Because of that, I took notes on this bottle only sporadically. I found I was enjoying the moment and not typing up notes in my phone with each sip, as I've been known to do. That being said, I did take notes here and there, certainly enough to put a review together.  But, let's be honest, this is a really good whiskey, and the fact of the matter is, if you have the chance to buy it at retail, you're going to do so. And so, as I've said in the past, reviews are stupid, and in this case, largely useless.  But here I go anyway . . .

The one constant throughout this bottle was the constant wood notes. The first thing I noticed on the nose was a certain sawdust note that mixed with cinnamon and vanilla. It had a sweetness to it as well that reminded me of maple syrup, and there were some richer notes as well, like cherry and amaretto. Overall, it smelled sweet but woody.

The wood notes were not as strong on the palate, however. I mostly got notes of natural vanilla bean and maple syrup. There was no question that this was a sweeter bourbon, and it did have a nice texture to it. Those sweet notes at times took on a butterscotch note that I really enjoyed.

There were some flavors to help offset the sweetness, though. I did get a light cinnamon note, perhaps leaning more toward cloves, and even hints of anise to add a bit of depth of flavor. There was also a light black pepper note that I honestly wished was more prominent, as it was really the only source of any spice. 

On the final few pours, I got some candied orange and brown sugar notes, flavors that I didn't' really get in the first few pours. The maple syrup seemed to take on a nutty, pecan-like flavor as well, reminding me a bit of pecan pie filling. 

Overall, while I wasn't necessarily blown away, this was still a very good whiskey. I wouldn't pay the $400-$450 it's fetching on the secondary market, but at retail, or even a bit above retail, it's a no-brainer. Not only do you get the immediately recognizable Van Winkle name that you can break out to impress friends, but you get a really good whiskey as well.  

Grade: A-

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