Friday, December 25, 2020

Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Year Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey - 2019

VITALS:
- $130
- 95.6 Proof
- 13 Years
- Released in 2019; Produced in 2018
- Kentucky

Merry Christmas to whomever may be reading this!!  This has been a crazy year, to say the least. But, one thing that I've really missed is being able to get together with friends or family, either to celebrate or just to enjoy each other's company, and trying some delicious and sometimes hard-to-find whiskey. I've found that more of my more limited bottles in my collection have sat on the shelf unopened, simply because I haven't had the opportunity to open them with someone else (and I don't really want to open those special bottles when it's just me sitting on my couch watching the Food Network).

So, when last night rolled around, after we had gone to church, and as we enjoyed a nice spread of snacks and meats and cheeses and the kids all played games, I grabbed a new bottle to open with my father-in-law, and I reached for this bottle that had about 3 inches of whiskey left in the bottom.  I had picked this bottle up just over a year ago, and we may have even opened it together on Christmas Eve last year. So, we were going to finish it on Christmas Eve this year.

The nose was soft and sweet. From the nose you could tell this was not a heavy rye mashbill, probably closer to 50% rye than to 100% rye.  I got the smell of chocolate chip cookies, but without the chocolate chips. It was pretty brown sugar forward, but I also got a distinct pine note, as well as some woody notes and a bit of cinnamon. It was definitely a rye, but it was also definitely a sweeter, softer rye.

Upon tasting it, my first notes might make you think I didn't like it. I immediately got pine as well as a charcoal note, which was a touch odd. Not bad, just odd. However, I immediately got something sweet and minty as well. It was caramel forward but also had a bit of vanilla spearmint to it. I don't know that I would have ever put caramel and mint together, but here it worked really well!

It had some nice spice to it as well. I got just a bit of black pepper or anise spice, which I don't necessarily like but sometimes love in small doses. I also got a good amount of cinnamon spice that added a bit of heat and a nice burn on the tip of my tongue and at the back of my throat.

Although not super high proof, the mouthfeel was nice and sticky, which had me smacking my lips and which made for a good, long finish. After each sip my mouth seemed coated with cinnamon candy, reminding me of a milder version of Fireballs, especially once you got past the spicy hard outer shell. The licorice note seemed to carry through the finish as well, and was more noticeable on later pours.

All in all, there was a lot going on with this whiskey. It presented a cornucopia of flavors, all seemingly different but all working so well together. It didn't kill the palate with high proof, and yet it had that nice viscous mouthfeel that seems to come with higher proof whiskeys.  The long and short of it is, though, that this is simply one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. As I'm writing this I'm looking at the empty bottle next to my laptop, and I'm missing it already and wishing I had more.  Maybe next Christmas!!

Grade: A+

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