Van Winkle Special Reserve

Distiller: Old Rip Van Winkle

Release: 2019

Bourbon: Van Winkle Special Reserve

Region: Frankfurt, Kentucky

Price: $79.99

Proof: 90.4

Age:  12 years

The Barrel Cellar Score:  94 Points

Review Date: 12/11/2019

About the Bourbon: Van Winkle Special Reserve is the second youngest offering in the line of sought-after Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon is a bit of a myth to many. It’s difficult to find anywhere, especially for MSRP. Your odds of finding it are far better at a local high-end bar or restaurant than a local liquor store, unless you have approximately 10 times its suggested retail price to spend on the secondary market. I’m hoping that eventually supply will rise to quench some of the demand that has built over the last few “bubble” years.

I recommend picking up a set of Prestige diamond whiskey glasses to enjoy your Bourbon with.

Color: Russet

Nose: Coffee, brown sugar, and toasted oak

Taste: Cinnamon, cherry, black pepper (neat). I was reluctant to drop an ice cube in my glass, as it felt like blasphemy, and it didn’t need it, but for the sake of review consistency I did. After doing so, a sweetness emerged with flavors of crème brulèe and butter cream. Rye earthiness hung around on the finish for what seemed like an hour.

Assessment: Van Winkle Special reserve is exceptional; let’s get that out of the way. It is however a victim of its own popularity. It hits lots of marks, it’s buttery, its complex, it is silky smooth, and it’s just down right enjoyable. You can find a bit of ethanol heat, if you look for it (by holding a sip at the back of your tongue) but this adds to the character and doesn’t overwhelm or hide any of the other nice flavor notes of the bourbon. Finding a bottle, especially at MRSP however will probably require advanced relationship building skills and luck on par with a lottery winner. I question whether a bottle of this is worth the hassle, and I tend to believe you can get similarly great bourbon with much greater ease. has reviewed quite a few great options.

Van Winkle Special Reserve bourbon is an exceptional bourbon and if you can find it at MSRP. a great value.  94 Points

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