Buffalo Trace Distillery is announcing the upcoming annual release of all six Van Winkle whiskey expressions. To the delight of whiskey fans, there will be more bottles available this year than usual of almost every Van Winkle expression due to both putting away more whiskey to age over 10 years ago and a higher yield than typical when moving from barrel to bottle.
This year’s release of the Family Reserve 15-Year-Old has been noted as particularly delicious by the sensory experts at Buffalo Trace, describing it as, “An unbelievably opulent and flawless bourbon that takes wood and distillate to its absolute pinnacle.”
The wheated recipe used by Buffalo Trace to make its Weller and Van Winkle Bourbons allows for longer aging, in some cases two decades or more, than the traditional rye recipe used in most bourbons. This wheated recipe also results in a smoother and somewhat sweeter flavor. The Weller and Van Winkle lines have earned an impeccable reputation among connoisseurs and have almost achieved cult-like status.
The annual Van Winkle collection release consists of six whiskeys. Suggested retail prices and tasting notes for the 2022 release are as follows:
- $69.99 – Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10-Year-Old 107 proof
- Color: Tawny in color.
- Nose: Very sweet, with notes of honey, dulce de leche, caramel corn, rooibos tea and lightly toasted nuts. Hints of the wheat and corn are present which enhances the complexity.
- Taste: Medium-bodied palate with dried fruit and nuts. Each sip finishes with a very long bold wave of floral honey, caramel, and toasted barrel flavors which counter the weight of the alcohol.
- Finish: An elegant balance between oak, grain, and maturation.
- $79.99 –Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12-Year-Old (90.4 proof)
- Color: Brilliant amber.
- Nose: Rich and decadent with butterscotch, toffee, vanilla and hints of nectarine and satsuma adding to the complexity. There is still a wisp of bready wheat present which is perfectly balanced with the spicy and rich oak notes.
- Taste: Butterscotch and toffee are prominent in the taste but there are also hints of spiced praline which contribute to the long, round finish that is sweet without being cloying.
- Finish: An outrageously well-crafted bourbon that pays homage to its source ingredients but shows that oak, the right distillate, and patience can create unparalleled depth and balance.
- $119.99 – Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13-Year-Old (95.6 proof)
- Color: Rich copper color.
- Nose: An incredibly enticing and complex aroma with notes of toasted pumpernickel, plum, fig, and sweet-tobacco aromas
- Taste: Smooth with medium-to full-bodied palate bursting with bold and delicious flavors of toffee, caraway, and dried cherry, and a hint of leather and mint.
- Finish: A symphony of flavors sits endlessly on the palate, causing the unsuspecting drinker to wish there was an endless supply in their glass.
- $119.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15-Year-Old (107 proof)
- Color: Striking, brilliant, copper color.
- Nose: The aroma is seductive with intense sweet brown notes like maple, caramelized sugar, toffee, and toasted almond.
- Taste: Waves of caramel and toffee meld into familiar memories of fresh-baked holiday spice cookies made with molasses. The mouthfeel is rich, supple, full-bodied and briefly veers toward decadent before the wood influences lend a balancing dryness.
- Finish: Long, flavorful, and complex. An unbelievably opulent and flawless bourbon that takes wood and distillate to its absolute pinnacle.
- $199.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20-Year-Old (90.4 proof)
- Color: Dark amber in appearance with ruby highlights.
- Nose: This full-bodied bourbon has a sophisticated forefront of leather with complementary notes of smoke, warm tobacco, treacle, espresso, and charred oak.
- Taste: The aromas and flavors are endlessly complex and each new sip reveals something new to discover.
- Finish: Suave and confident with layers of bold, integrated nuances.
- $299.99 – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23-Year-Old (95.6 proof)
- Color: Rich mahogany color.
- Nose: Reminiscent of a crisp fall day, with aromas of ripe red apples, cherries and tobacco.
- Taste: Wood is the star here with supporting notes of caramel, apple, apricot, leather, walnuts, and vanilla Crème Brulé.
- Finish: Long-lasting and rich, opening with bold flavors of oak and caramel that tease the palate before fading slowly and elegantly until the next sip.
This year marks a special milestone as it is the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the Van Winkle family and Buffalo Trace Distillery. In 2002, the Van Winkles entered into an agreement with Buffalo Trace to produce, age, and bottle all its whiskeys, entrusting its wheated mashbill exclusively to the distilling team at Buffalo Trace to continue the family legacy started more than 125 years prior.
Given that Buffalo Trace Distillery was already producing the wheated recipe for the W.L. Weller bourbons, it made sense to the Van Winkle family to enter into a formal agreement to produce their bourbons as well. The W.L. Weller Bourbons were formally produced by the Van Winkle family until 1972 when the Weller brand was sold, and eventually acquired by Buffalo Trace Distillery. “Harlen Wheatley and his predecessors had been distilling the W.L. Weller wheated recipe for many years before our 2002 joint venture. We trusted their expertise in distilling and aging, and it paid off, as many of Buffalo Trace’s brands are just as sought after as our own,” said Julian Van Winkle III, president, of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. “My son Preston and I still take care of the marketing and management of our brands, but we leave the rest of it to the team at Buffalo Trace. The twenty-year partnership has flown by, and I feel confident we’re leaving it in good hands for the future Van Winkle generations.”
The Van Winkle family and Buffalo Trace team would like to remind fans that even though the suggested retail pricing remains at what is considered a fair price, there is no control they can take over the price retailers charge. “Although we would prefer for retailers to charge our suggested retail pricing, unfortunately, we cannot legally force them to do so. The best chance to find our products at a fair price is through lotteries offered by many retailers, where fans have a chance to buy our bourbon at MSRP. Many of these lotteries benefit charities, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” added Van Winkle.
Enthusiasts are also reminded to avoid online resellers such as private Facebook groups, Craigslist and other online marketplaces. Unfortunately, Buffalo Trace Distillery has seen an increase in consumers buying Van Winkle bourbons from private sellers, only to find out later the product inside is counterfeit. “It’s quite common in other countries for consumers to buy alcohol from those outside the system (not a licensed retailer) and for them to drink it and get sick, and in some cases, it’s fatal,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “Fortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of deaths in the United States from those scenarios – yet – and we certainly hope we do not. But we caution people to only buy from a licensed retailer; do not buy from a private seller, even if it’s someone you know, as you don’t know where they got the whiskey. The counterfeiters have gotten very sophisticated with their technology, so it pays to be safe.”
Consumers who believe they have been duped should not drink anything that is questionable and can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or contact their State Attorneys General office.The Van Winkle line of whiskeys have won a multitude of awards through the years, including the 20-year-old receiving a double gold medal, best bourbon, best small batch bourbon at the 2018 New York International Spirits Competition and the 15-year-old taking home a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The Van Winkle Whiskeys will be available starting in October, but please be mindful that yields from the barrels are typically low due to the evaporation process during the long aging cycle, so supply is quite limited. Bottles will be hard to find in stores, bars and restaurants.
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