- DISTILLER: Originally distilled at Stitzel-Weller and released via the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and bottled by Buffalo Trace
- YIELD: 11 barrels yielding 710 handmade glass decanters from the Glencairn Crystal Studio
- AGE: Distilled in 1989 and aged 25 Years; 1989 – 2002 aged at the Van Winkle family distillery in Shively, Ky. In 2002, barrels were moved to Buffalo Trace and aged from 2002 – 2014. Tanked in stainless steel in 2014.
- YEAR: 2017
- PROOF: 100 (50% ABV)
- MSRP: $1,800
NOSE: Caramel | Vanilla | Soft Oak
TASTE: Predominant oak stands out but not overpowering as you would expect in a 25-year old bourbon. Wheated bourbons typically age well, and this ORVW follows suit. The sweet sugars hold up and provide an excellent balance and flavor complexity to the oak forward. The proof point is just right with this expression. It’s a straight down the middle, aged wheated bourbon that is very nice. I expected to get smacked in the face with the oak similar to Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Whoop & Holler, but this ORVW is in a different league entirely.
FINISH: The finish on this whiskey is mid-range with very little thickness and bite – again, surprising for a bourbon aged a quarter century.
SHARE WITH: Well-heeled whiskey nerds. At Longman & Eagle in Chicago, a 1.25-ounce pour was $250, and I elected to split that pour with a fellow Bourbon Brat.
WORTH THE PRICE: Just like Disney World, you go into it acknowledging that it is overpriced but also recognizing that you can’t buy this experience anywhere else in the world. I love wheated bourbons. I love the Van Winkle expressions of wheated bourbons. I felt the $125 price for my 0.625 ounces was worth the experience. If everyone buys a 1.25-ounce pour, there are only 14,200 of these pours available. Ever. I was fortunate enough to try one of these pours.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: This is not a bust. But with only 710 bottles in the wild, this is a very special occasion bar pour. I recommend trying this on the occasion of your very wealthy uncle’s death after the reading of the will.
OVERALL: If you don’t have a horseshoe permanently implanted in your body, this unicorn may never cross your path. If you do have a local bar fortunate enough to land a bottle, but you don’t have the bankroll to pay for a pour, ask your bartender for a quick nose of the bottle; it’s worth a whiff for free. I’m a fan of this pour at a bar for a reasonable price; I realize that “reasonable” is entirely subjective. However, I cannot imagine forking over $10,000 to $15,000 secondary for this (or any bottle for that matter). Yes, people, even I have limits.
n extra special, one-time bottling of Van Winkle bourbon will soon be released. Only 11 barrels comprise this very small batch bourbon, making the 710 bottles especially rare and even harder to find than the usual Van Winkle whiskeys.
The barrels were distilled in the spring and fall of 1989 and stored on the lower levels of a metal clad warehouse built in 1935 at the Van Winkle family distillery in Shively, Ky. In 2002 the barrels were moved to Buffalo Trace Distillery, where they continued to age for another 12 years on the lower floors in Buffalo Trace’s brick warehouses. The lower floor placement helped preserve the sweet, mellow notes of the world-famous wheated bourbon recipe. In 2014 the Buffalo Trace team moved the barrels into stainless steel tanks to halt the aging process and preserve the rich flavor profile fans have come to expect from the Van Winkle line.
These extra special bottles deserve an extra special vessel, so each bottle is a handmade glass decanter from Glencairn Crystal Studio. The bottle information is engraved on each decanter, individually numbered, and hand finished with a silver stopper. A glass top for the decanter is also included.
Each decanter is packaged in a handmade wooden box crafted in North Carolina by James Broyhill II of Heritage Handcrafted. The lid is constructed using the oak staves from the 11 barrels that held this bourbon. The outside of the box bears a metal plaque with the Old Rip Van Winkle logo and states “asleep 25 years in the wood.” Inside each box, along with the decanter and glass top, is a bourbon certificate of authenticity, numbered and signed by Julian Van Winkle, grandson of original founder Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr.
“We are excited to be able to offer something so unique and rare for our most devoted fans,” said Julian Van Winkle, president, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. “This is a once in a lifetime offering and the beautiful decanter and wooden box just take it to the next level and make it something in which I’m very proud to be associated.”
The 25 year Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon is bottled at 100 proof and will start shipping in April. It is packaged one bottle per case. Suggested retail pricing is $1,800 for a 750 ml bottle.
“This is a once in a lifetime offering and the beautiful decanter and wooden box just take it to the next level and make it something in which I’m very proud to be associated.”
-Julian Van Winkle