Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Old Lot B

I got lucky. I was checking to see if anything interesting had come in at my local shop, and one of the employees asked what I was looking for. I said something like “Elmer T Lee, or Weller 12”, and she replied that they may have gotten some Pappy in. Well, I realized I stumbled in on that one day of the year when Pappy arrives. I went back later that day, knowing the manager I often talk whiskey with would be there. He told me to give him a couple days & he could get me a bottle of the 12 year. And so it came to past.

I opened it with a friend, and was quite surprised. It was extremely hot. Now, it seems to me that since the 12 year is 90 proof, it shouldn’t be that hot. I’ve opened bottles at 120+ proof that were not this hot. So I put it away.

In my experience, many bourbons need time and oxygen to open up, some taking 6-12 weeks to reach ultimate flavor. I revisited the Pappy about 5 weeks later, and it had really improved.

At this point, the nose had sassafras, slight smoke, bacon, cola, burnt caramel, dust, slight peppermint, and salt. On the tongue, it was rich, sweet, butterscotch, caramel, more bacon and salt, and oak. The finish was medium to long in length, soft and sweet like a wheater should be, a bit of sharpness, black pepper, and mint.

So we all know the hype surrounding any of the Pappys. I have to say that it is a great bourbon, but doesn’t live up to the hype. Frankly, I don’t think a whiskey could live up to the hype that Pappy has reached.

So how should I rate this? Do I rate it high because it does merit it, or do I ding it a bit based on hype? After all, I’m a big fan of Weller 12, and they are similar. Some may say it is the same as Weller 12 because it is the same mashbill etc, but that’s simply not the case because Pappy is the best barrels of that whiskey and always will be.

So I’ll give it an A- because it was so hot when initially opened. It really wasn’t that expensive if you pay suggested retail price or close to that, especially compared to most craft bourbons that are a small fraction of the age. But compared to Weller 12 or something like the old Elijah Craig 12, it is.

We’ll see if I can get lucky next year and get a bottle of the 15.

Grade: A-