Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year Review
It's very good, but not quite great.
Type: "Handmade" Bourbon
Distillery: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery (Buffalo Trace)
Proof: 107 proof
Age: 10 years
Retail: $59 (note that this is the MSRP, but finding it at even 3 times that price is a miracle)
Light honey to dark amber
It's sweet and fairly mellow for 107 proof. I expected a bit more ethanol, but the sweeter side of caramel, vanilla and oak are all that jumped out. Digging deeper, there's a hint of honeysuckle and cinnamon, but they're both fleeting.
Where the nose was lacking a punch, the palate does not disappoint. The first sip provides a healthy kick of spice and oak. Ten years in a barrel is not a short time, but the oak here is even more abundant than expected. The sweet notes from the nose carry over as honey and caramelized sugar, but the spice isn't shy either. I get a nice dose of tobacco and allspice and its all tied together well with a caramel and oak bit at the end.
Medium in length and dry but fairly mellow. One of the calling cards of wheated bourbon is how "smooth" it is, and this certainly fits that profile.
It's really difficult to give an unbiased assessment of any whiskey with "Van Winkle" in the name. With this bottle going for 7-8 times retail on secondary sites and with Van Winkle anything being basically legendary at this point, it's impossible to go into tasting this with a truly blank slate. Everybody is either expecting this to be the best thing they've ever had, or they're expecting to be disappointed. To me, this is a very good bourbon, but it's not extraordinary. At the $60 retail, I'd buy it every time. At the $450 secondary price, I'm passing on it without thinking twice. For anything in between those, it just becomes a personal decision. If I see it at a bar for $20 or so, I'll enjoy a glass and move on to the next thing. This bourbon is very good, don't let anybody claim otherwise, but if you go into it expecting it to be the best whiskey you've ever tasted, you'll probably be disappointed.
This sample was provided at no cost courtesy of Cask Cartel. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
This is a general guide of what I consider each score range
4.75 - 5.00: Phenomenal. Hard to imagine anything better. Acquire at any cost.
4.25 - 4.50: Excellent. I'll camp out to get a bottle if necessary.
3.75 - 4.00: Great stuff. I'll buy backups if not too expensive.
3.25 - 3.50: Good stuff. Try to keep one on the bar, but don't spend too much.
2.75 - 3.00: Not bad. I don't regret the purchase but may not buy another.
2.25 - 2.50: Sub-par. I regret the purchase. Reserved for mixed drinks.
1.75 - 2.00: Bad. I'll struggle to finish the bottle. May not want it in cocktails.
0.00 - 1.50: Drain-pour. Something seems wrong with it. Get it away from me.