Now that 2009 is in full swing I’m going to start breaking open the couple of bottles I received during the holiday season from thoughtful friends and family. One of the benefits of writing a blog about American whiskey is that it creates and easy gift category that will never fail to disappoint.
It’s in this spirit that I come to my first selection from the Van Winkle line of bourbons – Van Winkle Special Reserve. Famed for their 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle bottling, Old Rip has seven main-line varieties in all, with VWSR falling right in the middle of the range (also the only one with out the words “Pappy” or “Old” in the name).
– Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
– 90.4 proof
Van Winkle Special Reserve comes in a tall, slim bottle capped with red foil which leaves plenty of glass-room for the onlooker to admire the contents within. This is by far the simplest labeling of the Van Winkle clan, decorated only by thin lines of black around the edge and a single red line toward the bottom. The slightly textured paper is printed only with the basic information about the beverage: what it is, its name, its age, and its distiller. The only seemingly extraneous information is the “Lot ‘B'” beneath the age statement.
One interesting thing to note is the special placement of the word “Kentucky” – appearing prominently above the words it modifies, “Straight Bourbon Whiskey” at the top of the label. A quiet pride showing through the otherwise poised and gentlemanly presentation.
Thankfully, no back label beyond the government warning.
Van Winkle Special Reserve has a very pleasant nose. What came to mind immediately was grenadine and dried leaves. Certainly sweet, but impressively deep.
On the tongue VWSR is just as sweet at first, hitting the tip of the tongue with gusto. This sensation fills out into cherries, popcorn, and some significant wood before melting in to a full-mouth slow-burning spice of a finish. This is something to savor and draw out for as long as you can.
This bourbon has a holistic feel to it that many others do not. It’s hard to pull out individual bits and pieces from the entire experience. At 90 proof, it strikes the right balance between heft and drinkability, but nothing has been sacrificed when it comes to complexity. Nicely done.
Makes you wonder what they keep in Lot A…