The Van Winkle family of bourbons (other wise known as “Pappy”) are currently the most sought after whiskies on the American market. Nothing else even comes close. Their hype and lore, which are currently stratospheric, result in its price tag reaching the same heights in both primary and secondary markets. Pappy’s retail prices start at around $100+ and go up to $300+. On the secondary market the prices skyrocket to a range of $500+ straight into the thousands and even higher. All this insanity results in opinions from all over the spectrum about Pappy. “It’s the best whiskey in the world” — “It’s the worst whiskey in the world” — “I love it just because it’s Pappy” — “I hate it just because it’s Pappy.” – You get the idea. The Pappy insanity also results in its obtainability being extremely difficult for the average whiskey consumer to accuire. Locally, long waiting lists (that are literally years out) or getting lucky by accidentally finding it somewhere, or knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone, are your only options when it comes to getting your hands on a bottle of Pappy. This idolized whiskey is released annually in the Fall, but its WNY distribution is always a crap shoot (which adds another factor into its difficult obtainability). The 2014 Pappy releases hit the Buffalo market in early December.
BWG acquired a bottle of Van Winkle Lot “B” 12 year purely by luck, finding some at a small suburban retailer that “accidentally” received an allotment. The price at $140 wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t gouging either. The nose on the Pappy 12 has classic bourbon flavors. Maple, oak, vanilla. The nose is easygoing, pleasant, but a bit mild. The palate features more of the sweeter side of bourbon flavors. Toasted cherries and dark fruit, like a ready made manhattan or old fashioned. The fruit is mixed with an oaky, maple spice and vanilla char. There’s a velvety smooth texture to this whisky which balances it nicely. The finish is warmly easygoing, just like the nose. Overall the Pappy 12 is a well made, very pleasant bourbon. But it’s $140 cost is maybe double, or three times what we would ever pay for a similar bourbon not labeled “Pappy” – and for us, the hoops needed to jump through to acquire this bottle may not match its value. It’s good, just not anywhere near as good as its hype, or cost. BWG rating: 89/100.