I don't know why I've stared at this bottle for so long. I just never seemed to get the urge to want to drink it (knowing how Lot "B" tastes already thanks to friends with bottles). Today I looked at it and I had that urge for the first time, so I went for it. Today isn't any special day - it just felt right! I will be revisiting this a few more times and will update this review if anything changes, but I'm going against one of my own rules and reviewing a single glass here that has been opening up on my desk for the last hour and a half.
For the uninitiated, the Van Winkle line is the lower age tier of the Pappy Van Winkle lineup. Don't get it confused either or the crazed enthusiasts of this stuff might chew your head off. I am not one such enthusiast and I've long believed that modern Pappy is so very clearly not the same stuff that created the hype around this brand in the first place. Modern drinkers of post-Stitzel-Weller distillate should approach these pours - and the prices they fetch - with a healthy dose of intellectual honesty. I know these are great special occasion bottles to share with your closest friends and family, but try them in a blind sometime and see how they really stack up against other much more readily available whiskeys today. You might save yourself a lot of time, headaches and dollars if you do!
Now - let's see how this one drinks for me today.
Company on Label: Buffalo Trace
Whiskey Type: Wheated Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Wheated Mash Bill
Age: 12 years
Further identification: This is a 2021 release (laser code L21xxx...) that I purchased in December of that year
Nose: Up front there is marvelous candied sweetness. It's very reminiscent of E.H. Taylor Single Barrel or Weller 12 with that liquid candy aroma pervasively emanating from the glass. Cherry is the dominant smell, but alongside it notes of saffron, lemongrass, and rich earthy caramel invade the senses. It's surprisingly potent for a lower proof such as this. It's a fun medley of sweets; strawberry, orange peel, raspberry and plum all kind of meld in a somewhat forced blend. It's like a mashup of all the different skittles in one. Time for a sip!
Blueberry port wine shows up after coming back from a sip. The glass is creamy and soft in every way. A good volume of oak is really noticeable now too, its vague weaving aromas not quite conjuring up full memories. A swirl of the glass reveals much more dark oak with the bark, the damp dirt beneath its roots, and the fallen leaves around its base all culminating in a distinctly Fall aroma. When I think of oak influence & how much is just right before becoming too much - this is about where I would draw the line. Normally I find this level of oak in releases 12-15 years old out of Kentucky so this one is spot on with that trend. As the glass gets lower the leather tones I found on the palate form in the glass well. The empty glass smells of orange sherbert, graham cracker and wrought iron fencing.
Palate: Mmm, soft cherry wood hits my palate first. The linger and drop that follows is a creamy mudslide of vanilla that delivers cinnamon hots directly to my stomach in a swift swoop. The mouth feel is on the thinner side, though its candied sweetness is still noticeable in a lower volume than the nose let on. Another sip reveals slightly tannic plum, raspberry jam and a bag full of skittles sitting in a pouch of leather. Where the nose was like Fall - the palate brings Spring. The fruit starts bright on the palate with a kiss of sugar before it pops and melts into creamy rivers of dark, syrupy cherry pie filling. Another sip and swish reveals hints of brown sugar, vanilla biscotti and pie crust. Cherry continues to be the mainstay flavor hitting my palate. Subsequent sips towards the bottom of the glass don't turn over any new complexities. My last sip is a simple sweet treat with strawberry honey and berry forward cereal tones lingering softly.
This is good but certainly not the best bourbon out there! I'd put this about on par with Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year and today's Weller 12. 2019 Weller 12 had some significantly better volume of flavor that I think this lacks a bit. It's simple, but certainly delicious and for that it earns my 4/5 score! If you can't find this, go buy a Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength and thank me later. Hope you enjoyed this one. Let me know if you have tried this pour in the comments & if you agree with my findings or not! Cheers.