Pappy Van Winkle Spirit Guide

Julian Van Winkle claims not to possess a
 “schooled palate,” but when it comes to his own whiskey lineup, he’s the ultimate authority

Photo: Joe Pugliese

Van Winkle Special Reserve
“At 12 years, this one is older than most bourbons out there, but it’s pretty young for us,” says Van Winkle, and as such is well suited for after-dinner cocktail concoctions. “It’s light and fruity, with a bit of dates and caramel taste. It’s just a real drinkable bourbon.”


Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15-year-old
Bottled closest to barrel proof, it packs big flavor with its big alcohol kick. “It’s still amazingly smooth for 107 proof,” Van Winkle says. “And for some reason it has some citrus notes, which makes it perfect for making an old-fashioned. Out of all of them, it’s my personal favorite.”


Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old
For some Pappy fans, two decades is the magic crossroads of smoothness and flavor. “There’s not much bite at all,” Van Winkle says. “Caramel and vanilla notes really hit home, with just a hint of chocolate. Don’t mess it up with a bunch of ice, and certainly not in a cocktail.”


Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year-old
What does an extra three years gain? More intense flavors of ripe fruit and chocolate, plus charred oak from the barrel wood. “There’s too much oak for some people, but lots of others like it,” Van Winkle says. “It should be enjoyed neat, with maybe a drop or two of water to open it up.”


Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
Made with more corn than a typical rye whiskey, the Van Winkle version is a little sweeter and creamier. “It’s that combination of sweetness and rye’s natural grainy spice that makes this one special,” Van Winkle says. “I find it goes along with a good cigar even better than bourbon.”