Bourbon Reviews:




Bottling NamePappy Van Winkle
Bottled ByOld Rip VanWinkle / Julian VanWinkle Lawerenceburg,KY
TypeKentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Alcohol content90.4 Proof
Availability US: Available Japan: Unknown Duty Free: Not Available Europe: Available
Mashbill Infowheat based
Age20
Views (since 20080612) 50530
Bottling InfoThe nose is intensely fruited but also bears a tantalizing citrus zest note. The body is huge and almost chewable, and the palate is tremendously buttery with some sherry notes, a dash of dried fruits and some rich, creamy vanilla. The finish is long and elegant.

-WINE Enthusiast Magazine

Rated 99 by World's Spirit Championships



Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 1922, Created:20110207162617, Updated:20110207163333)
Purchased at:Sigman Bottle Shop, Conyers, GA
Purchased for:$109
Info on this bottle:This Pappy wheated recipe not used in 20 YO before (BT produced?)
Nose:Lots of vanilla, oak, leather, along with nutmeg, maple/caramel/brown sugar, and an organic/earthy aroma. There is some cognac-like flashes that offer a touch of delicacy. Not strongly bourbonic, but quite pleasing nonetheless.
Taste:Soft but rich upfront sweetness blessed with vanilla, sherry, cognac, and allspice that quickly evolves into a peppery midpalate with nutmeg and cinnamon. A very complex spirit with lots of character.
Finish:Long, fairly dry, and quite spicy for a wheated bourbon. In the end the spicy peppery effects and the lingering sweetness give over and soften under the influence of the oak tannins.
Overall:A superb ultra aged bourbon with lots of complexity, character, balance, and body. The tannins stop just short of being too dominant. Seems to me that this is as good as the legendary 20 YO's of the past. Dry it is, but one should not let the dryness (if one is unused to dry bourbon) get more than its share of attention. The rich sweetness never completely leaves the scene. Ninety proof is perfect for this spirit because of its many layers of flavor.

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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 1758, Created:20091120183536, Updated:20091120185844) View discussion on this review.
Purchased at:Sworn to secrecy
Purchased for:$110
Info on this bottle:Standard
Nose:Nice introductory floral elements, near to honeysuckle but not quite as sweet. Some dry oak aromas fade in and out, but not as oakey as some Pappy from the past. As time passes there is a nice dollop of vanilla, brown sugar, leather, and coffee. Further time reveals an aroma like a rich cigar just removed from its wrapper. Yet more time reveals a touch of chocolate while the flowers have disappeared. Still, there remains a dark and mysterious sweetness. A veritable kitchen of complex aromas. But.........these aromas are more interesting than enticing, working the mind as much or more than the senses. No cheap thrills here. This last swirl bring out a large dose of maply syrup and real hints of the vine. Now, out comes a grab of smoke and char........will the surprises never end.........I am tempted to think this Pappy 20 is ALIVE!
Taste:Subdued sweetness that seems to come from some exotic fruit that bursts with soft spices. The flavors do not reveal themselves as layers as the nose does. The taste is deep, yet delicate and creamy (this, more than anything else, stamps this bourbon as exceptional to my palate). It has a better taste than I am a describer, because I cannot make words fit the experience exactly.........excactly as it should be!
Finish:Not long, not short, of a piece with the whole experience
Overall:I am imagining that this is an 'inexpensive' or 'overaged' bourbon in one part of my mind. In another part, I recognize that it is 'exceptional' whiskey.
On the 'inexpensive' or 'overaged' side is a lack of sweetness (sweetness is a quality I like in bourbon), and an almost too dry finish.
On the 'exceptional' side is the complex nose with its multiple layers and its 'delicacy'.
As it happens, I like drier whiskies more than most (and this one is quite dry) and when combined with the subltey of the sweetness and the decided creaminess, I enjoy Pappy 20 immensely

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Review from spun_cookie (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 1095, Created:20080601200205)
Purchased at:DFW Hyatt
Purchased for:$18 for 3-4 oz
Nose:Good vanilla and caramel.
Taste:Like the rest, but a taste of oak
Finish:More oak than any other I have had, but very good. The vanilla is equal to teh oak and they trade for dominance for well over 60 seconds.
Overall:Yum, Yum, Yum. The gues at the Hyatt at DFW know how to pour a good glass.

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Review from spun_cookie (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 1058, Created:20080406004723)
Purchased at:On line store....
Purchased for:$78
Nose:When the nose opens... there is great vanilla and sweet. Not as rich on the mouth as the 15yr 107... but good none the less
Taste:Caramel and fruit (mellons) - There is ints of chocolate and almonds. Perfect oak... great
Finish:The finish is very nice.. In the same line as the 15/107, jsut not as reach
Overall:This is the best 20 yr I have had. Twice as good as the others. I hope the next bottle is this great....

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Review from spun_cookie (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 982, Created:20080112152420)
Purchased at:beverage house, Tucson AZ
Purchased for:~$100
Nose:Vanilla and citrus with molasses... very similar to the last one I rated, but not as full.
Taste:Excellent. As a first drink of a night it is just excellent, have this after another bourbon and the quality really stands out.

Caramel and fruit again with distinctive dates, apples and figs.

Did not pick up the chocolate is this bottle though.
Finish:Long and excellent....

Overall:This is the last of this bottle and I plan on opening the last new one I have... I hope it is at least this good, and really as good as the first one I rated...

You can get this now for about $75 and it is worth having it on the shelf


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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 926, Created:20071126172301, Updated:20071126173158)
Purchased at:Sigman Bottle Shop
Purchased for:$75
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:Leather, oak, nuts, clover, honey, with vanilla and butterscotch peeking out as it suits them. The nose is dry with woodiness poking its nose continuously into the proceedings. The nose is distantly related to that of Cognac (both would deny this relationship).
Taste:There is a sweetness from the recipe.........and a mild sweetness from the wood. Then there is the dryness and tannins from the wood that almost, but not quite, take first chair. The sweetness from the wood and from the corn in the recipe combine to hold off the woody dryness at arms lenght in a tug of war. A complex dance emerges with the drinker (in the best scenario) being the aribitor and winner.
Finish:Moderate with the dryness and the needed sweetness fighting each other to the end.
Overall:I submit to you that often the distinction twixt something that is great and something that goes a bit too far is very difficult to define, no matter whether it is bourbon or music or literature or art.

What I think of as 'just right' will strike you as 'overwrought' or worse..........or vice versa. I happen to think that Pappy 20 is a unique bourbon with enough different qualities to make it special. Someone else might just say it belongs to the wood too much. Neither is wrong and neither needs defending...........it is both and not either.

It is worth considering as a bourbon and the Van Winkles are to be roundly commended for giving it a try. They are not timid as they try to find great bourbons and are willing to risk failure..........among the most admirable qualities of any human being.

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Review from spun_cookie (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 922, Created:20071126123307)
Purchased at:Sullivan's (20yr not the 23 yr they told me they served me)
Purchased for:$14
Info on this bottle:I wish I got a better look....
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:Rich vanilla and citrus. Hints of molasses, just a great nose.

Taste:Best of the 20 yrs I have had. More complex, better/fuller taste in my mouth.

By far more rich with caramel and fruit. Distinctive dates, apples and ... figs

After reading bourbons, I do remember a little chocolate (milk) and pecans... but almost pecan pie...
Finish:I did not capture the 0-60 seconds on this (my wife does not find this entertaining at dinner), but it was a long, full and fun finish.

I am going to have to taste the 20yr I have at home to see how close it compares...
Overall:I went to Sullivan's for Dinner with my wife and when I asked what Bourbon they had, the waitress said they had the PVW 23 yr. I thought great... I would love to have some and not spend the >$300 I have seen it selling for.

I liked it very much and thought "WOW, this is better than I had heard, a little smoother than the 20yr I have at home, rich with Caramel ...etc..."

When I was leaving I was concerned because this was not as I had read about it.

I went to the main bar and asked to see the bottle.... It was the 20yr... Best of the 20 yrs that I have had (4 bottles at this point), but I really wanted to try the 23 year.


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Review from BourbonDrinker (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 853, Created:20071012063603, Updated:20071012100216)
Purchased at:Gift
Purchased for:Gift
Nose:Pleasent. You can always tell a bourbon is going to be good when you take the first smell and you're hit by a pleasent aroma, instead of the wafting smell of alocohol. The Van Winkle 20-Year didn't dissapoint. After the initial smell I couldn't wait to take a drink. It promised to be good.
Taste:Damn tasty. Smooth. A bit of licorice in the flavor. The initial flavor is not as enjoyable as that of some of my other favorites like Elijah Craig 12-Year or Vintage 17-Year, but its not the flavor that I'm enjoying so much---it's everything that happens next. The burn hits me exactly where I like it---right at the back of the throat and it lingers with warmth.
Finish: My favorite bourbon's always have a long lingering finish. The Stagg lasts for hours---and tastes of chocolate. The PVW FR 20-Year is no slouch. I would almost describe the finish as the flavor of a good strong sweet sun tea---a first for any bourbon I've tried. This bottle is definitely one of the most complex I've tried.
Overall: It's always amazing the way a really good bourbon whiskey changes from your first smell, to the sip, the taste and the lingering finish.

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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 764, Created:20070502152228, Updated:20070505082045)
Purchased at:Sigman Bottle Shop, Conyers, GA
Purchased for:$75.99
Nose:A nose rich in caramel, vanilla, oak, nuts, leather, and a bit of citrus. Who among bourbon drinkers would not appreciate this wonderful nose which achieves subtleness with such ease.
Taste:Sweet gives it over to spice, but sweet holds on too by virtue of being viscous and sticky. A complex, rich, warm (not to say peppery), thick, but not aggressive taste that will tickle your fancy.
Finish:Moderately long and satisfying............sweet never completely dies.
Overall:Much better than the last Pappy 20 bottle I had. Now this is the stuff I quickly loved long ago. Pappy 20 to the rescue....... lights up the dark...... gives you solace............able to leap tall buildings in a single bound ..........well...........anyway, I do like it!!

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Review from warhawk (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 747, Created:20070420204637, Updated:20070421220040)
Purchased at:HyVee
Purchased for:82
Nose:Nothing spectacular. Very average nose, a little alcohol edge.
Taste:Not bad. Nothing offensive but nothing really exciting. I think this bourbon is pretty soft. I am gonna chalk this one up to one of my nicer tasting bland whiskeys. I think I could offer it to one of my non whiskey drinking friends and be pretty safe.
Finish:Very nice finish. Long and warm! No aftertaste. VERY smooth. This is my favorite part of the 20 year.
Overall:I like it better than Lot B because my Lot B seemed to taste a bit like charcoal which is totally absent in this. I really didn't like the 15 year as it was pretty harsh. This is my favorite Pappy's so far! A-

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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 707, Created:20070206141142)
Purchased at:Sigman Bottle Shop
Purchased for:$79
Nose: A subtle nose with pears, vanilla, butterscotch, oranges, and surprisingly in this bottle I get an earthy and vegetative aroma with some leather and a big dose of dry oak..........a nose that is not extraordinary.
Taste:Silky smooth but with little sweetness up front. Some spice and pepper in the middle and toward the back of the mouth that is offset by only a wee bit of creaminess or sweetness.
Finish:Of medium to short length, does not cry out for another sip.
Overall:This bottle is not to die for and is not, in this old man's opinion, a great whiskey. I throwed it agin the Lot B and liked the Lot B better. Now, can I find me some Lot A? Maybe Pappy 20 ain't changed and I have?

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Review from Delephant (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 597, Created:20060929003323)
Purchased at:Gilbert Gifts & More - Pasadena, CA - USA
Purchased for:-GIFT-
Info on this bottle:750 ml.
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:Spectacular. I get more richness and especially honey off the nose than ever before. Toasted carmel abound For that matter, just the virgin pop of the cork from the bottle relinquishes an affair of ripe fruits and rich sweets to open your eyes. It's a sweet, lovely nose that is utterly different than the flavors and far too supple for the colors of the bourbon, but yet entirely approapriate and worthy.
Taste:My, the treat. At first I was a bit afraid this daunting age would be a bucket of mess. Maybe syrupy, maybe soft, its neither. Its actually much hotter than I expected, which is quite pleasant, given the depth and richness of all the flavorness. I think the initial burst is very berry like, the typical hints of currants and blackberries very apparent. But as the liquid glides to the sides of the tongue more and more of the oats come out and the heat really begins.
Finish:The finish is marvelous and looooong, and really puts off more of the oak than any other one aspect of the bourbon. It lingers on the sides of your cheeks and continues to pucker your tongue and make you salivate for well over a minute. Finally with everything tamed a bit, some lovely citrus flavors of orange and tangerine come about. And this is just a snippet from one swill.
Overall:Really a top rate bourbon that IS worth the money, no question. I was once scared of what 20 years in brand spanking new charred white american oak could do to a corn mash, but that is no more. Pappy 20 speaks wonders to the strength of American Whiskey and should be shelved among the great scotches and cognacs of the world; no joke. It will be in my home. And offered to my favorite people. Enjoy!

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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 553, Created:20060726150222, Updated:20060727115311)
Purchased at:Sigman Bottle Shop, Conyers, GA
Purchased for:$75
Nose:The nose of Pappy 20 is rich in vanilla, corn sweetness, oak, clover, orange, and light fruits. It is not assaultive in the least, reminding me a bit of fine cognac (which I love) in its sophistication. After a few moments, the wood asserts itself a bit more. I love the nose on this bourbon! It reeks of quality!
Taste:Boy, oh boy! She glides across the mouth with a self-assurance that is downright cocky! She struts and frets like the prima-donna she is. She knows she is a class act, loaded with talent that has to be God given. This lady takes you by the hand and leads you down the primrose path. She is among the most beautiful women in the world.
Finish:She holds on until she tires of the game and waltzes away with a backward glance that makes you think you are the only man in the world!
Overall:In my opinon, Pappy 20 keeps company with the world's great spirits. Its taste and aroma are highly refined, almost delicate. It keeps only one foot in the bourbon world, the other lies elsewhere. I consider Pappy 20 among the grestest expressions of the distiller's art. Congratulations to Julian Van Winkle for knowing his whiskey so well!

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Review from bourbonv (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 451, Created:20060417151459)
Purchased at:Bourbon's Bistro Bar
Purchased for:20.00
Info on this bottle:Standard Bottle
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:Caramel and marschino cherries with smokey oak and leather. Just a hint of chocolate.
Taste:Rich caramel and ripe fruit - apples and dates, with chocolate and pecans and nice oak.
Finish:Long and sweet with caramel and nuts leading into a nice oak wood.
Overall:Drink it neat as a dessert or with a good cigar.

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Review from abcgroup (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 323, Created:20051227183307)
Purchased at:Xmas Gift
Purchased for:Xmas Gift
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:My initial impression of this spirit is that it has a nice, but subtle caramel nose. It is definitely sweeter in glass than in the bottle. There is no other distinct odor.
Taste:This has more of a distinct smoke or char taste to me, but as Mike pointed out, there isn't any key characteristic that stands out. This truly tastes like a well blended bourbon. It is surpisingly smooth for a whiskey so old.
Finish:There's a subtle hint of sweetness in the finish. This is where the majority of the smoke/char comes out though. It becomes more obvious to me (in the finish) that this is a 20 year old bottle...that bitter oak flavor comes out at this time.
Overall:I must admit that I like this spirit. I think it's truly wonderful, but I am a man of simple taste and often want less oak in my finish and more "umph" in the taste. I like more bite. This in no way a critical remark about Pappy 20, but I will say that this is a special occastion bourbon, not something I would drink everyday. This might seem obvious, but I say "not-everyday" out of preference, not financial limitation. Pappy 20 is worth a try...no doubt, but it's for the discerning drinker, not a newbie.

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Review from Mike (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 217, Created:20050719162350, Updated:20060401084421)
Purchased at:Sigman Spirits, Conyers, GA
Purchased for:$77
Proof Of this Bottle:90.4
Nose:I must honestly admit that I do not detect many distinct elements in this bourbon. It is a beautiful nose that changes over a matter of 20 minutes or so. I am sniffing Pappy 20 that has been in the glass for 25 minutes alongside Pappy 20 that just went into the glass...........different animals. Nevertheless, it seems that the elements composing the nose have blended so completely in the barrel that they emerge amalgamated, not individualized.
Taste:In my humble opinion, Pappy 20 YO is an excellent spirit on the very verge of leaving the bourbon class. It is a complex spirit, maybe too complex for my palate, but I like it very much.
Finish:The finish is long, with nothing coming to the fore and grabbing the microphone. Still it is satisfying and you know you are not drinking the run of the mill bourbon. The Van Winkles are to be commended for venturing into this territory, where so many things could go amiss.
Overall:Pappy 20 YO is a Home Run but also a challenge because it is not like other bourbons to me. I am confident in saying that it is a superb spirit, it is smooth, complex, and just plain good.
But I think (not in a disparaging way) that it has left the bourbon realm and entered another. The extra years in the barrel have not been lost to the oak as one might suspect, but have blended the favors like a beef stew that has cooked for hours and hours blends the flavors.
In comparison, the Pappy 15 Yo is an excellent example of a well done bourbon, with the distinct bourbon profile of a touch of assertivness combined with oak and multiple flavor resonances clearly on display.
I expect to be challenged on my Pappy 20 YO review and hope I am. I am also a Scotch and Cognac drinker and maybe they have influenced my opinions. If so, so be it! I drink what I like and like what I drink! And, I do like Bourbon..........probably best of all!!!
P.S. - Two days after the original review I went back to the Pappy 20 Y.O. While I do detect a bit of vanilla, oak, and to agree with The Whiskey Viking, marzipan, I still stand by my review.
If anything the Pappy is better today than two days ago and stands on its own as a unique and wonderful spirit!!

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Review from The Whiskey Viking (BourbonEnthusiast Review ID 59)
Purchased at:
Nose:Immediate:

Sherry, marzipan and a hint of cellulose lacquer

After about 20 min:

The Sherry has gotten thicker. I detect ripe fruits in particular banana. Fortunately the cellulose lacquer has vanished.
Taste:Immediate:

All I can detect is peppery notes and alcohol

After about 20 min:

Now the fun begins. The Pappy has become more rounded and drinkable. At the same time the taste seems thicker. I detect Liquorice and faint menthol / camphor (playing the baseline). Also dark chocolate and mocca pop up
Finish:Immediate:

Long. Toffee and Caramel. After about a minute menthol and camphor reappear in the mouth (sounds impossible)

After about 20 min:

If possible even longer, nice and mouth warming. Fruits and almonds
Overall:This is slowfood bourbon. If you rush it you miss it. Take your time. This is what I would call complex bourbon. Not only does it evolve in your mouth for minutes, it evolves in the glass as well.
It has a nice reddish amber colour, although its not as dark as I would expect a 20 year old bourbon to be. I just love it.

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