Van Winkle Special Reserve is the perfect combination of age and proof. This sweet, full-bodied whiskey has been described by some as “nectar.” The 12 years of aging and medium proof seem to be just right in creating a very pleasant drink of whiskey. This fine bourbon can compete with any excellent cognac as an after-dinner drink. The overall impression is rich and deep.
See a brilliant, amber-orange color. Smell luscious, complex toffee. Taste a round, supple entry, leading to a dry, expansive, medium body. Enjoy notes of caramel, nuts, and brown spices with a lengthy, enveloping finish. It’s an outrageously smooth and decadent bourbon.
Pappy began working at W.L. Weller & Sons first as a traveling whiskey salesman and eventually as the President of Stitzel-Weller Distillery. He helped shape the industry during and after Prohibition. Through his endeavors in the warehouse, the boardroom and on the road, he built a reputation in the bourbon industry that was second to none. Fine bourbon was his mission, and he accepted nothing less.
Pappy's son, Julian Jr., operated the distillery from 1964 until the family sold it in 1972. After, not one to be defeated, he got himself an office and a secretary and formed a company called J.P. Van Winkle and Son. He got into marketing bourbon through many types of commemorative decanters, some of the more popular being for universities. But he never stopped bottling on the side. He created the Old Rip Van Winkle label as a side venture in case his son, Julian III, wanted to come into the business.
Julian III took over the business in 1981 after his father passed away. He was 32 years old with a wife and four young children. The premium bourbon business was in a lull, but 90 years ago, Pappy started from the ground up, too. So, with this same, innate passion, Julian purchased the Old Hoffman Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, for barrel storage and bottling purposes. He couldn't afford much advertising, but the quality of Old Rip Van Winkle sold itself. Julian III and his impeccable palate created quite a stir.
When first approached by Buffalo Trace, Julian III was honored, but not immediately interested. He had ample bourbon aging, but the concern was for future reserves, since by this time, bourbon was increasing in popularity. Buffalo Trace bought the W.L. Weller label in 1999 and had been making the bourbon with nearly the same recipe as Pappy's. The transition was easy. As of May 2002, Buffalo Trace has produced the Van Winkle bourbons, using Pappy's exact recipe. This change allows Old Rip Van Winkle to maintain their strict quality standards while producing more barrels for future enjoyment.