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Cigar Spirits: Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon

31 Jan 2012

The world can be split into two types of people: those who know about Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and those who don’t. Say “Pappy” around those who know, and they’ll start talking about how they procured a rare bottle or the time they saw it on a shelf at a bar. Everyone else just gives you a funny look and says, “Pappy what?”

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve bourbon (some of the oldest bourbon around at 15, 20, and 23 years) is notoriously difficult to find. If you’re lucky, you might get on a waiting list for some of the rare nectar, which pretty much never makes it to a store’s shelf because it’s always sold out in days.

Still rare, but not as impossible to find is the Van Winkle Special Reserve, which at 12 years old is still old by bourbon standards and sells for anywhere from $50 to $90. Called “Lot B” (even though nothing they make is called “Lot A”), the Special Reserve uses no rye, but instead uses wheat along with a majority of corn that’s required to legally be called a bourbon.

The resulting bourbon is bottled at 90.4-proof and deep copper in color. The nose features butterscotch and vanilla. The bourbon starts out with oak, caramel, toasted corn, vanilla, and just a hint of nutmeg and pepper spice. There’s also plenty of heat from the 45.2% alcohol content. It’s thick on the palate with a long, soft finish that features citrus and oak.

Perhaps not quite as extraordinary as the older Pappy Family Reserve lines, the Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year is certainly an excellent spirit. It has the depth of flavor to stand up to even the most full-bodied cigar. So if you’re on the waiting list for the older and rarer Pappys, you could do far worse than the Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Bourbon. It’s one of those special spirits that every bourbon fan should try at least once.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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